August 1, 2016

How does Decision Paralysis affect our lives?

The concepts of decision paralysis and decision fatigue are getting more and more traction in today’s headlines. One of the most common jokes regarding this topic is that we feel the need to humanize our heroes and to share their traits – so when they make a mistake, we must find a sociological or psychological reason for it. This is, of course, a joke.

Multiple studies have highlighted the importance of studying decision fatigue and paralysis and understanding how they work. This work both for lower, middle and top management jobs as well as day-to-day life.

To put matters into perspective, let’s talk about a study done by two researchers in California. The researchers were curious to understand why some companies are good at cultivating and developing managers who make good decisions day in and day out. While preparing for this meeting, they have decided to meet for lunch one day and discuss their schedule.  Their choice was a popular Greek restaurant in the area, with a multi-page menu containing an apparently endless array of food choices. They both waited nine full minutes to choose their food. If they could not make a decision in an area they had complete autonomy and control, what happened in the rest of their lives?

Decision Fatigue

Some other relevant examples of behavior induced by decision fatigue are entrepreneurs which limit their decisions per day to the bare minimum. That is why you see some of them dressing, in the same way, every day (Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg). They try to reduce the number of decisions they have to take because the overall quality of a decision decreases with the number of decisions previously taken in a day. Interesting, is it not?

Trivial Decisions

How often do we find ourselves too tired to decide anything in the evening, after a long day at work? Even trivial decisions like what movies to watch, what to wear when going out or what game to play can be a burden, and often end up in a ping-pong between the choices until the decider gets fed up and just quits trying.

Moreover, how often does decision paralysis affect a new project we are trying to start? Supposed we want to start going to the gym. More often than not, instead of actually picking a gym and going the next day, we obsess over less important decisions and don’t commit to the larger objective. What shoes to wear, the fact that we don’t have top of the notch gym equipment, what exercises we should do, what gym we should pick, workout music, friends, etc. The possibilities are endless, and if you start giving time and effort to each one, you will soon feel mentally exhausted and end up on your couch. Sounds familiar?

Making Decisions

This behavior is more common in recent times because of the wide array of options we have for apparently … everything. Whatever we want to start or do, we have so many choices that we obsess about picking the PERFECT one. It’s no longer a matter of getting a good result; it’s about getting the best result possible – which is practically impossible.

Every good book about building entrepreneurial skills doesn’t start with complicated business plans, how to find the perfect partner or teachings about a 30-second pitch. They give the same advice: Do something. Right now. The rest will be figured out. Our gut is a lot more precise than we give it credit for. And even good decisions can be taken in 30 seconds.

The conclusion is simple. In the real world, done is a lot better than perfect.

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