Meta thinking: Managing Decisions

Something that has become evidently true at this point in my career is that I have only so much capacity for decision making. Decisions are hard.

And the further I get into my career, the more difficult the decisions tend to be. They often have greater consequences and I'm working on less and less information.

I personally believe that decision fatigue is very, very real. It's one of the main reasons that I feel beat at the end of some days and not others. Did I have to make a lot of decisions that day?

I have come to believe that a skill that needs a) acknowledgement and b) refinement is that of managing decisions:

How do decisions come to you in the first place?

It's helpful to have a clear idea of what your areas of responsibility are - those really are going to be the source of a lot of your decisions. Your role at work. Are you a parent? (There is a universe of decisions right there.) Are you a homeowner? What volunteer roles do you have? Are you a caregiver for loved one?

Here's a hint: if you've ever said to yourself "adulting is hard" - that's a hint you probably have an area of responsibility.

Having your clear areas of responsibility is helpful because it also means you know what is not your area of responsibility. You're not responsible for helping your sibling figure out their life, or helping your neighbor fix their shed.

This ties into the next point:

Are you the right person to be making these decisions?

As decisions come to you, do they actually fall within your areas of responsibility? Or to put more bluntly: are they your problem?

Are you finding yourself getting asked to make decisions that aren't really yours to make? That can indicate communication/perception issues that might need to be resolved. It might take a conversation about why others are coming to you for that decision.

But also recognize that if a manager is asking you to make a decision, they are probably delegating that decision to you. Speak up if you're not clear on this point. It could be that your manager is trying to grow your ability and authority - hopefully they've made that clear to you beforehand.

How many decisions are you making?

Odds are, probably hundreds per day, if not thousands. It's exhausting if you stop and think about it.

When you consciously observe how many decisions you need to make every day, you'll quickly want to figure out how to cut down on the number of decisions that you need to make.

There is a spectrum between cutting down needless decisions and shirking responsibility. So, tread carefully but intentionally here.

How often are you having to make certain decisions?

You need to choose what you're going to wear every day. You decide what to eat several times a day. You have to decide on what to work on every day.

Knowing how frequently a decision comes up is a critical data point. If it comes up all the time, that is a way of knowing that getting more strategic about it will pay big dividends in the future. It is a way of knowing where to spend your resources (time, money) so that it's less of a burden on you moving forward.


There is a lot more to unpack here, and I will make a few more specific posts. I hope you find this helpful!