I Think I Need Some Leadership Chocolate

We’re going to talk about “decision fatigue” during LeadershipChat this week (8 pm ET Tuesday), and for me, this is a timely subject.

Rarely will I strongly recommend that people read a long, in-depth newspaper article. However, the basis for our topic is this fascinating NY Times article on the subject of decision fatigue by John Tierney, which outlines a fascinating premise – that our capacity to make decisions declines over time as we become fatigued by decision after decision.

There’s also some great justification toward the end of the article for keeping some chocolate at hand if you’re a decision-making leader…!!

I’ve done manual labor, which is physically fatiguing, and I’ve done mental labor, which creates its own weariness. But nothing has created more fatigue for me than being a husband and father, while simultaneously being an entrepreneur.

Responsibility. Leadership. Decisions. Initiative. 24/7.

As the article describes it, you get to a point where resistance becomes low, and the default/status quo gets chosen more often out of sheer fatigue.

While I haven’t had a chance to think it all the way through, I suspect that two other streams of fatigue can exacerbate the problem:

  • Failure fatigue – where professional setbacks outnumber successes, and
  • Delay fatigue – where success or goal fulfillment seems to perpetually stay just out of reach.

I don’t have any great answers here, but I certainly see the problem in my own experience! And I hope our discussion during the chat can provide a boost of much-needed leadership chocolate.

Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s take on decision fatigue in her post, The Best Time to Ask Your Boss for a Raise (hint: it’s not late afternoon!)

Make your decision to join us at 8 pm ET Tuesday nights for LeadershipChat on Twitter. You’ll find a very smart and highly-motivated group of professionals who want to bring humanity and reality to leadership!


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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

2 Responses to I Think I Need Some Leadership Chocolate

  1. Pingback: August Topics « Leadership Chat

  2. A sugar-dose reboots your amygdala, reversing “ego depletion.” Very interesting.

    I followed Baumeister’s work for a couple of years. The techniques he’s developed for boosting self-control and better habits are pretty effective. But I’ve been also following Gary Taubes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-9fyOmAkO8 and Robert Lustig http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM on sugar, refined carbs generally. (Baumeister’s work was very useful in helping me make the transition.) In that time, I’ve notice a world of difference in my ability to stick with tasks requiring a lot of decisions, and a generally reduced distractibility. A year into it, I feel like I’m still improving in that respect. A low-glycemic-load diet keeps your body (and brain) *evenly* supplied with glucose. And this article is the first time I’ve connected the two. Thank you.

    We’ve all noticed the coffee+donut pick-me-up effect. The British custom of teatime might, for all we know, help explain their 200 years of industrial revolution, social transformation, and eventual imperial global dominance. Maybe they just made more and better decisions, in the late afternoon after tea and cakes, putting them 10% ahead of any possible competition, day after day?

    But Americans are already getting too much sugar. Chronic sugar-dose/crash cycles probably leave you making fewer hard decisions — not to mention worse ones — than if you’re eating in such a way as to smooth out the cycles.

    The donut (or other sugary snack) with my break-time pick-me-ups is no longer an option for me. This article makes me think that whenever I take my decision-fatigue breaks, I should eat some fruit with my coffee or tea, perhaps something with a moderate glycemic index like dried apricots. The lower GCI means the fructose->glucose will take a little longer to kick in. But I usually take a 5- or 10- minute walk during my breaks, and maybe that’s enough time.

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