at least 422 decisions

PHoto by onfranklinandmain.com

PHoto by onfranklinandmain.com

she is in charge

and she likes to be in charge

to be the leader of a thing

of an amazing thing

to be an amazing leader of an amazing thing

or two or three or

you get the picture.

and now she has been in charge of things

several many things

for what seems like a very long time.

which means today

she answered 243 questions

at least

she made 422 decisions

at least

she revamped strategies plans and schedules 36 times

at least

really

she counted

over a one hour span and then extrapolated from there considered that her early mornings are different took out hours for sleep of course but not driving

because driving is prime time for strategy revamp

right?

right.

and last night

when she couldn’t decide between chicken and burgers chicken or burgers chicken chicken chicken burgers burgers burgers

even though she knew it didn’t matter

even though no one really cared including her

even though it was such a small decision in the scheme of things

last night when she couldn’t decide between chicken and burgers

she knew that she had made one too many decisions that day.

she was

tapped out.

all done.

no more answers.

no more questions designed to teach a man or woman or child to fish for their own answers.

no more no more no more.

later that night putting on her pajama pants in the bedroom while her kid brushed teeth

she thought about the award she got a few months ago

about the kind things people said about her leadership about her drive about her skill

she thought about whether any of that mattered as much

as her willingness to make a decision

over and over again

she thought about the card her child made her for valentine’s day

about the sweet acknowledgment of mama’s comforting hugs and mama’s silly voices and the time mama got a unicorn to appear at the last minute

she thought about whether any of that mattered as much

as her ability to come up with some kind of an answer

over and over again

she thought about the thank you card she got from the place where she volunteers

about their appreciation for her time and her skill at motivating people and her optimism

she thought about whether any of that mattered as much

as her willingness to re-strategize to make a new decision in the moment

over and over again

she is in charge

of several many things and

she remembers when she was not in charge she

wanted to be in charge she

laughs

at her then-self

how utterly she underestimated

then

from that vantage point

the relentlessness of response

required

when you are in leading a thing.

. . .

I couldn’t figure out how to weave this in. So I’m plopping it right here in the middle. Because you might not be a judge, but I bet your decisions have an impact on someone who matters to you—even if that someone is you. Consider this:

“What the researchers found was that at the beginning of the day, a judge was likely to give a favorable ruling about 65 percent of the time. However, as the morning wore on and the judge became drained from making more and more decisions, the likelihood of a criminal getting a favorable ruling steadily dropped to zero.

After taking a lunch break, however, the judge would return to the courtroom refreshed and the likelihood of a favorable ruling would immediately jump back up to 65 percent. And then, as the hours moved on, the percentage of favorable rulings would fall back down to zero by the end of the day.

This trend held true for more than 1,100 cases. It didn’t matter what the crime was — murder, rape, theft, embezzlement — a criminal was much more likely to get a favorable response if their parole hearing was scheduled in the morning (or immediately after a food break) than if it was scheduled near the end of a long session.”—James Clear

. . .

I’ve heard from several of you recently on this decision-making front.

Again, you’re probably not a judge. Maybe you’re the leader of a business or a family or a creative group or a nonprofit or a movement or any group of people. This stuff might resonate with you. You might be relieved to hear that you’re not the only one who can’t decide what’s for supper. (Shout-out to my own mom who, after leading all day in a male-dominated field and coming home to open the refrigerator surrounded by three children asking What’s For Supper, invariably and frustratingly responded, “I don’t know. I haven’t fixed it yet.” Now I get it.)

Here’s what has helped me in the past. Not a cure-all. A help. Here’s what I’m returning to right now in my own season of decision fatigue:

1: Narrow your choices in every area that it doesn’t matter too much.

2: Decide early.

Narrowing Your Choices
CLOTHES: I have an almost exclusively black wardrobe—with a little white, gray, and blue thrown in here and there. It’s not the most exciting thing ever. It gets repetitive sometimes. But everything matches. I can pair pretty much any top in my closet with any bottom, and I’m done. And there’s just not a whole lot of deciding there.

MEALS: We eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every single weekday. And we rotate among five or six main dishes for suppers. It’s all stuff we like. It’s all stuff that fits our health needs. Grocery shopping is easier, and I can pack lunch for three in 10 minutes flat. We love food—all of us. And it took some getting used to, but it turns out we got used to just having food variety on the weekends.

RESTAURANTS: While we’re on the food topic, we have a short list of restaurants we choose from for family outings. We live in a city that’s got amazing places to eat, and we found that we were cycling through all of them every time we wanted to go out—only to end up at one of our faves (that fits everyone’s needs) every time. So now we have five we choose from. And that’s it. In this case, variety is for date night or friend gatherings.

CALENDARS: I’m still working on this one, but I do best when I time block my calendar. When I have specific blocks available for meetings for specific reasons, it makes it a whole lot easier to schedule. And if I can get it back into Calendly, that’ll be even better.

Deciding Early

CLOTHES: When I decide what I’m going to wear in the morning right before I put on my clothes, it takes longer and it’s more stressful. When I decide the night before, it doesn’t feel like it takes as much of my brainpower because it’s not urgent.

MEALS: We generally make all our food for the week on the weekend. Since we eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, we already know what we’re having for those. When we make supper ahead too, then I’m not staring into the refrigerator at 5:45—when most of my decision-making ability has been spent for the day—trying to figure out what to put in a pot.

RESTAURANTS: I would be sort of delighted to never again participate in an I-don’t-know-I’m-up-for-anything-what-sounds-good-to-you exchange as the clock ticks later and later and everyone gets hungrier and less patient. Oh, the utterly unnecessary stress we bring on ourselves with that. These days, I try to decide this two or three days in advance. We can always change our minds. But we rarely do.

CALENDARS: I’m in a huge experiment with myself around calendaring. Eventually, I’ll share it, but I’m in ridiculous trial-and-error mode right now. What I do know is that the earlier I put something on the calendar, the better. You can change it if you need to. You’re allowed to do that.

Who cares?

Maybe it seems like clothes and food and summer vacation planning is totally unrelated to decision-making at work. Or vice-versa. You don’t compartmentalize that well, though. So anywhere you can save on decision-making frees up a little bit of energy.

You lay out your clothes the night before, and you have a little more bandwidth for the before-school rainboots-snowboots-sneakers dilemma. You’ve already decided on the restaurant for Friday night, and you have a little more left in your tank to strategize when you suddenly need to fit 25% more people into your business event that’s happening next week. You’ve blocked your meeting availability, and you don’t have to send 9 emails stretched over three days scheduling a meeting with one other person.

I’m curious: Where do you intentionally narrow your choices? What goes best when you decide early?