In my book and course I talk quite a bit about this idea of the “death by a million papercuts”. It’s the idea that small business owners (especially those who do not have systems) feel less free, feel more stressed and in general are more dissatisfied with their businesses. I have been trying to find a reason why this is and I think I have found the reason why, and why some of us feel this way.
I recently was listening to Tim Ferriss Podcast “How to avoid decision Fatigue”. The thrust of this mini-podcast is that its the more decisions we make, or are forced to make in a day the less self-discipline and impulse control we have. Its based on the research by Roy Baumeister. Take a look at this video – Willpower: Self-Control, Decision Fatigue, and Energy Depletion http://youtu.be/KfnUicHDNM8
Tim Ferriss makes this analogy to “hit points” if you ever plays Dungeons and Dragons or video games. Think of it like the health of a character in a video game, as the day progresses and your are forced to make decisions it wears on your “mental muscle” The lower your hit points, the less emotional health you have. When your “hit points” are depleted you wind up having little capacity for make intelligent choices, its also been shown that when your hit points are depleted you wind up not making a decisions at all, you procrastinate.
Sounds like a great theory but lets talk about this from Entrepreneur’s standpoint. What are some actions steps that you can take to keep your “hit points”upi throughout the day.
Daily rituals are your friend. If you take mental energy to think about what you are going to wear, what you are going to eat, answering email constantly….you are going to get depleted sooner.
Batch your decisions. Have a block of time that is your decisions window.
Stop answering emails constantly, checking your social accounts, looking at your analytics throughout the day.
Make your systems think and decide for you. On the most base level you are hiring someone to do thinking for you. I know that my staff used to ask me about the same questions over and over again. Make your systems think for you with if/then statements. If a customer complains about this then do X. If they still are complaining then do Y. If they are still not satisfied do Z. Only until they have worked the system and not gotten resolution should they contact you. If they go off the reservation and take the easy way out every time, then retrain them.
Make your staff decide. Give your staff a number, a dollar amount that they can know that if any decision that impacts the bottom line they have the power to make that decision. However, make them accountable and ask them to behave as if their behavior would be related to their bank account.
Remember that this decision fatigue can easily creep not only into your business life. It can also creep, more importantly, when its more important like with your family members and friends.
Korbett Miller is a Black Sash in Gung-fu, owner of Millers Martial Arts in Kirkland Washington and the author of De-Mythify: Finding Freedom in Small Business () he can be reached at; firstname.lastname@example.org