With so much to do and often precious little time available, getting through our busy day can sometimes feel like running a marathon. So when it’s 7 pm and you’re just packing up your desk ready to go home and a colleague comes into your office clearly upset and demanding you help them find a solution to their problem now, what do you do?
Other than hearing them out, any decision making is best then left until the next day.
Why? Because the risk is otherwise you could be making less a less than optimal choice.
Working hard, we use our prefrontal cortex, the “executive suite”. During the course of our day we will typically make around 30,000 decisions, not all at a conscious level. But every time you have to make a choice or exert some self-control you are starting to diminish your will-power bucket. That bucket starts full every day but gets rapidly exhausted and by the end of the day will often be empty.
To make the best decisions it’s ideal to have a good deal of will-power available so you can be calm, centred and able to use your brain really well.
So here are some tips to improve the quality of your decision-making.
1. Optimise your brain function.
This means taking meal breaks, keeping hydrated, getting enough rest and doing some regular exercise. Healthy brains think better.
2. Schedule your important cognitive tasks for that time when you recognise you are thinking at your best. This is often early in the day for most people. Protect that space for your brain.
3. Reduce mental clutter.
With so much going on, meetings, phone calls, text messages etc. look to reduce the amount of cognitive juice you need to expend on lesser items. It’s about being the chief energy officer of your mind. By automating routine processes or delegating less important decisions to others you will find it easier to keep enough will power to get through your entire day.
4. Choose not to make that big decision when you recognise you are tired, grumpy or overwhelmed. Especially if your job, your project, your relationship, your business will be impacted by it.
5. Taking care of business includes taking care of your brain and of those who work with you. Leading by example, making good decisions that reflect a considered, reflective approach builds a working culture that knows how to take good care of itself and its thinking.