There were three prisoners up for parole. Two were in for fraud and the other in for assault. The three prisoners had completed two-thirds of their sentences. Case one was heard at 8:50 a.m., case two was heard at 3:10 p.m., and case three was heard at 4:25 p.m. The only prisoner that was granted parole was case one. Wonder why that is?
Researchers conducted further studies in 1,100 parole applicants. They found a pattern, but it was not related to the prisoners’ ethnicities, crimes or backgrounds. What they found was that for prisoners that appealed their case early in the morning, 70% of them were granted parole. However, for the prisoners that appealed their cases later in the day, only 10% were granted parole. Fascinating stuff.
This graph from the Decision Lab best illustrates the point:
The more decisions we have to make the worse we get at making them. We now realise two things from this. One, we have to make less important decisions. Two, we should be making the important decisions first.
Imagine that you have been given an allocation of decision dollars. You have 35,000 decision dollars to spend on every decision in a day. Depending on how big or important the decision is, you will spend more dollars on it. For example, choosing what shoes to wear in the morning might cost you one decision dollar. Where deciding the direction of your business in this financial year will cost you a big chunk of decision dollars.
Visualize yourself budgeting for something. You have a list of things you need to buy, but the big important things, like a trip to Hawaii, you have to budget for first. Then, you use what you have left to buy the smaller things. We don’t do that with decisions though. So let’s flip it on its head.
Say for a moment you are in a board meeting. Often, the big important decisions get relegated towards the end of the meeting. Then we end up spending too few decision dollars on that big important decision. This is causing many to make the wrong decisions in such crucial moments.
First, rank all the decisions you have to make. Now, make the tough decisions early.
Turn decisions into routines
Now we need to figure out how we eliminate a whole bunch of decisions costing us a few too many decisions dollars in our day. We do this by turning decisions into routines. Not everything needs to be a decision. To best illustrate this, we would look at Obama. He himself has said he wears only gray or blue suits to pare down his decision making. Lets extrapolate this to other things shall we?
Look into the future for a moment. There are a bunch of things you have to do in the future but you’re not allocating specific periods of time to do them in. It can be overwhelming deciding what to do and when to do it when looking at a long list of tasks.
What if that was simply not a decision?
What if every time you knew that future you had a task to do and all you did was simply allocate a time in your calendar for it. Now, when you get to that time, you no longer have to make a decision on what you have to do. You simply do the thing you allocated time to do.
There is a long list of things we can do without making them a decision. Look at going to gym for example. A tough decision to make in the moment and often when we leave it until late, we say “I’ll definitely go tomorrow”. Which is the wrong choice! Instead, plot the time in your calendar. Now it is no longer a choice because you simply go.
Once something has been placed into a routine, you no longer have to spend decision making time on it.
Make the big decisions early in the day. Then, see what decisions you can turn into routines and get rid of all those extra decisions. Put these two tips into action and watch yourself make fewer, better decisions.
Now decide to watch this video that goes into more depth on making better decisions.