How to Overcome Decision Fatigue While Running Your Startup

decision fatigue
••• Getty Images/Klaus Meinhardt

They call it analysis by paralysis. It’s when you get so frozen by the decisions you must make every day that it becomes impossible to move forward.

Most entrepreneurs will experience decision fatigue at some point in their careers and it’s especially common in the beginning phases of a startup. It’s easy to look at a piece of software or product line and just not be able to figure out whether you should do a particular thing.

Here are seven tips to help you overcome decision fatigue and move on with building your business.

1. Embrace That It's Going to Be Difficult

If you skip sales letters and hype about starting a business and start reading business biographies, then you’ll know that business is incredibly difficult. It can also be the most fulfilling and fun thing you ever do in your life.

But it’s important to embrace the difficult part of business. By expecting it to be challenging, you set yourself up with the mindset that helps you to overcome those challenges. Every problem is an opportunity, and every decision is a test to see whether something will work. 

2. Use Minimal Viable Methodology

This is one of my favorite strategies for combating decision fatigue. Minimum viable methodology is contained within the ideas of  “Lean Startup” - the book by Eric Ries. This is all about making decisions quickly and bringing products to market fast so that you can get real customer feedback on them.

Because here’s the deal. It doesn’t matter how good cool your product is if nobody buys it.

Minimum viable methodology helps to make sure that the market wants what you have to sell and lets the market make a lot of the decisions for you.

3. Systemize as Much as Possible

One of the ways that you can minimize the amount of decisions you have to make on a daily basis is to systemize those decisions as much as possible.

Pilots use checklists to systemize every area of a flight. This helps them to not make mistakes.

Creating checklists in your business can do the same thing. They help you to know what to do next in any given circumstance. And even in a startup—where things tend to be a little bit chaotic—you can systemize some things.

For example, most customers ask the same questions over and over and over. So, by creating a FAQ document and pre-filled answers to questions you can take a lot of the decision-making pressure off of your customer service reps (or off of yourself if you are the customer service rep).

Look for opportunities in your business to systemize wherever possible.

4. Pre-Fill Your Calendar

This is one of my favorite ways to avoid making decisions. I don’t think about when I’m going to the gym or when I’m meeting clients, because all already in my calendar. My calendar is very much the boss.

5. Identify What You Hate and Hire It Out

I find that one of the things that makes it hardest for me to make decisions is doing things I hate. As soon as you have the money in your business, figure out what you hate doing and hire it out.

You can do this with something like writing or programming or even just cleaning your toilets at home. Every piece of mental bandwidth that you can save by hiring out tasks you don’t enjoy leaves more room for decision-making.

6. Take Time Off

That old saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” really applies to entrepreneurs. I’m not sure what it is about people like us, but most of us like to work 60 or 80 hours a week.

But it’s still important to give your brain a mental break. And that requires taking time off. I recommend to every one of my clients to take at least one full half day without electronics of any sort each week.

It’s scary the first time you do it, but I guarantee your business will be there when you get back and you’ll be feeling refreshed.

7. Go to Masterminds and Other Networking Events

Many entrepreneurs are also lone wolf types. We like to make their own roles and live by their own set of standards. That tends to mean that most other people don’t understand this very well.

That’s why it’s important to get to know other entrepreneurial people.

Some of the the best places I found to do this are masterminds and informal networking events for entrepreneurs.

Sometimes just getting a new idea from somebody else can spark you into better decision-making.

Decision fatigue happens to nearly every entrepreneur on the planet. By planning on how your going to deal with it in advance, you can help keep your business moving forward.