Blocking Decision Fatigue: Take Back Your Workday With Prescriptive Analytics

Business.com / Work Life / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

People struggle with indecision, which can hinder success in your career. Use data to help you make those important choices.

The decisions you make are holding you back.

And it’s not because you make poor decisions or because, like so many of us, you often struggle with indecision.

In fact, it has nothing to do with the content of your decisions or their outcome, but instead the decisions themselves—the choices that you are faced with—and their volume in your life.

Adults make an average of 35,000 conscious decisions each day. When you consider that there are only 1,440 minutes in a day, that’s a lot of decisions. Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep each night, you’re making something like 35 decisions each minute of every day.

Related Article: By the Numbers: Are You Making Smart, Data-driven Business Decisions?

It may seem like a lot, but think about just how many choices we are actually presented with—especially here in the U.S. where we place a high value on the freedom of choice.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz pointed this out during his presentation at a TED conference, listing the incredible number of choices he’s faced with at the supermarket: 285 varieties of cookies, 75 iced teas, 230 soups, 175 salad dressings, 40 toothpastes. Who really needs that many choices?

Decision Fatigue is Real

All this to say that it’s no wonder we suffer from decision fatigue. Decision fatigue means exactly what it sounds like: just as your muscles tire after sustained exercise, your ability to make sound decisions weakens with each choice that you’re forced to resolve. Imagine if you had to do a bicep curl every time you made a decision—any weight will start to feel heavy after 35,000 reps.

When you start to think of decision-making ability like a finite resource, it’s clear how important it is to save your energy for the major ones. Why waste any energy deciding whether you want Colgate or Crest toothpaste, one sugar in your coffee or two, black socks or white socks, when your energy could be better served deciding whether to buy a house or rent, or whether to take a new job. Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein eliminated one of the biggest decision points: getting dressed in the morning. They purchased multiples of one outfit and wore the exact same thing each day.

The same goes for the workplace–it’s important not to get distracted by the minutiae and focus your decision-making power where it counts. Or, if you’re someone who makes important decisions all day long (judges, for example), limiting the number of decisions and taking breaks is essential.

The Challenge

Doing that, of course, is much easier said than done. Some choices you can get wrapped up in—like debating what email salutation you should use, or what font—without even realizing it. But think of a few choices you face on a regular basis. Now ask yourself, which of those decisions would you call “optional?”

Still having trouble cutting back? Fortunately, there is a powerful tool at your disposal to help bear some of that decision-making weight.

Prescriptive Analytics

Data. Companies everywhere invest huge amounts of time and money in mining this important resource. Using data, we can estimate where our business is headed, which products customers will purchase, and potential outcomes of future initiatives.

But many companies have yet to leverage the mass of data they’re collecting and take it a step further: not only to offer insights, but also to provide recommendations. This is called Prescriptive Analytics, which answers questions like “What should happen next?” According to Gartner Research, it’s one of the "data science techniques that are still underrated in their impact.”

Prescriptive analytics works something like this: say you’re kicking off a new email prospecting campaign. You’ve been frustrated that lately your emails haven’t been generating as many leads as they have in the past. The open/response rate data available in your CRM can recommend action based on those insights. Prescriptive analytics will tell you things like what subject line to use, what time of day to send the email, and at what point you should follow-up.

The result? You’ve saved decision-making energy and time, allowing you to focus on more strategic decisions.

Related Article: Emotions vs. Information in Business Decision Making

Take Back Your Workday

No matter who you are, the ability to make decisions is an integral part of your job description—whether you realize it or not. As the number of choices we’re faced with each day grows, doing our jobs gets a whole lot more challenging. We saw this problem across our sales team and across our customers.

Sales managers, for example, have to make decisions about how to coach each member of their team. Is an individual underperforming, or just having a rough week? Which leads are most promising, which should be abandoned? While these are important decisions in their own right, they add up. That's why we've built prescriptive analytics within Yesware, so we can help our sales team act quickly and focus on higher-level decisions as they arise.

Whether you invest in personal tools, or you’re a manager looking to help your team with  performance, integrating prescriptive analytics into the equation can make all the difference. Your employees will feel happier and more confident and your ROI can also stand to benefit—one case study found an ROI increase of 186 percent.

Making the right decision when it counts can make all the difference for your company.

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