Want to Improve Productivity? Whittle Down Your Choices
Humans make upwards of 35,000 decisions each day. Would your ability to make 40,000 help you improve productivity?
It turns out that the exact opposite is true.
All humans experience decision fatigue. In the simplest of terms, the more decisions people make in a defined period, the lower the quality those decisions become. That’s probably not the impact you want your decision-making to have in your company. What’s also true, however, is that too many options can make you over-thing and jam-up sound decision-making, too.
That’s called analysis paralysis, and it can do a real number on your productivity, and not in a good way.
Let’s have a look at analysis paralysis – what it is, why it’s a problem, and tips to help you avoid it. By taking a few simple actions, you can improve productivity throughout your company and leave the logjam of analysis paralysis far behind.
Do more choices improve productivity? No.
“Think about when your computer is sluggish, lagging, and not operating well,” says Joanne Ketch, a licensed therapist well-versed in how the brain makes decisions. “You bring up Task Manager. You see all the programs and processes that are running, using your system’s resources whether you are aware of them or not. They are slowing your computer and getting in the way of its functioning, reducing the computer’s productivity. Look at humans as having a Task Manager.”
Ketch says that people aren’t always aware of what they have running in the background, slowing productivity. The key to boosting productivity is becoming aware of what’s running in the background.
When you’re in a position of leadership, decision-making is literally your job, and you likely have a myriad of pressing matters running in your background. There’s so much on your plate, and you don’t know where to focus first. How do you choose where to focus your time when you have so many options?
“We all get to choose where we focus,” says Neen James, author of Attention Pays: How to Drive Profitability, Productivity, and Accountability. “When our attention spans are split, we’re allowing them to be split between multiple stimuli, inputs, devices, and decisions.”
When your Task Manager is on overload, you’ve allowed too many pieces of input into your machine. That’s what causes analysis paralysis. To improve productivity, smart leaders decrease their input. They reduce what’s running in the background.
Tips to decrease analysis paralysis
To help take control of your Task Manager, there are active steps you can take to help both yourself and your teams.
“Turn off all bells and whistles, notifications, and stimuli that are wasting your attention. Focus on the evidence you have and trust your experience,” says James. Distractions add to what’s running in your background.
“A cleaning service or even an errand in your personal life,” says Ketch. “From the business side, look at what roles and responsibilities it’s time to outsource or delegate.” Even important decisions and critical data can be distractions if they’re drawing your attention away from decisions that most need your attention and expertise.
Ask bigger, better questions
“Does this get me closer to my goals? Is this in line with our strategic objectives? Will this move the project/initiative/goal forward?” James says. Questions like these will help you decrease distractions, keep you from over-thinking and help you to identify areas where you can delegate or outsource. They’ll also help you focus on the most critical decisions to move your company forward.
“Productivity drain often comes down to boundaries,” says Ketch. “Boundaries from a personal or work relationship standpoint are barriers to success and distractions.” Ketch suggests that leaders explore working with a mentor, life/business coach, or therapist to identify areas and activities that could be hampering productivity.
“Set a deadline, make it public, and honor it. Hold yourself accountable,” James says. By being public and forthcoming about schedules, you’re also helping your team know when it’s time to end the idea gathering/brainstorming phase and switch over to narrowing down options to those most promising. Analysis paralysis often happens when teams fail to make the switch from gathering ideas to narrowing them down.
“Build business retreats and self-care into your planning,” Ketch says. “Do not rely on what’s leftover to sustain your energy.” If you’re not taking care of yourself and encouraging your teams to do the same, productivity isn’t likely to accelerate or improve.
Now, you have six actionable ideas to improve productivity and keep both decision fatigue and analysis paralysis at bay. When you can shift your input and focus to the matters where you’re the most crucial decision-making component, you’ll free up the mental energy needed to make better decisions faster and with fewer distractions.