Decision fatigue: The reason you’re making bad decisions at work

By | Career Advice, Featured, First-time Manager, Grow, Managers, Productivity, Skills Lab

Have you ever felt like making a very simple a decision during the workday (even deciding what to have for lunch) is next to impossible? You have? Alright. Next question: Have you ever wondered why all supermarkets have candy stands near the cash registers?

You’re probably thinking the answer to the second question has something to do with what you’re going to have for lunch, but it doesn’t.

The reason behind your occasional inability to make even the simplest of decisions is exactly the same reason why supermarkets place candy stands where they do: decision fatigue.

So what is decision fatigue?

It is the worsening quality of decisions made after long sessions/stretches of decision-making. #UnderstandDecisionFatigueClick To Tweet

It is the phenomenon of worsening quality of decisions made after long sessions/stretches of decision-making. In other words, the more the decisions you make and the longer they take you to make, the more likely your later ones will be bad/wrong. Just as the name suggests, you get fatigued and your mental energy is depleted, causing your decisions to worsen in quality.

How did we come to know decision fatigue?

Social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and his colleagues discovered and confirmed this through many experiments. In one of them, they gathered two groups of people. They asked the first group to make a series of decisions about simple products like candles, T-shirts, pens, and so on. For example, the researchers asked the group whether they preferred to take the T-shirt or pen. They also asked them which color of pen or T-shirt they wanted. On the other hand, the other group was not asked to make any decisions; instead, they were only asked to give their opinions on the items.

Decision fatigue things choose experiment

Afterward, both groups were given a classic test of self-control: They were asked to keep a hand submerged in ice-cold water for as long as they could. And then the results were amazing. The group that had to make a lot of decisions before gave up a lot faster. In fact, they gave up in less than half the time the other group did: 28 seconds vs. an average of 67 seconds, respectively.

Keeping your hand in the cold water as long as you can is a conscious decision you have to make and requires not succumbing to the temptation of relief you’d feel when you pull your hand out. And making that decision after having made all the other ones needs mental energy you just wouldn’t have then.

So how does that decide the placement of the candy stands?

The idea is that while shopping you spread yourself too thin in going through the different shelves comparing brands, qualities, prices, and any other factors to be considered that by the time you get to the cash register you just can’t resist the temptation of a candy bar, after all, that decision-making, so you decide to get one, making a purchase almost guaranteed every time. Not bad for the supermarket owner, is it?

decision fatigue supermarket

How does it affect my life?

So what happens when you’re suffering from this phenomenon? Your brain just wants to end the situation that’s forcing you to make a choice. And that leads to one of two scenarios.

  • You pick anything

The fastest way to put an end to the situation is to just pick something. And your brain knows this. So you find yourself making the easiest decision or choosing the easiest option with no consideration for later repercussions. In this case, you run the risk of bad/unwise/reckless decisions.

  • You pick nothing

The complete opposite is also possible. The lack of decision-making ability could drive you into analysis paralysis. That’s what happens when you overanalyze a situation and the options you have to the point of incapacitating yourself.

You could also choose to not make a decision at that particular moment because your brain convinces you that this way you keep your options open and you can come back to decide later.

But we all know that luxury of delaying decisions is not one available all the time at work. You also can’t afford to be making the wrong decision at work all the time. So you see why decision fatigue is a serious problem, don’t you?

How to deal with it?

What makes matters worse is the huge number of decisions out there. We face decisions in all shapes, sizes, and forms at work. From deciding what to have for lunch to who deserves a promotion, the range of decisions at work can give anyone a run for their money.

It’s not just about work-related decisions either. Imagine any typical day. You have to choose what to wear, what to have for breakfast, whether to reply to that text you received now and many, many others. All these decisions and you haven’t even left home for work yet!

Every decision you make, big or small, takes a toll on your brain. #UnderstandDecisionFatigueClick To Tweet

No matter how small or inconsequential it might be, every decision you make from the moment you wake up takes a toll on your brain and takes away from your decision-making ability later in the day.

Understanding the decision fatigue phenomenon is the first key to solving it. Now check out our ultimate guide to better decision-making at work.

Have you heard of decision fatigue before? What surprised you the most about this phenomenon? Let us know in the comments below.

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How to boost your productivity in Ramadan?

By | Featured, Productivity, Skills Lab

Since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, your daily lifestyle might have undergone some reorganization (or let’s say..disorganization, to be exact). If you’re fasting, instead of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you now have to eat one big meal in the evening and get it digested fast enough to have another one in the middle of the night. And may heaven have mercy on you, because you have to somehow get enough sleep so that you can wake up early in the morning to get to work and get on with the day without your morning caffeine intake. Here’s how you can exploit this benefit to make sure you bring your A game at work during Ramadan, with 8 simply obvious yet efficient tips:

Get a good night’s sleep

Don’t try to turn your day and night upside down by pulling all-nighters; however, make sure you get enough sleep at night. Not getting enough sleep negatively affects your REM sleeping, which damages your creativity, problem-solving abilities, and memory; this is all amplified if you persistently sleep less during the entire month of Ramadan. To optimize your sleeping hours, and since it’s ultimately healthier to sleep solidly, try to advance your suhoor to around midnight so that you can get a good 6-8 hours of sleep before you have to wake up for work.

