Entrepreneurs are often spread thin. They need to maintain their emotional health, to have effective coping skills, and to keep up business and personal relationships, always with an eye on the bottom line.
The key to making better decisions, every day, is to stock up on decision-making fuel and conserve it.
Have you ever noticed how important decisions always appear so much more difficult at the end of the day? Or how energized you feel after a good meal or nap?
Through many experiments and tests, such as comparing blood glucose levels in candidates performing tasks requiring self-control and tasks that did not, studies have shown glucose to be a fuel.
Correlation does not equal causation, so scientists pushed further: "To establish cause and effect, the researchers tried refueling the brain in a series of experiments involving lemonade mixed either with sugar or with a diet sweetener," professors Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney write in their book Willpower. The lemonade would overwhelm the tastes of sugar and diet sweetener, so that participants wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
The game grew impossibly difficult as it went on. The participants given the sugar-filled drink kept playing despite their frustration, but those who received the diet sweetener were much more likely to get angry.
Entrepreneurs need to deal with daily decisions that are much more complex than a virtual game. It has been proven that when our glucose levels are replenished, it becomes much easier to consistently endure trials and to make tough decisions. How can we stock up on glucose?
You are what you eat
Food is an essential source of glucose, and keeping an eye on your diet is crucial to maintaining a stable level of glucose throughout the day.
"To maintain steady self-control, you're better off eating foods with a low glycemic index: most vegetables, nuts (like peanuts and cashews), many raw fruits (like apples, blueberries, and pears), cheese, fish, meat, olive oil, and other 'good' fats," Mr. Baumeister and Mr. Tierney suggest in their book. This Livestrong article highlights other excellent glucose-rich foods to stock in the office.
Sleep is the first activity that gets sacrificed as entrepreneurs find their workloads picking up. Mr. Baumeister and Mr. Tierney recommend you not shortchange yourself, as rest reduces "the body's demand for glucose and improves its overall ability to make use of the glucose in the bloodstream."
Entrepreneur, angel investor, and bestselling author of The 4-Hour Chef,Tim Ferriss, believes willpower is synonymous with decision-making ability. Mr. Ferriss monitors his diet so his body requires less glucose to do its job.
"I think it's important to build up routines, habits, and things you repeat on a daily or weekly basis so that you're not wasting glucose or decision-making bandwidth on deciding what you're going to have for breakfast, for instance, or what the last 60 minutes of every day is spent doing," Mr. Ferriss says. "I think that routine is extremely important for conserving your decision-making ability, therefore your willpower, if you want to call it that."
Building routines means you eventually require less glucose consumption to perform the same tasks. They become automatic habits. One useful tool to build habits and keep yourself accountable to your goals is StickK, a service that gets you to commit to a goal and gives away your money if you don't accomplish it before a self-designated deadline.
Test this advice out by keeping some glucose-rich foods around the office, getting some extra sleep, and building routines. Set a metric and track it – it could be an overall feeling if you're concerned about well-being, or it could be tracking the bottom-line. Conserving your decision-making ability and stocking up on glucose are the keys to making better decisions every day.
Herbert Lui studies consumer behaviour at the University of Western Ontario's Aubrey Dan School of Management, and he has authored a guide to building credibility online, titled Brick by Brick. He has also worked with Toronto-based mobile solutions company Xtreme Labs.