Today I would like to share a useful fact with you in case you should ever get on the wrong side of the law and end up residing at Her Majesty’s pleasure.  I appreciate that this is probably quite unlikely but still it is worth knowing…. when you go for your parole hearing make sure you get either the first hearing or the one straight after lunch.

Why?

Many multicolor question marks above the head of young man or boy. Making decision, thinking, uncertainty, learning concept. EPS 10 vector illustration, no transparencyBecause judges suffer from something called ‘decision fatigue’. Seriously, it is a thing. I haven’t made it up! Every morning we all wake up with a quota of good decisions and as the day wears on and we start to get tired we find it harder and harder to make decisions. So if you are first in front of the judge in the morning you have about at 65% chance of parole, if you are in the last slot before lunch it falls to nearly 0%. After the lunch break you are back to about a 65% chance. The cases are randomly selected so it has nothing to do with your behaviour or the severity of your crime. The scientists who studied this put these huge differences down to the mental fatigue that goes with making decisions, particularly risky ones, proposing that is easier simply to stick with the status quo when we are running out of the mental energy that is required to make decisions.

Given that the likelihood of my clients ending up in prison is pretty low this may seem a bit of an odd thing to write about but the thing that I found really interesting about this apparent injustice is the fact that mental fatigue results in a lack of change from the status quo. It also reminded me of Mark Zuckerberg who famously wears a grey t-shirt and jeans every single day. When questioned about this he said he tried to reduce the number of ‘silly’ decisions he makes each day in order to be better placed to serve his customers. He also had exactly the same thing for breakfast using the same theory. Save the decision making power for the stuff that really matters.

While we may not be serving a billion customers (yet!) or deciding the fate of criminals, as small business owners we are having to make tough decisions every single day. Sometimes just sharing a blog post can take a huge amount of effort because of the vulnerability of putting yourself out there, sometimes you have to walk away from work because is it not the right thing for your business and sometimes you are making decisions about investing in the future and how your business should grow. You don’t want to make these things any harder by using up all your mental energy making ‘silly’ decisions as ‘Zuck’ calls them. Knowing what we do about how decision making causes mental fatigue we need to be minimising the number of decisions we are making day to day to ensure we have always got the necessary mental power remaining for the super important ones.

So how do we do that?

In order to make space in your brain for the kind of thinking that is required to grow your business you have got to clear out all the clutter. This is super important. It’s something that is a bit of a mantra with me… systemise, systemise, systemise! Why? Because if you convert all the things you do repeatedly into a process that you can follow using a checklist then you don’t have to make decisions. WIN!

Imagine knowing exactly when you will post your blog and where you were going to share it to because you have a checklist (i.e. once on Facebook page, share to 4 specific groups you know love your content, 3 scheduled tweets, Google+ etc etc) Tick, tick, tickety tick. Not only is it easy but it is almost fun as there is nothing quite like ticking off all the things on a list for a feeling of satisfaction. You can even give yourself a reward at the end!

checklist with pen and clipboardEven the smallest business will have repeated activities that need doing time and time again and these are a great place to start with developing standard processes. These are nowhere near as grand as they sound, usually a checklist will do very nicely. Things that lend themselves to being systemised include invoicing and unpaid reminder notices, how you share a blog post on social media, refund management, email management and client confirmations. There are lots of tiny decisions you make each day that you could reclaim to spend on more important decisions you need to make.

Have I convinced you? I really hope so but you are a bit unsure where to start then look out for my next post where I will be giving a lovely template to get you started.

References: PNAS  vol. 108 no. 17 ,Shai Danziger,  6889–6892 http://www.pnas.org/content/108/17/6889