Combat Decision Fatigue

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

In a piece at Inc., Suzanne Lucas discusses how to avoid decision fatigue." Although I think there is merit in considering the issues the term (and Lucas) bring up, I would have to think long and hard about whether I agree it is valid. (I think the best aspect of the idea is related to what Objectivists refer to as the crow epistemology. That is, it names an aspect of the fact that we have limited cognitive resources, and that we do better by respecting those limits.) That said, I will risk sounding like I'm slapping my own back here, and say that I already use lots of the strategies Lucas advocates, which she broadly characterizes as delegation. What she has done for me is cause me to consider applying them more broadly, and not just when I find a particular type of decision taxing.

One favorite of mine -- which I could probably use in more contexts -- clocks in at number four on her list as "Outsourcing Makes Life Easier":

No, you can't outsource your own job, but you can outsource parts of it. If you're the CEO, stop being the CEO that interviews every job applicant and needs every decision to cross her desk. Hire people you can trust and then let them make decisions. Only make the decision when you're the only person who can make it. If it's something complex, let your staff do the studying to narrow down the choices. [bold added]
This reminds me of the time before my wedding, when choices for all manner of wedding gifts for our registry kept popping up. Although I have strong opinions about the relevant factors, such as utility and aesthetics, I quickly found having to think about all these things very annoying. Fortunately, I realized that (1) my wife and I had similar-enough opinions about these things, and (2) she enjoyed poring through the web sites and catalogs with all the choices. So I asked her to find the top three candidates for dining-ware, linens, eating utensils, and so forth, and then ask for my input. That was one of the best ideas I had during our engagement, if I say so myself. What Lucas has helped me do is realize that the fact I find shopping exhausting is no reason not to apply it to other areas that, while I may not object to (or even enjoy) them, are perhaps not the best uses of my time or cognitive resources.

Lucas calls her column, "5 Reasons You Should Let Others Make Your Decisions," but don't be fooled. Just as you remain the ultimate arbiter when you follow her strategies, some of the delegation isn't actually to other people. To see what I mean by that, and for other valuable ideas, read the whole thing.

-- CAV

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