How not to make bad decisions when you’re tired

When the fat hits the pan and you come to the key moments in crunch negotiations, pitch preparations, investment decision-making… those pivotal decision-making moments that typically come when you are emotionally, physically and mentally fatigued the decision will often fall to one person.

The trouble is that a single tired person is likely to be an inflexible thinker – falling back on similar patterns of problem-then-solution which they have encountered in the past rather than dealing with specific challenges in front of them now.

In contrast, new research shows that teams, despite being equally fatigued at the individual level, tend to maintain

a) higher levels of motivation to reach the best decision and

b)provide better feedback and critique – something that one tired person will probably overlook.

Teams thus  maintain more flexible and creative thinking at the final pivotal moments in negotiations.

Of course handling the competing opinions and interpreting them requires skill and energy itself. But the evidence shows that the right decision is in there, somewhere.

So to make a better decision when you and your team are exhausted then

1) don’t be brave and noble – share the burden 

2) if you have to make the decision yourself then learn to spot the signs of fatigued and inflexible thinking and try to delay the decision and have a break. 


The research was carried out by London South Bank University’s Daniel Fring PhD whose research into 170 Army officers was published by the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology.