It's estimated that the average adult makes more than 35,000 decisions per day.
For founders, that number is probably much higher. In a given day, you are dealing with everything from fairly simple decisions (What should I wear to work?) to extremely stressful and impactful decisions (Should we pivot the business?). As any founder will tell you, the number of decisions they have to make in a day can get so overwhelming that by the time they get home, they can barely decide what to eat for dinner.
This is what's known as decision fatigue.
To make effective decisions as a founder, first and foremost, you need to be healthy and focused. You need to get plenty of sleep. You need to find ways to clear your head. But aside from the obvious things, I have found there are a handful of very tactical ways to go about reducing day-to-day decision fatigue.
If you are feeling burned out and mentally exhausted, ask yourself these questions to see if there are ways you can better manage your daily responsibilities.
1. Am I the right person to be making these specific decisions? Or is there someone else better suited?
Part of being an effective founder and entrepreneur is knowing what decisions not to make.
Over the past few years, I can see how much better I have gotten at not making certain decisions. Before, my impulse had been to always step in and be the one to decide, but I have since retrained myself to point certain questions at someone else. Do I need to be the one to decide what this quarter's team-building exercise is going to be? Or can someone else do that? Am I really the best person to do the review of our initial product plan for the season? Or can we give that responsibility to someone else?
This is a question I encourage all founders to constantly ask themselves: "Am I truly needed here?"
2. Am I making my life more difficult by focusing on the weight of each decision?
As we have scaled ThirdLove over the past few years, I have realized that the decisions I have to make on a daily basis have become much harder.
They are bigger, they have more impact, and they affect more people. As I mentioned above, even though I might be making fewer decisions now than I was, say, four years ago, the impact of the decisions I make now has increased. As a result, this can oftentimes make the mental lift feel exponentially harder.
So I try to reframe these decisions as opportunities instead of decisions. I feel like by just changing the word, there is a better mental connotation associated with the act. It also removes the feeling (and fear) of being wrong. A decision feels like you are choosing between right and wrong, good or bad. An opportunity feels like a new direction and a journey.
3. Is this the best time for me to make this decision?
One of the best skills you can practice as a founder is recognizing when now is not the time to make a big decision.
The mental state you are in can impact the way you see the world so dramatically. If you are having a stressful day, you aren't going to be very mentally effective. So instead of trying to force the decision, take a moment. "I can't make this type of decision right now, because I'm not in the right mental or physical state to reach a clear conclusion--and this needs to wait until tomorrow."
Obviously, there is a fine line between "taking a moment" and postponing decisions until it's too late, or becoming a bottleneck to your team. But giving yourself a day is perfectly fine.
4. What position can I fire myself from next to free up more of my time?
The true role of the founder is to play a position within the company, and then "fire" themselves from that position by promoting or hiring someone else to take that position over.
A great example for us would be marketing. Up until very recently, I have been in charge of ThirdLove's marketing. But now we've hired a new head of marketing to essentially take a huge chunk of what I've been managing day to day, so I can focus more of my time elsewhere. And this has been the process since day one, playing different roles, learning them, and then hiring or promoting someone else to take them over, who will bring a focus that is much stronger than what I could have provided.