Decision Fatigue - Stop, Look, and Reevaluate
Recently my family made the decision to switch to a new mobile phone company. We liked a few of their selling points and we were told our existing phones would transfer to the new company seamlessly. Sounded like a plan, so we switched.
After we passed the point of no return, it turned out that our phones were not going to be able to transfer and we found ourselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Before I knew what was happening I had to pay a large sum of money, get all new phones, and traverse the depths of customer service hell trying to get what was initially promised me.
The question then becomes, what is the point of no return in the decision making process. Let’s look at something small, like lunch. You may have a hankering for a particular sandwich from a particular sandwich shop. You drive to the sandwich shop only to find that they are out of the ingredients needed to make your particular sandwich. Instead of reconsidering your entire lunch situation, you order another sandwich from the menu. As you eat the sandwich you admit you do not even like the sandwich and you eat it with a feeling of disappointment.
If we were to rewrite that situation we may recognize that we do in fact have additional choices that were not considered. When you learned that the sandwich shop did not have the ingredients to make your favorite sandwich, you had the ability to rethink everything. You would have to evaluate things like how much time you had left to get lunch, how far away your second favorite lunch choice is, and how willing you were to wait in line at another restaurant.
Many of us, myself included, find that when we invest time or money in a process, we oftentimes settle for an unwanted decision at the end of the process. This is called decision fatigue.
Decisions which are bigger than a sandwich are too important to allow decision fatigue to set in. Therefore, the moment you notice your circumstances change, remember to stop, look, and reevaluate.
The first key is stopping. There will be a single moment when you recognize that the circumstances changed. You may notice the circumstances have changed when the mobile phone company starts to change their story, or you may notice them when the sandwich shop tells you they cannot make your favorite sandwich today. When you notice this shift it is important to stop the momentum of the decision making process, even if it is only for a few brief moments.
Secondly, you’ll want to look. You will need to look at the new circumstances, gather new information, and figure out the new decision making landscape. When you are looking at the new circumstances remember you need to take into account ALL of the relevant information and choices you have available to you. You should not limit your sight to only those few choices left in front of you. Sometimes the best choice is not in front of you or out of your immediate purview. Wipe the slate clean, and look for all of your options.
After stopping and looking, your next step is to reevaluate. With a moment to take a breath and a clear view of all of the options available, you now have the ability to reevaluate your decision. You may decide you do not want to switch mobile phone carriers; you may decide you’re going to stop at a different restaurant for a different sandwich on your way back to the office. From this place of knowing, you’ll be able to make a decision with certainty and not from a place of decision fatigue.