Humans make tens of thousands of choices everyday. In a founding role, some of these can be make-or-break – such as hiring, team transition, growth strategy, funding and more. A study published by management consulting company McKinsey in 2019 suggested that only 20% of organizations feel they excel at decision-making, so there's clearly room for improvement. 

This is due, in part, to something called decision fatigue: where, faced with decision upon decision to make, quality and efficiency plummet. Here's Charlie's guide on the topic.

How do I know if I'm experiencing decision fatigue? 

‘One of the unique skills that founders have is systems-thinking at an intuitive level; they see how all things are related,’ says Charlie. ‘And that's where you get stuck with decision fatigue. You think, ‘If I just take this one email or meeting, there are all these other ripple effects.’ You start thinking through them, and you get crippled because you can't detach one decision from a system of other decisions.’ 

Decision fatigue manifests in feelings of anxiety and paralysis. You might start specific conversations and quickly get wrapped up in general issues. Some people also act impulsively, eventually just making snap decisions because they want to move on. Others feel numb, because – with business choices playing out over months – they don't feel any sense of completion after choosing. 

Charlie's five top tips for doing something about it.

1. Actually acknowledge the mental toll of being the prime decision-maker. Leaders don't take sufficient account for this as things stand. 

2. Differentiate between being the prime decision-maker and the only decision-maker. Educate and empower your team to make choices, and trust them when they do. 

3. Ensure your small business has a clear vision – with well-defined principles and goals to refer back to each time you make a choice. 

4. Decide on the small stuff as soon as you can, and schedule chunks of time to think properly about the bigger stuff. 

5. Understand that constraints – time, money, or brief-related – can be liberating. You might not be constrained enough to make smart and rapid decisions.

This article was first published in Courier issue 45, February/March 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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