This article originally published on Forbes.com
Entrepreneurs are faced with an endless array of daily decision making. And, if not handled with conscious control and discernment, it can lead to decision fatigue, causing a decrease in productivity, effectiveness and ability to achieve and sustain success.
As a veteran entrepreneur who has conducted business worldwide, I’ve been directly involved in extensive decision making processes, both on my own behalf and as agent for others. I’ve had the opportunity to witness decision making habits of executives of private and publicly traded companies, Fortune 50 company executives (including their legal counsel and primary partners) and solopreneurs.
Through decades of that direct personal experience, I’ve discovered a pattern of what works to deliver the minimum amount of decision making stress and strain possible and the maximum successful outcome.
1. Eliminate and/or minimize daily, nonessential decision making. When it comes to your daily agenda, use self-control to focus only on what is essential. This keeps your mind fresh and sharp, enabling it to think optimally to achieve the highest outcomes.
2. Avoid polarization. When it comes to business agreements, seek out the core values of the company or person you’re making a decision about. Make sure those values are compatible with yours. When core values are in alignment, communication, problem-solving and shared responsibility flow more easily and effortlessly. When they are not aligned, there is a predisposition toward roadblocks, delays or even failure to achieve success.
3. Avoid people-pleasing. There is a natural human tendency to engage in people-pleasing with the people we like as opposed to those we don’t. Liking someone makes it more challenging to say no or to set a boundary when it’s required and can lead to poor decision making. No matter how much you like another person, don’t lower your standards when it comes to doing your homework. It’s business.
4. Assess personality compatibility. If you don’t like someone yet choose to do business with them anyway, you add extra stress, strain and fatigue to the business relationship and can diminish positive returns. Find someone you have more synergy with.
5. Don’t feel pressured to make decisions on someone else’s “need-by” timeline. Rushing your decision making process to accommodate someone else’s timeline is never a good idea. If the timeline can’t be negotiated to match your needs, it’s a sign that it’s not a good match and will lead to other hard-lining behavior in the future.
6. When in any doubt, don’t make a final decision. Making a final decision in spite of lingering doubts is allowing an unconscious or conscious fear to drive your decision. This is an emotional decision, not a rational one, and it often leads to making poor choices. Wait until you are free from doubt.
7. Don’t rush your contract negotiations for any reason. Rushing negotiations is often a sign of being too hungry for success. It means that you are coming from a place of fear or desperation, which will not net you the positive returns you’re seeking. This will only cause a delay in achieving the success that you want or need.
8. Get references, no matter how renowned or grand the recommendation. It’s imperative, in every circumstance, to do your due diligence to make the wisest, risk-averse decision as possible. You need to hear firsthand the answers to your specific questions. Assuming the answers is a risky proposition.
9. Don’t allow fear to rule your decision making process. Fear is an irrational feeling, and not a rational thought. An irrational mindset leads to mistake-making. Take the time to do all the research, investigation and rational analysis prior to making a decision so fear doesn’t override your rational judgment.
10. Get advice, trust your gut and make your own final decisions. Nobody knows your goals, values, wants, needs or point of view like you do. Not even the most seasoned expert is likely coming from the same position as you, which can lead you astray. It’s important to get expert advice, but it’s imperative to make your own decisions to achieve the outcomes that you want and need.
Getting mired in too much decision making can lead to decision fatigue, and therefore, failure. Both Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg know this all too well. That’s why they eliminate all the nonessential decisions. When Obama was president, he chose to only wear blue or grey suits every day. “I’m trying to pare down decisions,” he said in an interview. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Similarly, Mark Zuckerberg almost always wears a grey T-shirt and jeans for the same reason. “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. And there’s actually a bunch of psychology theory that even making small decisions around what you wear, or what you eat for breakfast, or things like that, they kind of make you tired and consume your energy.”
If not made carefully, every decision, big or small, can deplete your time and energy. By consciously and consistently abiding by the top 10 tenets of successful decision making, you’ll optimally be conditioned to avert decision fatigue and achieve maximum returns and success on your energy spent making decisions.