Five Habits to Help CFOs Steer Clear of Decision Fatigue

Posted by Cedric Joshua Martinez
Apr 07, 2020
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Is this the first time that you have encountered the term “Decision Fatigue”? Don’t worry, you are not alone. A lot of people do not even know that this term exists.

What is Decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue is the impaired ability to make decisions after a long session of decision making. Seems like a minor hurdle right? Not so. It seems like taking a rest in between making important decisions is the obvious brain fatigue treatment, but that’s not the case.

CFO suffering from decision fatigue and decision anxiety

The thing about decision fatigue is that you don’t even notice it creeping in. According to the New York Times, fatigue will let you think you are making the best decisions but in reality, you are doing one of these two things:

  1. Making abrupt, impulsive, and uncalculated decisions; or
  2. Choosing to do nothing

Either way, you’ll lose something by making poor decisions or not doing the right things at the right moment. As CFOs, this is not a risk that you can afford. The decisions that you make are far too valuable to be affected by fatigue. 


Tips in Avoiding Decision Fatigue


1. Make the most important decisions in the morning

Decision-making is an essential part of a CFO’s roles and responsibilities. A good practice is to prioritize which will have the most impact or which is the most urgent and deciding on them first. This helps you minimize the impact of decision fatigue by making the most important choices with a fresh mind.

Also, making these decisions at the start of your working day is just as important as prioritizing them. The start of your working day is the ideal time to decide on matters as you have a clearer mind that is free from the tolls of the activities you have for the rest of the day.

RELATED: 5 Habits to Help You Manage CFO Roles and Responsibilities 


2. Limit your decisions

You probably have read about an article about the wardrobe strategy implemented by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (only wears a plain gray shirt every day), Former Pres. Barack Obama (only wears blue and gray suits), and the late Apple founder Steve Jobs (only wears a plain black turtleneck every day).

The genius behind this strategy is that not only does it save them a lot of time in dressing up, but it also saves their energy for decisions that need their attention more. We all know that the three individuals above have a lot of important things to attend to on a daily basis.

By limiting (or even eliminating) their wardrobe options, they can get to important things faster with less mental fatigue than those who spend minutes (and even hours) just picking the right tie or the right shoes to wear. Limiting your options can be implemented on a number of things as well such as your choice of lunch, what to listen to in your car, and even in your role as a CFO.

Having a fewer number of options in repetitive and low-impact decisions will help you reserve your mental energy, make intelligent and more meaningful choices, and reduce chances of decision anxiety.


3. Stop overcomplicating things

No one wants to stand between two or more hard choices. But whenever we find ourselves in one, we spend time evaluating every option and often we tend to overcomplicate them. Doing so will not only make things harder than they seem, but it will also wear you out even more and lead to decision anxiety.

One thing that will help you decide in tough situations is by assessing if the options that you have complements your personal values, and the vision, mission, goals, objectives (VMGO), and core values of your company.

In a previous article, we discussed the importance of keeping your decisions in line with the company’s vision, mission, goals, objectives, and core values. They help you stay focused on where the company wants to go, and guide you in making decisions that will bring you closer to that goal.

After that, you can assess the likely outcome of your choice, the worst-case scenario that it can bring, and how it will impact the resources and current standing of your company. These will help you simplify your options and ensure that you are taking the right direction.


4. Stick with your decisions

The New York Times article also mentioned an experiment conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Kathleen Vohs.

The subjects were divided into three groups: Group A only reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of features available for a computer, and did not make a final decision; Group B was given a list of predetermined specifications and was told to configure a computer by going through a step-by-step process of locating features among groups of options, then clicking the right ones; and Group C had to figure out which features they wanted on their computers themselves and go through the process of choosing them.

By the end of the experiment, subjects from Group C were the most depleted among the subjects. It was concluded that casting the die is more exhausting than contemplating the options and making the decision itself.

This means that entertaining second thoughts, or having doubts after crossing the Rubicon will only tire you more and help decision fatigue sink in much faster.


5. Harness the Power of Technology

Technology has never progressed as fast as it had in the past 60 years. Today, artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics is being developed to assist professionals better and to make smart decisions with the help of data.

Aside from this, AI bots are also being developed to take over redundant and low-risk accounting and financial services, thereby freeing you from these tasks and helping you focus on what matters most.


Artificial Intelligence and Decision-making

While there is no clear way to escape decision fatigue, there are lots of ways to minimize its impact. Developing these five habits can help you improve your decision-making and help you manage your CFO roles better.

This article was updated 03 March 2021.


Our Outsourcing: How to Make it Work guide explores how you can utilize accounting and finance outsourcing to drive growth to your business and add value to your processes.