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How to Combat Fatigue and Make Better Decisions

How to Combat Fatigue

Small business owners are some of the hardest-working people in the world, and they’re always looking for the latest productivity tips to help achieve bigger results from every workday. But instead of just trying to plow through a long to-do list every day, it’s important to remember that human beings are not machines – our minds are complex and sensitive, and there are certain times of day that tend to be more productive. If people can organize their day in a way that maximizes their mental power, they can avoid the mental fog of “cognitive fatigue” and have plenty of brainpower to make better business decisions when they need it the most.

How to Combat Fatigue and Make Better Decisions

Avoid Making Big Decisions Late in the Day

People tend to get mentally tired over the course of a long workday – it’s inevitable. But how can you make sure that your business decisions and work output are high quality? One way is to avoid making big decisions later in your workday. According to a study of parole court judges cited in Harvard Business Review, “judges were more likely to deny a prisoner’s request and accept the status quo outcome as they advanced through the sequence of cases on a given day. More specifically, their proportion of favorable rulings started out high, at about 65 percent at the start of the day, but dropped off rapidly.” This means that the judges were most likely making some decisions later in the day that were unfair – it’s unlikely that the quality of cases was remarkably different throughout the day; instead, the judges were mentally tired later in the day and were looking at these later cases with tired, less sympathetic eyes.

In the same way, if you are making big decisions about your business when you’re tired, you are likely to be making some misjudgments or missing out on some big opportunities. Try to organize your day so you can do big-picture thinking and big decisions earlier in the morning, instead of at the end of a long and stressful day.

Take Breaks

Many small business owners pride themselves on working long hours, but it’s important to take time to rest. A study of children ages 8-15 taking tests found that a 20-to-30-minute break after each hour-long test-taking period caused a significant improvement in test scores. Breaks are important not only for physical health, but for our emotional state – taking a break is not lazy or self-indulgent; it helps improve your productivity and decision making ability. 

Try Not to Make Too Many Decisions in One Day

A study of primary care doctors found that the doctors were more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics later in a clinic session compared to the beginning – this means that having to make too many decisions can cause mental burnout and lead people to make mistakes. In your business, it’s natural and common to have to make a lot of decisions each day. But you might consider deferring some of the decisions – especially the most important ones – to a less busy day, or give yourself some time to rest first.

If you feel like your workday is a never-ending assembly line of decisions, you’re going to be more likely to make mistakes or get discouraged. Staying productive is often a matter of managing your time, maintaining your mental energy and staying focused and upbeat – even if you have to take some time for a long lunch or an afternoon nap!

To learn more about how to boost productivity and how to combat fatigue, check out this article in Harvard Business Review: Don’t Make Important Decisions Late in the Day.


Kabbage Team

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