Want to make better decisions? Go to sleep - Michelle Gibbings

We all make many, many decisions every day. Every time you make a decision you use up precious resources in your brain.

Do you think about how and when you are making decisions?  If you don’t, you’re in danger of making decisions when your brain isn’t at its peak.

Your brain is like a muscle.  When you work out at the gym your muscles get tired and need to be rested.  If you want to be at peak performance you get the right balance between “working” your muscles and “resting” them.

It’s the same for your brain.

Your pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that’s involved in thinking, analysing and reasoning, gets tired easily.

Consequently, your brain, very cleverly, has found a way of conserving energy.  It takes short-cuts. A mental short-cut is known as a heuristic.  Your brain uses heuristics to make big things and complex issues easier to manage, and ultimately remember.

As your brain takes in new information it tries to make sense of it, so that it knows what it needs to do.  To ease the cognitive load this processing takes, it compresses information and sorts it into patterns.  It looks for things that are familiar and goes – “I now know what to do”.

Of course, the brain’s short cutting process isn’t always reliable, and it gives rise to bias in decision making.   For example, your brain may expect to see something in a certain way, and so it will seek out information to validate that view.  It filters out information that doesn’t fit with its view of the way things should be.

Bias can easily, and usually unconsciously, invade your decision making.

When your brain is tired it eagerly takes the path of least resistance, and this is where it gets dangerous.  Because taking the path of least resistance means that you will let expectations and assumptions drive how you think and act.

If you want to make better, more deliberate decisions you need to be conscious about when you make decisions.

The concept of ‘sleeping on it’, isn’t silly.  Your brain processes overnight, and you are far more likely to make better decisions early in the morning, when your pre-frontal cortex is rested.

Next time you need to make an important decision – get some sleep.

And…don’t check social media as soon as you wake up.  If you want to process and think about something use that precious time in the morning wisely.  Checking snapchat, intagram and facebook isn’t a good use of your precious energy reserves!

Remember, change happens.  Make it work for you.