Use Ramadan meals to your benefit

It might be mouth-watering to imagine the big feast you’ll be eating once you break your fast, but it is actually beneficial for you on the long-run not to get carried away with your stomach’s desires and to try to eat lightly yet nutritiously during this month. Try to avoid or restrict to the minimum eating fatty foods and desserts, given the short non-fasting duration, in order to focus on getting the nutrients that your body needs. Indulge in specific foods, like dates, whole-grains, fruits, and vegetables, that replenish what you lost while fasting.

Give your body the fluids it needs

During the day, you lose a lot of your body fluids especially if you’re out in the sun for a long time. In order to make up for the loss of fluids, the best option is not to gulp down the entire jug of water during suhoor since it causes bloating and indigestion; but instead to drink regularly and slowly throughout the evening. Drink a cup of water while breaking your fast, followed by a series of drinks (whether simply water or natural fruit juices and herbs) at regular intervals.

Exercise regularly to boost your energy

Exercising when you’re not getting enough food and drink throughout the day can sound difficult and overbearing; but if you already do exercise regularly, do not break that habit. You’ll feel that it, in fact, boosts your energy throughout your fasting day. According to fitness expert and biokineticist Habib Noorbhai, the ideal time to exercise is either right before iftar since you will break your fast soon afterward and will resupply your body with the nutrients it needs. Make sure to ask your trainer and/or your doctor if your body can handle workouts while fasting.

1 stair flight = 1 shot of espresso

Switch that cup of coffee that you can’t drink in Ramadan with a couple of stair flights every hour or so.  According to a study conducted by Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, you can stay alert and continue the rest of the day tirelessly if you just take several trips up and down the stairs along the day. If you’re in a limited space, walk around the office or go up and down the stairs. If you have a more open work area like the one at WUZZUF, take a walk around the place and have a chit-chat with your colleagues so that you can feel more open to going back to work. This may be a great opportunity to let go of your caffeine-dependency if you try this replacement and it becomes your new midday ritual!

Switch that cup of coffee that you can’t drink in Ramadan with a couple of stair flights every hour to boost your productivity. Click To Tweet

Power nap!

Napping is a double-edged weapon. If you nap just the right amount of time, you’ll wake up refreshed and more energized. Though if you take a longer nap than you should, you might wake up tired. The perfect nap time recommended, according to several nap-studies, is increments of 10 minutes with maximum 30 minutes. This way naps will have an alerting effect on the body and substitute the energy boost you get from food or caffeine. And always remember that sleeping for longer periods will affect you badly, and make you more tired.

Wash your face every now and then

As dumb as it may seem, but washing your face with hot water, then cold freezing water will stimulate your brain and senses that will make you be more awake and alert. Whenever you feel groggy at the office, get up, wash your face, you know that this also will help with the hot weather, having

Prioritize your tasks

Last but foremost, make sure you start your working day with a plan!  Make a checklist of things you want to get done on that day and start prioritizing the tasks that require the most cognitive skills i.e. the tasks that need creativity, critical thinking and focus are to be atop the list, while tasks that require less focus like replying to emails or organizing documents should be kept for a later time in the day when you feel less efficient.

If you spent the first half of Ramadan not being as productive as you had hoped, make sure you follow these steps during the other.

Before you miss your deadline AGAIN, read this!

By | Featured, First-time Manager, Managers, Productivity, Skills Lab

Deadlines in the historical sense mean a line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners risked getting shot. But unless you work for a really strict boss, deadlines mean something different now. However, they still have the same frightening effect. Missing deadlines is also a constant struggle for many.

But don’t worry. You’re going to understand the exact reasons why you’re missing deadlines.

But first here’s a good tip to keep in mind: You could be constantly losing your battle against deadlines due to a combination of the factors on this list. No single one of them is standalone. So take this into consideration when you’re narrowing down the source of the problem.

Why are you missing deadlines?

  • You procrastinate

Let’s be honest: everyone procrastinates. From a long update email, you have to send to your boss to a meeting you can’t get yourself to schedule, all tasks are prone to our procrastination.

Making the decision to start working on a task has a lot to do with impulse control. If you tend to usually act impulsively or hastily, then you’re probably missing deadlines often and have a harder time making decisions in general. Of course, you might also be suffering from decision fatigue that is causing your lack of impulse control.

