Expend Energy on Decisions Just Once

Ari Weinzweig, the CEO of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, tells the story of the time Disney called him to ask about bringing his signature delicatessen to a newly planned area of the Magic Kingdom. This new area was to feature some of the best, most unique restaurants from across the country.

For just about any restaurateur, this was the equivalent of a Golden Ticket.

There was just one problem, Ari and his team have built a community of amazing businesses in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area and don’t really have any idea how to bring that same ingenuity to Florida.

Nor do they really want to.

You see, Zingermans has spent a great deal of time creating a future vision for their company. In it, they explicitly state that all of their businesses (even the ones they haven’t thought of yet) will be located in Ann Arbor.

For most companies, such a tantalizing call from Disney would result in multiple discussions about profitability, feasibility, and fit. Those discussions might turn into arguments before evolving into meetings or, worse, committees. Countless people will get pulled away from other work to expend energy on a decision that should have been made once, a long time ago.

And worse yet, the next time something like this comes up, the whole thing will repeat itself.

Instead of doing any of this, Ari just asked the Disney rep if they had plans to open a Magic Kingdom in Ann Arbor. After what I imagine was a pretty long pause, the rep confided that no, that was not in the current Disney plans.

Ari politely thanked him for his interest, and hung up.

This is an extreme example, but what Ari did was stave off decision fatigue. The more decisions we have to make in a row, the more energy we expend and the more the quality of those decisions deteriorates.

Most of us don’t field calls from Disney, but decision fatigue still creeps into every aspect of our daily lives.

Decision fatigue is why you settle for the ease of terrible fast food when you didn’t decide (and spend the energy) to pack a healthy lunch. It is why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day. It is why inmates up for parole are less likely to be released if their hearing takes place late in the afternoon.

Spend time and energy upfront on decisions big and small and then stick with your choices.

Anything else is just too exhausting.