Did you know that former President Obama and the late Steve Jobs wore basically the same outfits every day? Perhaps they are tapping in some fascinating research about how the brain makes decisions.
As Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012, the purpose was to cut away the mundane decisions. “I’m trying to pare down decisions and so I only wear gray or blue suits. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Last week, I shared some fascinating research about how our decision-making process is influenced by subconscious thought processes.
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. For example, we know the number of options we have can make a big difference in whether we purchase a product or not. If you missed that one, check it out here: Neuromarketing: The Science of Buying and Selling
But it’s not just how many decisions or how many choices we have; we are also influenced by when we make decisions. Because of the possibility of conflict and unwanted outcomes, making decisions can be stressful. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses and those invisible forces that influence our decisions helps alleviate that stress and grow your decision-making IQ.
1. Make important decisions in the morning.Save the mundane decisions for the end of the day and save the simple things for the evening. Selecting your outfit the night before, making a shopping list and sticking to it, or putting your gym bag by the door so you don’t even have to think about whether you’ll go to the gym the next day can make a big difference.
2. Commit to scheduled routines. Don’t decide whether you’ll pick up dinner on the way home or warm up left-overs. Structure those things that you have to do – laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc. – in a predictable schedule that takes no decision-making and commit to it.
3. Keep your blood sugar steady. A study that examined the parole decisions of a group of judges showed that they were more likely to grant parole at the start of the day . As time went on and they got more mentally fatigued, they were more likely to deny parole, which was the default decision. In the time right after their meal, their likelihood of granting parole jumped back up to morning levels and then steadily decreased throughout the afternoon.
The bottom line: the best decision-makers are those who know when not to make important decisions.