Meetings & Your Brain

Smart Ways to Fight “Decision Fatigue”

Making too many decisions has a detrimental effect on the mind.

I was excited to read the recent New York Times Magazine article about  “decision fatigue,” which looks at the research behind the discovery that the sheer number of decisions we make can deplete our ability to make good ones.

There are, to use the scientific term, takeaways galore for the meetings industry.

Here are just a few:

Offer choices in meeting sessions and experiences wisely. One of the researchers mentioned in the story, Convening Leaders 2011 speaker Sheena Iyengar, talked last year with Convene about how exhausting making choices can be. What that means for conference organizers: Don’t overwhelm attendees a long list of choices, she advised.  Rather, divide choices into categories and then limit choices in each category. (Here’s a link to the article.)

Conserve attendees’ mental energy for important decisions. Attendees shouldn’t be asked to fritter away their brainpower in wondering which hallway might take them to a session, or which  building entrance they should use. It’s a no-brainer to provide good signage, clear, easy-to-use communications, and lots of friendly assistance

Pay attention to the care and feeding of attendees’ brains. One fascinating passage was about the recent discovery that a quick hit of glucose can restore a tired brain’s ability to make good decisions. That might make it sound like a late-afternoon cookie is a good idea, but a shot of sugar, researchers say, is not as useful to our brain as giving it stable amounts of glucose over the course of a day with protein and other nutritious foods.

Luckily, Andrea Sullivan of BrainStrength Systems is ahead of the curve on advising meeting planners on how they can support attendee experience through food. She is the coauthor of a white paper that addresses the intersection of performance and food at meetings, published by the The National Conference Center.

There’s sure to be many more lessons here that I haven’t mentioned — MeetingsNet Web Editor Sue Pelletier shared some of her insights about the story in a recent blog post.

And I hope you will do the same.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.