For weeks, you have been working to the point of exhaustion on this presentation. This PowerPoint slides are polished. Each figure on Excel is indisputable. The pitch is a paradigm of crystal-clear logic. Everything depends on your presentation. If you get the green light from the CEO, you are on your way to a corner office. If the presentation flops, you are on your way to the unemployment insurance fund to collection your UIF. The CEO’s personal assistant proposes the following times for the presentation: 8:00am or 11:30am or 6:00pm. Which slot do you choose?

A research exercise that conducted by a psychologist Roy Baumeister and his collaborator Jean Twenge where to had two teams of students. The first team was given an exercise where they had to make a number of decisions to exercise their minds, another teams was made to watch a video clip of music videos. Immediately thereafter, he asked each student to put their hand in ice-cold water and hold it there for as long as possible. In psychology, this is a classic method to measure willpower or self-discipline: If you have little or none, you pull your hand back out of the water very quickly. The result: The deciders (students that were given mental exercisers) pulled their hands out of the icy water much sooner than the non-deciders did. The intensive decision-making had drained their willpower, an effect confirmed in many other experiments.

Making decisions is exhausting. Anyone who has ever configured a laptop online or research a long trip, flight, hotels, activities, restaurants, weather, knows this well: after all the comparing, considering and choosing, you are exhausted. Science calls this decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is perilous: as a consumer, you become more susceptible to advertising messages and impulse buys. As a decision-maker, you are more prone to erotic seduction. Willpower is like a battery. After a while it runs out and needs to be recharged. How do you do this? By taking a break, relaxing and eating something. Willpower plummets to zero if your blood sugar falls too low.

Big shopping malls and certain restaurants know this very well. After going through a maze-like of shops and displays and having to make the decisions and comparisons of what you want to buy, decision fatigue sets in. For this reason, restaurants are located right in the middle of the stores. The mall is willing to sacrifice some of this profit margin so that you can top up your blood sugar before resuming your hunt for the perfect shoes or bag. Some shops even have restaurants inside the shop itself.

Four prisoners in an Israeli jail petitioned the court for early release.

– Case 1 (scheduled for 8:50am); an Arab sentenced to 30 months in prison for fraud;
– Case 2 (scheduled for 1:27am); a Jew sentenced to 16 months for assault;
– Case 3 (scheduled for 3:10pm); a Jew sentenced to 16 months for assault;
– Case 4 (schedule for 4:35pm); an Arab sentenced to 30 months for fraud.

How did the judges decide?

More significant than the detainees’ allegiance or the severity of their crimes was the decision fatigue. The judges granted requests 1 and 2 because their blood sugar was still high (from breakfast or lunch). However, they struck out applicants 3 and 4 because they could not summon enough energy to risk the consequences of an early release. They took the easy option (the status quo) and the men remained in jail.

A study of hundreds of verdicts shows that within a session, the percentage of ‘courageous’ judicial decisions gradually drops from 65% to almost zero, and after a recess, returns to 65%, so much for the careful deliberations of Lady Justice. But as long, as long as you have no upcoming, all is not lost.

You now know when to present your project to the CEO, all the best.

One thought on “Decide Better – Decide Less

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