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How Do You Decide?

How do you decide what to do every day?

If you are like most professionals, the return on your investment of time varies. If your day is filled with high-payoff, proactive activities, you go home with a sense of accomplishment because you are making progress toward a worthy goal. If your day is consumed with low-payoff, reactive activities, you go home feeling overwhelmed, stressed out and exhausted. You are surviving, but not thriving.

How can you consistently make better decisions regarding how you spend your time? There are many answers to this question, but there is one that may surprise you.

Research suggests we all fall victim to the same enemy. It’s called decision fatigue. When you get tired, your chance of making a good decision regarding how you invest your time decreases.

How can you win the fight against decision fatigue?

Structure your day so your commitments are more powerful than your choices. Once you make a commitment, you don’t have to think about what you should or shouldn’t do. When you have too many choices during the day, you drain your brain faster and you experience mental fatigue. Now, we all have last-minute emergencies that come into our life. A client calls with a problem that can’t wait. You make the choice to adjust your daily agenda. You are getting ready to go to work and your child wakes up with a fever. You stay home and ask a co-worker for help at the office. These situations are examples of decisions that do not drain your energy. You do what you have to do and get on with your day.

The choices that suck your energy dry are the ones where you are not sure what to do. I know sometimes you feel like you don’t have a choice, but most of the time you’re juggling priorities. If you have not made a commitment for what you want to accomplish during a certain time of the day, you have to keep making decisions. Should you call a former client now or do it tomorrow? Should you start writing a new article in the morning or do it later in the afternoon? Should you attend a networking lunch or stay in and return emails? Ideally, you weigh the pros and cons of each choice and then select the best option. However, when mental fatigue sets in, you want to make quicker…not better…decisions.

Make a commitment to identify and complete one high-payoff activity during the first hour of your work day tomorrow. If you will make this commitment, you won’t waste energy thinking about how to begin your day. Too many people start work by opening their email and trying to decide which of the urgent communications are important and which ones are not critical to their success. Before they know it, they are suffering from decision fatigue.

If you choose to participate in this experiment, it will be important to remember to base your actions tomorrow morning on your commitment and not your feelings. When it comes to commitments, your feelings are not your friend. How many times have you wanted to do something positive in your personal or professional life but decided not to because you didn’t feel like it?

Making a commitment to start your day by taking one positive action may not seem very important but just do it, even if you don’t feel like it, and you will see the positive impact it will have on the rest of your day.

Sustained success is built on commitment, not desire.

Let’s Get Better. Together!

Bill Durkin


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