why leaders give in

Have you ever been exhausted from making so many decisions?  The day has been full of needs and you have done well to meet them.  However, you are at the end of your day and you are beginning to lose the capacity to focus or even the desire to want to.   I’ve been thinking about this topic for several weeks and studying myself when it comes to decisions.  I’ve noticed that at the end of a day and getting closer to the end of the week, my patience for making decisions has diminished. 


I wanted to see if I was alone in this, so I turned to Google and searched decision fatigue.   I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the same amount of endurance and energy that I once had in decision-making.  In reality, when I get to weariness, I don’t want to share my opinion or even want to talk about a necessary decision.  Of course, my behavior annoys those close to me, because I am out of energy, and they are waiting on me for some answers.   My reality is that I need a new rhythm for my dilemma. What worked for me in the past is no longer working for me now.   I didn’t ask for this change, but I am stuck at this new crossroad. If I am going to continue to be a loving husband, great dad, and caring leader for those entrusted to me, it’s time for a change. 


Good ole Wikipedia states, "In decision making and psychology, decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making.  It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision-making.  I just have to smile when I read the "cause of irrational trade-offs.”  I can sure relate.  Irrational decisions rack up at the end of a hectic day. 


How many decisions do you make in a day?  I tried to collect some data on myself when it comes to being asked to make a decision in a day.  Between emails from co-workers and teammates, texts from the wife, friends, and children, conversations in the hallway or at lunch, and scheduled team meetings, I gave up counting how many I make in a day.  I thought that surely somebody has already done this research?


According to various internet sources, it is estimated that an adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions in each day (in contrast a child makes about 3,000).  According to Cornell University, we make 226.7 decisions each day on food alone (Wansink and Sobal, 2007).   Now that the smart phone has been out for a decade, I bet it’s another 10,000 more decisions in a day on top of the 35,000!


We all make decisions like, what to eat, what to wear, what to purchase, how we need to vote, what we believe about a topic, how are our children doing today, etc.   I’m exhausted just thinking about making 35,000 decisions in a day.   As your responsibilities increase so do the number of significant choices you and I are facing.  The bottom line:  If you stop and think about it, all of us may be on a downward spiral.  Instead of improving because of options, we may be slowly going bankrupt with energy, contributions, and margin. 


In a grocery store, there are tomatoes.  I know that’s not rocket science.  However, there are green, red, yellow, white, cherry, grape, organic, large, and small tomatoes.  Sometimes you just need a ripe, good tasting tomato!


So how can you and I do life differently?  In a day and time where any kind of information is at our fingertips, how do we save brainpower?  If you are looking for a new way to conserve decision making energy and stay engaged with the ones you love consider these tips: 


  1. Form Regular Routines.  Our routines can be the most powerful skill we use to make sure we are living out our values.  With routines, we can eliminate small decisions such as what to eat for breakfast, what time to I need to get up, etc.?  With every decision you can eliminate or make into a routine, you are adding tiny bits of energy back into your decision-making account. 
    1. Get up at the same time of day.
    2. Eat similarly at breakfast.
    3. Decide the night before what you will wear.  
    4. Find a weekly rhythm that works for you on each day of the week.


  1. Protect Your Values.  In a day and time of so many options, it is easy for our priorities to get lost in the shuffle. Once this happens, we end up allowing those things that aren’t that important to take the place of those things that are most important to us.  Those new distractions take away energy and attention from the things that matter most and begin to overpower us.  However, when we live out of our values, we feel a sense of purpose and it is life giving.  Here are some thoughts to make sure you are making room for the most important things in your life.
    1. Who are the most important relationships in your life?  Are they reflected on your time or calendar?
    2. How are you prioritizing your health?
    3. Are you creating life-giving opportunities for your soul?
    4. Do the most important things first.


  1. Change When You Make Important Decisions.  Since we are out of energy and running on empty towards the later end of the day, change when you make a decisions. 
    1. Make your most important decisions at the beginning of your day.  Create slots in your daily rhythm to make room for important decisions.
    2. Try to do the most important decisions to you at the front end of the week.
    3. If you are not sure about a decision, try sleeping on it.  Sometimes rest and a fresh perspective brings clarity.
    4. If you have to make a decision when you are tired, eat first.  Any type of break and change of perspective helps us in decision-making.  Sometimes taking a break and eating can help us regain the necessary perspective to make a good decision when we are spent.


  1. Intentionally Limit Distractions.  Because you and I are bombarded with options and decisions, we now have to learn to limit those distractions.   When it comes to our phones, TV and social media, we have exposure to so much that is going on around the world.  We experience so many ideas, opinions, etc., which causes us to have to think about things we wouldn’t normally be thinking about.   This is the negative side to our access to information and can complicate our decision making process. 
    1. Choose to put a boundary on how often you look at emails, social media, and texts.  Consider checking your emails once in the morning and once before 5.  You can count on these times to help you focus on other more important items.  The same can be said of texts and social media.  You can choose to put your phone away for several hours in order to focus on something of greater value.
    2. Turn most of your notifications on your apps off.  Many times, you and I wouldn’t even look at certain apps unless we were notified to do so. Most app designers know this truth about us.  This is one of the reasons notifications were created in the first place. They are designed to demand out attention. Most of the time when our electronics notify us to gain our attention, it’s not an emergency.  


You and I have a finite amount of energy every day for decision-making.  In a day and time where there are so many options, a new strategy is to eliminate as many routine decisions as possible.  Each time we have to decide on something, we lose a little bit of stamina.  Every time our attention is focused on the less important, we lose momentum and accomplishment of those things that are most important to us. Let’s make sure we have enough energy left over for those who are most important to us.  


My dream is to help you live out your calling and thrive.  I believe that your best days are before you, not behind you. We all need a little coaching, encouragement, wisdom, and help from time to time.  We can’t accomplish our goals in isolation or always on our own.  We need each other.  Remember, you are not alone. It’s time to thrive.  Let’s do it together.  Click here to set up a Discovery Coaching call.