As an entrepreneur – and especially in the early stages of starting a new business – there are a mind-boggling amount of new activities to engage, topics to research, and decisions to make, all of which can lead to a paralyzing state of decision fatigue. From developing a product or service offering, to deciding on your business name and operating structure, to choosing a financial institution, to selecting and standing up your website platform, to creating and implementing a marketing strategy – the list goes on and on.
In addition to this growing and seemingly infinite to-do list, many entrepreneurs become saddled with self-doubt – also known as “imposter syndrome.” Imposter syndrome manifests as a persistent internal dialogue and/or feeling of not enoughness, often exacerbated by comparing oneself to others (social media provides endless fuel to this fire) and becoming attaching to a negative mindset that says we do not have the skills, are not competent enough, and/or are generally undeserving of the success we desire and are working diligently to achieve.
Between decision fatigue and imposter syndrome, first-time and even serial entrepreneurs can become overwhelmed and consider giving up on their new business endeavors. However, that is not the point of these internal struggles.
On the contrary, these challenges are a signal that we ARE successfully transitioning from the secure but often unfulfilling world of traditional employment to the unpredictable but creatively exhilarating world of entrepreneurship.
Rather than throwing in the towel, we can practice listening and feeling into to these fear-based thought loops, realizing they are symptomatic of stepping into the unknown, thank them for trying to protect us, and let them go. Virtually no successful business owner became a raging success without having to first cross the ocean of their own self-doubt.
When these difficulties arise, it can also be helpful to engage practical strategies to beat decision fatigue and self-doubt – and move forward one way or another!
Strategy #1: Make Some Phone Calls
When we are making an important (or even a trivial) decision for our business, we can get into a loop of paralysis by analysis – characterized by going back and forth repeatedly in our mind on the pros and cons of each option, and still not being certain about which to choose. Often times, we have done the research, narrowed the decision down to 2 or 3 acceptable options to select from, and are waiting to feel sure enough to pull the trigger.
At this point, it has become difficult to decide, because 1) your mind is tired from looking at so much information, and/or 2) you may have attached too much importance to the decision; when, in reality, it is more important to decide and move forward.
One example might be deciding between 2 or 3 financial institutions. All look good on paper, have convenient local branches, and offer the business account features you need. But you still. can’t. decide.
If this is comparable to your scenario, then break the tie by making some phone calls (or even some in-person visits!). Make a list of a few specific questions, ask to speak with a branch manager or business specialist at each bank, note and evaluate their responses, and see how you feel about each of their customer service approaches.
By the end of your cold-calling session, you’re more likely have a clearer feeling about how to move forward.
Strategy #2: Do An Experiment
Likewise, you may be exploring more technical decisions, like which online platforms to use for key business functions such as accounting, course creation and distribution, customer relationship management, and product sales.
For example, when creating your business website, you may be deciding which website builder to utilize, such as Wix, SquareSpace, or WordPress. And this decision can be difficult to make, because each interface offers unique features and benefits.
If this resembles your scenario, platforms that offer software as a service (SaaS) often provide a free way of testing out their offering before committing to a paid account. Rather than agonizing over the decision to the point that your website never gets created, sign up for a free trial on a few of the platforms you are considering. Choose a free template within each, and experiment with filling in your content, customizing design elements, and exploring the user experience.
Once again, by conducting a short experiment, you will likely have a better sense of which platform you like best, and therefore will be the ideal fit for your venture.
Strategy #3: Ask An Expert
Some decisions we are required to make as a business owner simply fall outside our area of expertise. Realtors aren’t necessarily marketers, marketers aren’t necessarily accountants, and accountants aren’t necessarily lawyers. Individual professional specializations exist for a reason.
When you are making a decision on something that falls way outside your comfort zone, it may be time to ask an expert.
An example in this category might be deciding on which business structure to use, whether it’s sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation. If this is a decision you’re struggling with, read all the information you can online, conduct your own analysis, talk to other business owners in your network, and, if you’re still unsure, identify an expert to consult such as a business counselor, attorney, or accountant in your local area.
While this strategy might not be cost-free, it may save you unexpected expenditures down the road relative to choosing incorrectly.
Strategy #4: Flip A Coin
When you’ve done all the research, have your choice narrowed down to a couple of decent options, and you still can’t decide, you may be draining your energy further by procrastinating the decision. The truth is that some decisions are somewhat arbitrary, and it will be fine either way.
An example of a coin flip decision is when to post to social media, your blog, and/or send out an email newsletter. While you can get a multitude of different opinions and algorithms telling you when is the ideal time to publish these kinds of content artifacts, in reality, it depends greatly on the time zones and locations of your audience, the time of year and season, and, how appealing your content is, itself. Agonizing over whether to send on a Tuesday at 6 am or a Thursday at 11:30 am to the point that you don’t publish anything at all is clearly not a good use of your time and energy.
At this point, flip a coin and be done with it. You’ll feel relieved to be done thinking about it.
Strategy #5: Let Go and Trust
When all these strategies haven’t gotten you any closer to a confident decision, then it might be time to take a break.
Set an intention to receive clear guidance, let the decision go (for now), and trust that you will know what to do when the time is right. Once you’ve let go, be receptive to visual signs that jump out at you while you’re out and about, information that gets passed on to you through random conversations, and new insights that come during this reprieve.
At the very least, a pause in deliberation will replenish your mental reservoir and allow you to come back with a fresh perspective when you reengage.
How do you manage decision fatigue?
If this is something you’re experiencing as a new business owner, check out our services designed for startups and partner with us to get the support you need!