So if you’re always struggling to control your impulses and you do everything when you feel like doing it not when you have to do it, then procrastination is likely the culprit here.

If you’re always struggling to control your impulses, then procrastination is the issue. #DeadlinesClick To Tweet
  • You are a victim of the planning fallacy

The planning fallacy is our tendency as humans to be generally optimistic about completing a task/project. This causes us to underestimate the time, effort, and/or resources required for said task/project.

In one of five studies exploring the reasons why we fall prey to the planning fallacy, think-aloud procedures revealed that we focus primarily on future scenarios/plans, instead of past experiences, when predicting task completion time. It was observed also that we attribute past failure to relatively external/transient factors. All of that is what leads us to underestimate the time we need.

It might sound like a complicated scientific concept, but it’s actually very common that everyone experiences it and not just at work. You probably have at some point underestimated how long it would take you to get dressed and reach that restaurant where your friends are waiting even though you were late the last time also. Similarly, that’s why you’ve just told your boss you’d be able to submit that important report tomorrow when, last month, it actually took you a week to complete it.

It is human nature to plan optimistically. But understanding how to deal with it will make all the difference between a report done thoroughly and completed on time and one done hastily only for the sake of meeting that second deadline/warning from your boss.

So if you’re always late, for personal and professional appointments alike, the planning fallacy is the most likely reason for you missing deadlines.

Be aware of the planning fallacy. #DeadlinesClick To Tweet
  • You don’t plan well

If you don’t have a comprehensive overview of all the tasks you have in a certain amount of time, you’re more likely to have challenging deadlines that will be very hard to meet during execution.

If you do have a to-do list of all your tasks but you are not aware of the priority of each, you’re also more likely to miss your deadlines. That’s because chances are you’ve started working on the wrong/small/unimportant task first.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin #DeadlinesClick To Tweet

The factors that contribute to bad planning are complex and intertwined. Procrastination can contribute to bad plans. The planning fallacy can do that too. Working under bad management (see the last point) definitely does. So if you’ve already figured out that one of the reasons on this list applies to you, then odds are planning is not your strong suit as well.

  • You’re a perfectionist

It might seem reasonable to completely focus on quality at the cost of quantity. But the truth is you’re a cog in the machine that is the whole organization you’re working for. You’re part of a bigger plan. And if the work is hampered by your perfectionism, the overall output will be affected. That’s not to say you should only focus on quantity, but reaching a balance is necessary.

Brené Brown: Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it's a shield. #DeadlinesClick To Tweet
  • You’re working under a bad management

This is a big one. Management at work can make the work or break it. Dealing with bad management has negative effects on all aspects of work, and deadlines are no exception.

If you’re working in an understaffed team or one that lacks qualified employees, your manager might be assigning you a huge workload you just can’t handle. On the other hand, you actually might not be busy enough driving you to procrastinate because you know there’s no rush since you don’t have anything else to work on.

Moreover, your manager might not be communicating the task requirements and objectives clearly. That’s why you end up confused about what you have to do. They might also be setting unrealistic or fake deadlines. That’s because they don’t have an overview of your tasks. It could also be because they’re not letting you see the big picture of why a certain deadline is urgent. Both of these are direct results of major communication and alignment issues in the workplace.

If you’ve eliminated all the previous reasons as the source of your problem, then know that it’s the management’s fault you’re not meeting your deadlines.

If you can't pinpoint another reason, then it's the management's fault. #DeadlinesClick To Tweet

Have you pinpointed which of these is the reason you keep missing your deadlines? Great! Now check out our ultimate guide to meeting deadlines.

What’s your experience like with deadlines? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ho to meet deadlines watches

How to FINALLY meet your deadlines

By | Featured, Managers, Productivity, Skills Lab, Team Culture, Work-Life Balance

When you know the reasons behind missing deadlines, you can’t help but question the importance of having deadlines at all. The truth is deadlines are important because they give you a goal to work towards.

A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.” — Rita Mae Brown.

Accordingly, you have to get into the mindset of constructing a plan, setting priorities, and getting into the nitty-gritty of a task.

That’s why we’ve created this guide which will help you meet your upcoming deadlines.

How to meet your deadlines

  • Pinpoint the reason

Hoe to meet deadlines pinpoint reasons compass

Logically, solving the problem requires first identifying the cause(s). Decide which apply to your case. Also, don’t stop till you identify the finest details. For example, if you are working under bad management, which of its aspects exactly is affecting your productivity and causing the problem? Only then can you choose the most suitable solution.

