As an entrepreneur launching a brand new business, you are in charge of most, if not all, of the crucial decisions involved in the process. All of them affect your business in one way or another; you are required to be permanently on your toes so you can make sure that the decisions you make are the best. That is exhausting.
Dr. Roy Baumeister, a scholar of the Social Psychology Faculty at Princeton University, has studied decision making processes for a number of years. In 2011, along with a team of researchers, he identified a phenomenon on those who have to make crucial decisions for extended periods: Decision fatigue. Dr. Baumeister defined it as depletion of the brain’s mental stamina due to making too many decisions. When this happens, we end up making poor choices or rash decisions, or we forgo deciding at all.
An entrepreneur with decision fatigue could negatively impact their own business. While making decisions is an unavoidable task for those who have decided to venture business on their own, understanding how decision making works could help you identify the steps you find most difficult and work on them:
1) IDENTIFY THE DECISION TO BE MADE
Since an entrepreneur wears many hats at the same time, usually decisions are made in a rush and with very little thought. Sometimes you might even choose something just because you had a hunch. Taking the time to identify exactly what’s being asked of you will also mean you’ll pay closer attention to the implications of your decision.
2) GATHER INFORMATION
Say you opened a coffee shop and need to get a website set up. You know nothing about web design. How can you pick a web hosting service, a web designer, a platform? You gather as much information as you can, but you still can’t make up your mind. What do you do next?
3) EVALUATE YOUR ALTERNATIVES
“Small business owners must lay out all the decisions they need to make on a consistent basis in the marketing, finance, operations and personnel areas and be honest with themselves about where their expertise lies,” says Nihar Chhaya, a strategy advisor. “Then they need to delegate those decisions to people that have both the skill and the motivation to make the best choices in those areas.” How do you do that if you ventured into business by yourself? Ask former classmates, acquaintances, former coworkers or friends. Even if they don’t know enough to help you, they will very likely refer you to someone who does.
If you’re evaluating alternatives by yourself, it’s really helpful to make a pro/con list of each one of your options. This way you’ll be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each alternative.
4) TAKE ACTION
Once you’ve weighed in your choices in an informed way, it’s time to pick one. As an entrepreneur, you might have very limited resources, funds and staff, so try to make sure that the choice you make makes sense both in the right here, right now and in the future. Work with what you have, not with what you expect to get. And then go for it.
5) FOLLOW UP
Many people feel relieved once they’ve reached an important decision and naively think that’s over, but following up is just as important as having made that choice. Once your plan is in action, take the time to evaluate if your decision was indeed the most efficient one, if there were additional factors to consider and, if everything turned out the way you expected, see if you could use that same decision making process in the future.