Amusingly, scientists do not agree on how many decisions an adult makes in a day, ranging from claims of 27 to 35,000 (226.7 of those on food, mostly non-conscious!) however, regardless of the number (surely it depends on whether we are at work or on holiday?) the brain does suffer from decision fatigue following a long session of making them.
This helps to explain why towards the end of the day, you may not reach for the healthiest option or you do something considered more irrational. Advance planning daily decisions like food, what to wear, exercise etc enables more decision power for the bigger stuff. Although the Silicon Valley CEO uniform of same polo neck / t-shirt and jeans won’t be for everyone!
Decision-making is even more difficult when faced with increasing choice: more than three options will overwhelm the brain: if you are selling a product or promoting an idea (where to go for Christmas perhaps?) limit the alternatives. Having criteria to measure speeds the process up. For example, I have technology to upgrade so will limit my choice to sticking to the same brand, then comparing up to three models only on processor speed, battery life and weight/size, as the other features are all pretty similar. As per last time, I will deadline and gamify my decision of making the purchase within thirty minutes on a particular day.
If I don’t do this, I am likely to start maximising my decision and perfectionism will rear its irritating head. I frequently observe this in my clients too: suffering from decision stress due to wanting to be certain that they choose the ‘best’ option. Dr Barry Schwartz’s research has shown that maximisers tend to be less happy and less satisfied than satisficers – and suffer from overwhelm.
Satisficers will pick the first choice that meets their criteria and will probably save a lot of time and money in the long run. Indeed, making decisions based on the cost of time is useful: is it worth an hour / multiple shopping trips / online research to compare choices?
Where can you start being a satisficer? Tell me one decision at firstname.lastname@example.org