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Decision Overload – After 19 Million Decisions, Interrogation

By July 25, 2016November 7th, 2021Energy Rant

The average American adult faces 35,000 decisions every day[1]. Whoa! It is called decision fatigue, and when people get too much, they default to no, or doing nothing. I would also add, speaking from personal experience, that the older I get the less time and fewer decisions I want to make. Good enough is good enough for my choices.

You best believe this topic has a lot to do with business (i.e. efficiency program) success or not success.

I’m a late adopter of new software. I was late to Firefox, and then late to Chrome. In fact, the reason I moved to Chrome is that’s what everyone else uses and because everyone else uses it, web content developers make their stuff work on Chrome first.

Going further, last week I discussed all the garbage apps on my iPhone piled in groups on the last home screen. It takes precious time to learn new apps and programs, so I use few and change reluctantly. Joanna Stern, the Journal’s Personal Technology geek, has substituted Spotify for iTunes; Google Allo for Apple Message. She prefers Google’s Android Auto to Apple’s CarPlay. I don’t even use this stuff.

I use things that work. My mantra for years has been “free technology sucks”. It doesn’t work well. I have to tolerate ads, limitations, and very annoying DJs in the case of music. And in many cases, I have to make choices for content, and I don’t like wasting that time. Instead, I pick genres/channels with SiriusXM, and I typically stick with one for months at a time. Once in a while I’ll hear an artist or song, and I’ll want more. I’ll go to Amazon Prime and download albums from there. If I have to pay, fine. For instance, SiriusXM had a Pink Floyd channel for a couple years. About a year after they dropped that channel, I bought a huge box set including practically everything Pink Floyd ever produced, except Raving and Drooling, one of my faves.

The Cure (Not the Band)

There is only one cure for decision fatigue – stop being the decider of everything. I am loath to boast, but I think I am a good decision avoider. This is important because making decisions requires mental energy, which will translate to physical energy. People become exhausted making decisions, and I don’t want to be the victim of saying no to something because I’m burned out.

When people burn out making decisions, they just say no or do nothing, because that’s easy. The Journal reports that researchers analyzed 1,100 decisions by an Israeli parole board. Overall, 33% of applications were granted parole. Get this: 70% of applications were accepted in the morning, while in the afternoon, only 10% were granted freedom by the end of the day! What time of day is good for marketing, delivering proposals, and doing interviews, I wonder? It would depend somewhat on the discipline of the decision maker to avoid thousands of petty decisions each day.

What really burns people out, and is counterproductive, is making unnecessary petty decisions that somebody else disagrees with. There’s my work-life balance advice for the day. Recognize the alpha decision maker, or the person who can make your life miserable, and throw them some decision-making bones. By the end of the day, they will burn out, and then you can beat them. When I say, “I don’t care”, I mean “I don’t care” (to decide).

Why Do We Degrade Our Lives With Excessive Decisions?

Answer: Because we overvalue two things that have become abundantly available: data and choices. When everything is measurable, everything seems knowable. (WSJ). I would add that people often think, OMG, there might be something better! Cheaper! You go ahead and burn yourself out looking…

The Journal reports that it is easier to make a series of small decisions than it is to focus on the big problem. This decision making is often confused with productivity. Could it be that people don’t like dealing with the big problem?

The last bit of advice from the director of advertising who wrote the Journal article: People think having data is power and having choices is freedom. People are more creative in tight boxes than a wide open field. A wide open field induces paralysis.

19,000,000 Decisions Later…

People make 35,000 decisions per day. Net to grossers think we can get people to recall why they decided to go forward with an energy efficiency project 19 million decisions ago, literally. And remember, while they are being asked, they may have already made 20,000 decisions, and now they have to decide how to respond to a lengthy interrogation.

[1] The Wall Street Journal

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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