Is decision fatigue getting in the way of your energy levels and your productivity? Self-automation could be the answer!
I admit, we don’t know Obama for his experimental outfit choices. In fact, he wears the same style suit day-in, day-out. It’s because it’s just one less decision he has to make. It even has a name: ‘the daily uniform’. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Grace Coddington are also fans.
Ok, I admit, a few of the daily uniform subscribers may be on the eccentric side, but there is a lot of sense in their approach.
I’ll say even more: we could learn from it!
The Decision Fatigue Epidemic
See, as business owners, we make decisions ALL THE TIME.
It starts the minute we open our eyes, and it doesn’t stop until we close them again. It’s exhausting, and as the day gets on, we become less and less good at it. Our decisions get slower and slower, and they become less and less on the mark. (This is not just me saying this, someone actually researched this.)
The ailment is called ‘Decision Fatigue’.
Yep, it’s a thing. And a very annoying one when you’re busy running a business.
I mean, what business owner can afford to make delayed, half-witted and unfortunate decisions?!
I know I can’t!
Self-Automation Is The Answer
So what do I do about it?
To improve the productivity of my decision making, I build a certain amount of self-automation into my day. In doing this, I reduce decision fatigue, and therefore I preserve energy.
It ties directly back to last week’s podcast where we discussed the 3 things that improve our productivity. These 3 things are time, energy and your attention. When you have all 3, you can be your most productive. (If you’ve missed this episode, you can find it here.)
Self-automation is a very effective tool to preserve the amount of energy you need in a day.
But what do I mean by self-automation? Surely, introducing a daily uniform will not move the needle in the amounts of decisions we make?
I agree, it’s not.
As a matter of fact, a daily uniform is one thing I don’t self-automate. But the idea applies to all the itty-bitty tasks we do in a day. Once you take the decision making out of these small tasks, you’ve considerably cut the amount of decisions you’re making!
Creating Rituals: About Habits And Habit-Stacking
How do I do this?
I like to create rituals, both daily and weekly. They help me do the small tasks on auto-pilot.
If you haven’t read the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, I would highly recommend it.
It talks about ‘what is a habit’ and ‘habit-stacking’.
The short of it is that every habit has a cue (the trigger that initiates the behaviour), a response (the behaviour), a reward (what you get out of it).
But what lifts a ‘behaviour’ up to becoming a ‘habit’ is doing the same thing again, and again, and again until you rewire your brain and you no longer have to think about it. The repetition is essential for the activity to become a habit. It usually takes a while, but if you persevere with it long enough, it becomes second nature and you can start reaping the reward.
The other concept, ‘Habit-stacking’, refers to a series of habits that follow each other. Basically, the end of one habit becomes the cue for the next one. Eventually, you’ll have one habit stacked on top of another to create what I call a ‘ritual’ or a ‘routine’.
Establish Impactful Routines
I’ve integrated several rituals into my day, both for business and in my private life. I thought you may want to hear about them.
Let’s start with my morning routine.
It starts the moment I open my eyes, and it ends the minute I sit at my desk, ready to begin my workday. By that time, I could have made 25 decisions already. But I didn’t, because of my routine.
I have one routine for my exercise days, and I have another one for the days where I need to have an early start in the office. So I still have a certain level of flexibility.
The main point is that, no matter what, I DON’T HAVE TO MAKE DECISIONS. None! Zero! The end of decision fatigue before the day has even started. It’s perfect!
I also have a nightly bed-time routine, and a dinner time routine.
As you guessed, I’ve also introduced daily routines into my business. Both for myself individually, as for the entire team.
The team rituals give us a level of comfort. It means we know for sure these things are done by everybody in the business, so we don’t waste time backtracking and double checking.
Let me share what this looks like.
We have daily rituals and weekly rituals.
Our Workday Ramp-Up Ritual
Everybody on the team does this every morning. We all allocate 30 minutes at the start of the day.
- Accounting system: Every member of the team starts with logging into Xero, so we can track time to charge our clients.
- Zoom: Everyone opens their Zoom chat to respond to messages.
- Project Management System: Then we open Monday.com. I expect everyone to clear their inbox and notifications. Next, we review our to-do list for the day, and allocate time for these tasks in our calendar.
- Email: Finally, we open Outlook and review the emails that have come in. Next, we allocate an action to them. We don’t necessarily respond at this stage. Rather, we group emails from a client together and tag them against a project. When we allocate time to work on the project during the day is when we’ll respond. It means, however, that at the start of the day, we’re already aware of what’s ahead.
This Workday Ramp-Up Ritual means we know that the rest of our team is up to date first thing in the morning.
Our Workday Shut-Down Ritual
The Workday Shut-Down Ritual is very similar.
- Project Management System: All the inbox and the notifications in Monday.com are cleared. All the tasks are ticked off, or have notes allocated to them. This is the time where we enter tasks in tomorrow’s date for anything that was not completed today.
- Email: The goals is to get to zero in our inbox at the end of the day. Junk emails are cleared. We flag the emails in our focussed inbox that still need to be actioned.
- Calendar: We review tomorrow’s schedule so we can make a mental note of what’s coming up. (I’m thinking of early morning meetings, etc.)
- Accounting System: Everyone completes their timesheet in Xero.
- Tidy-up: We file away all papers. (I have a clear desk policy.) When we used to have a physical office (we no longer do), everybody used to store their laptops on a tray that was securely stored in the cupboard.
These daily routines have increased our productivity as a team because we are no longer wondering if the other person in our team is going to read our messages. We know all team members look at the same tasks and priorities to get us ahead.
Apart from the daily rituals, we also have weekly rituals.
Admittedly, these are my favourite, because it puts the entire team on the same page. We get things done. It also lifts the team’s morale, and it holds us accountable.
I mean what’s not to like!?
Weekly Start-Up Ritual
- Priorities: Every Monday morning by 10 am, each team member needs to put on our chat channel the 3 priorities they will work on this week. (It means I keep a helicopter view of the team’s priorities.)
- Movements: This relates to any movements the team needs to be aware of. ( E.g. I will be late at my desk in the morning because I have a training session at 8 am, or a team member will leave at 2 pm, because they have a family commitment)
Weekly Wind-Down Ritual
Every Friday afternoon, we celebrate our week.
- Before everyone closes their computer, we share 3 work-related wins for the week.
- We also share one gratitude. This can be both personal or work-related.
It’s a beautiful thing to do, and it puts a smile on my face to start the weekend.
The Result Of All The Rituals And Routines?
Is it worth it? What do you think?
I now rarely suffer from decision fatigue. I feel good about the decisions I make, and I am no longer exhausted at the end of the day. (Well, most of the time.. ;-))
So, I hope the rituals I created for myself and my business have inspired you. (If it has, it would make me very happy if you would share this blog and podcast with others. Take a screenshot of wherever you’re listening to this podcast and share it on Instagram. Don’t forget to tag me.
As for your first steps away from decision fatigue, look at what you can self-automate in your personal life and your business. It doesn’t need to be perfect from the first go. Just try it out and tweak it as you live it. You’ll be surprised about the relief you feel when you reduce the number of decisions you have to make in a day.
You’ll find it does miracles for your energy levels and your productivity!