  • Build awareness of how deadlines affect you

Researchers found that working with deadlines causes stress, decreases creativity, and can also kill brain cells. In addition, meeting these deadlines results in great feelings from our reward systems that, in the long run, can actually cause an addiction-like effect.

loud colleague stress deadlines

But everyone handles this pressure differently. That’s why you have to understand how the stress of a deadline changes your behavior. Do you completely panic and become unable to perform? Do you forego quality and only focus on finishing the task? Or do you actually work better under a reasonable amount of pressure? Being aware of your behavioral change under stress will help you choose the most fitting solution.

  • Make a firm but flexible plan

Planning well is the cornerstone of all success. So here are step-by-step instructions to set a great plan:

     1- Collect info

Collect everything you have to do in one place so that you have a bird’s-eye view of all the tasks on your plate. Use Trello or any other productivity app for best results. Communicate your capacity to your manager so that you don’t get assigned other tasks you can’t handle at that time.

     2- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

Don’t just start working on the first task you have on the list, but first organize and prioritize them according to urgency. So you can create 3 lists of tasks: this day, this week, and this month. You can also prioritize according to importance. Figure out what works best for you and your work. Approaching your tasks using the 80-20 rule to isolate your most important ones is also a great idea.

     3- Understand

Now that you’ve decided the task you’re going to work on, you have to know everything about it. Don’t be shy of asking about each and every detail. The better you understand what you have to do, the easier it will be to do it.

     4- Separate

Break the task at hand into smaller, actionable tasks. This will help you better visualize the task because bigger, farther matters seem abstract and unattainable.

     5- Set deadlines

Now you can comfortably assign suitable deadlines for the smaller tasks but take into consideration possible interruptions and urgent matters that might come up. So give yourself some room. You can also trick your brain by setting a deadline that’s a couple of days or so earlier than the actual deadline. But if you tend to become overconfident or start procrastinating because you know it’s not the actual deadline, then this last tip is not for you.

How to meet deadlines set date calendar

     6- Save the date

Communicate the set deadlines to your team and manager. You’re less likely to not meet a deadline if other people know about it and are waiting for your output. This way also enables you to manage everyone’s expectations, yours included.

     7- Start

Now comes execution and starting is always the hardest part. Start with as little as five minutes and you’ll find that you’ve switched into the work mode. Take it from there, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to burn out too soon.

The most important part of planning is starting. #WillMeetMyDeadlinesClick To Tweet

Bonus tip 1: Keep these two important laws at the back of your mind when setting deadlines:

  • Parkinson’s law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
  • Hofstadter’s law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion—Parkinson's law #WillMeetMyDeadlinesClick To Tweet
It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law—Hofstadter's law #WillMeetMyDeadlinesClick To Tweet

Bonus tip 2: If you’re a manager or a team leader, let your team members set their own plans. Having control over the plan will increase their ownership and accordingly they’ll be more likely to meet the deadlines they set for themselves.

  • Figure out your most productive time

You might be a night owl or an early riser. You might have days of both. The point: Find your most productive time and don’t force yourself to work. Find your work rhythm. It might be 25 minutes of uninterrupted work at a time or it might be something else. Remember also to take breaks to start fresh every once and while.

  • Aim for single deadlines

You might think this goes against Step 5 (up here) in setting a plan, but it doesn’t. What we mean with single deadlines is that every smaller task should have a sacred deadline. If you procrastinate thinking you can set a second deadline, there will probably be third and fourth ones. Unless absolutely necessary, commit to a single deadline.

  • Value your time

How to meet deadlines value time hourglass

Your time is your most valuable, and non-renewable, resource. Appreciate it. Understand how to value it and make the best of it. Figure out what wastes your time and avoid it. Know your priorities and the rest will come naturally.

  • Ask for help

You can have the most airtight plan and still miss your deadline due to any unforeseen circumstances. In such case, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your teammates or to delegate the task if you’re a leader.

  • Always keep the end goal in sight—literally

You can sometimes forget why you’re working on a specific task in the first place, especially in longer projects. You can lose your motivation and therefore slack off. To avoid this, keep reminding yourself of the objective or the goal you’re aiming at. You can add a note to your desktop or, if you’re old school, attach a Post-it to your laptop. You can also print a pic and put up on the office wall so that everyone can see it. Do what you need to keep your motivation alive and pushing you to work harder.

  • Embrace the motto “Done is better than perfect”

Let go of perfectionism and strike the right balance between quality and quantity. Aim to finish the task at hand on time with good quality. Then, if you still have time, go back to it and put those final touches that will take it from good to great, but never at the expense of another important task.

Done is better than perfect. #WillMeetMyDeadlinesClick To Tweet
  • Be kind to yourself

The most important thing to remember is to treat yourself well. Don’t overwhelm it with tasks. Don’t berate it for missing past deadlines. Learn from your mistakes because deadlines aren’t going anywhere and you will have to deal with a new one sooner or later.

Which of the above solutions are you planning to use? Tell us in the comments below.

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