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How To Avoid Self-Induced Stress And Decision Fatigue In Business

Not too long ago I finally went to the doctor for my annual physical. When I got the results back, it looked like I was healthy for a person my age.
The results were right where they should be, except for one: my stress hormones. Apparently, my cortisol levels were incredibly high.
Naturally, the doctor was concerned and wanted to dig deeper. Once she found out that I was an entrepreneur, she stopped her line of questioning. “That explains everything,” she replied with supreme confidence. “Almost all of my entrepreneur patients experience the same thing.”
And with that, she sent me on my way with instructions to “try and relax.”
It’s no secret that running a business is stressful. In fact, for the average entrepreneur, there are so many stressors and decision points throughout the day that at some point the quality of the decisions being made begins to deteriorate rapidly.
This impaired ability to make good decisions is called decision fatigue, and it plagues leaders and entrepreneurs alike.
There is a common but false belief held by many in the entrepreneurial community that strength of will is the key to avoiding the impact of decision fatigue.
Strong leaders, it is believed, can simply muscle through fatigue and continue making good decisions. I would argue that this belief couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I’ve struggled with decision fatigue at many points throughout my career, but its impact on my life has been felt more acutely as of late.
Leading a company in growth mode, raising capital, and balancing the demands of private life have taken their toll.
Rather than descend into a stress spiral or pretend that I can simply muscle through things, I decided to look deeper into the problem and find a solution. Through that process of discovery, I’ve learned three important steps that can reduce the impact of decision fatigue and stress.
Eliminate simple stress triggers
While we may not realize it, much of the stress we experience in our daily lives is self-induced. Seemingly small and insignificant things we tend to overlook or ignore act as stress triggers that build up over time and lead to anxiety, exhaustion, and decision fatigue.
For me, it’s clutter. I’m a bit of a neat freak, and when I come home to a messy house or walk into a disorganized office, it sets me on a path that results in a stress spiral.
Life is busy, and I get that things sometimes have to fall to the wayside. In the grand scheme of things, having a perfectly clean house isn’t all that important. However, I’ve learned that disorganization is a simple and totally self-induced source of stress.
That’s why I now take the time to organize and clean my home every night before I go to bed. It drives my wife insane, and I recognize that it’s overkill in many respects.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, the added work of cleaning helps me de-stress. It removes the most common stress trigger I encounter and clears the path for me to start the day without that additional burden.
I encourage my fellow entrepreneurs and leaders to identify their stress triggers and take steps to eliminate them, even if it means more work.
Don’t overcomplicate things
One of my favorite quotes comes from President Ronald Reagan, who remarked that “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.”
It’s easy to forget this fact when you’re in the weeds of running a business, but it holds true in many instances, and this simplicity is at the core of essentialism.
The concept of essentialism can be traced back to the works of Aristotle and Plato and holds that a given entity has a few core traits that define its very existence.
There can be many additional traits, but there are always a few that define the core of the entity in question.
This seemingly abstract concept simplifies the decision-making process and can be quite helpful for leaders trying to avoid fatigue and burnout.
When you apply essentialist thought to a problem, you actively strip it down to its most basic aspects. Shedding extraneous information helps you to focus your thoughts, get down to the point, and simplify the decision-making process.
Build an essentialist mindset
The only way to avoid decision fatigue (and the stress that goes with it) is to simplify the decision process so that it is quick, straightforward, and effective.
By embracing essentialism, you can break the process down into a few steps, evaluate the situation, and make that decision quickly and confidently. Here are the three simple steps I use:
Step 1: Determine whether or not the situation at hand is consistent with your core values. If it isn’t consistent, don’t do it.
Step 2: Identify the likely outcome and worst-case scenario. If you can get comfortable with how you think things will play out and can accept the worst-case-scenario, move forward.
Step 3: Determine how the decision will impact your resources (time, people, and money). Is the benefit worth the cost? If you think it is, move forward and don’t second-guess yourself. You might end up being wrong, but worrying about past decisions will only drive you crazy.
We all suffer from stress and decision fatigue from time to time. After all, we are inundated with information, anxieties, and stresses in almost every aspect of our life.
In spite of all that, it’s important to remember, there are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. Essentialism is the path to simplification, and a great tool for today’s overwhelmed entrepreneurs.
-Chris Myers


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