Nonprofit Decision Fatigue and How It Can Contribute to Burnout
I want to address nonprofit decision fatigue and how it can affect nonprofit leaders and grant writers – and give you some ways to find a better trajectory.
The idea of talking about decision fatigue in relation to nonprofit work came up as I was listening to The Brainy Business Podcast by Melina Palmer. She did a fascinating episode recently where she talked about decision fatigue and how it affects our behavior.
That got me to thinking about all the nonprofits I’ve worked with, many of them small organizations where the staff wear so many hats.
All the Decisions
On the average day, we make over 35,000 decisions. That doesn’t even count the big stuff. I first heard this when reading The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman.
Some of these 35,000 things we do without much thought – which hand to use to brush your teeth, which path to walk to the mailbox. The more conscious decisions we have to make, though, the more our brains wear out and become overloaded.
That 35,000 doesn’t take into account all the decisions for bigger situations we may be going through – a move, a health situation, or starting a nonprofit or writing a grant.
Lots of nonprofit decisions can be overwhelming after a while, especially when there are many unknowns…say, something like fundraising during a pandemic.
Prevent Nonprofit Burnout
Decision fatigue can lead to burnout if you let it go too long.
To help prevent this, what can you systematize? In other words, what can you make routine so it minimizes the stress on your decisionmaking?
For example, check out Episode 22 where I go over six types of info your nonprofit needs to have on hand before you start grant writing. You can download the checklist and print it out for reference.
The 7 Types of Rest We Need
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith shares about 7 types of rest in her book, Sacred Rest. If we’re depleted in any of the 7 areas, we won’t feel rested. The 7 types of rest she names are:
Care for yourself and give yourself grace. This nonprofit thing is a marathon, not a sprint.
I don’t want to see you become one of the brilliant nonprofit leaders that walks away from this important work because of burnout. We need you out there making a difference, but to do that long term, you’ve got to take care of yourself along the way.
How to Reduce Nonprofit Decision Fatigue
One way to take care of yourself is by reducing your decision fatigue. Here are my tips to help you do that:
- Consistently show up and do the work.
- Consistently build in deliberate breaks and room for rest.
- Figure out where you’re depleted and what kinds of rest you need to incorporate back into your life.
- Define your clear, compelling why.
- Set up systems and processes to make decisions less of a drain.
Often you’re so busy trying to keep your head above water that you can’t even make sense of how to simplify. I’ve had clients in the same situation, and after a strategy session together they feel a huge relief because they know how to move forward, where to focus, and what to cut out for now. It takes that outside objective perspective to help you see it.
My friend, I know you have a heart to serve and do the work well. In order to do that effectively, you need to take care of yourself and don’t feel guilty for it.
Do you struggle with decision fatigue? Which of these tips will you implement today? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to catch your second wind. Book an advisory session today at www.teresahuff.com/strategy. We’ve got a world to change.
Resources Mentioned – all in one spot:
- Advisory sessions for grant writers & nonprofits: www.teresahuff.com/strategy
- The Brainy Business Podcast by Melina Palmer, Episode 132: Decision Fatigue, a Behavioral Economics Foundations Episode
- The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman & her podcast
- LastPass – secure password storage
- Grant Writing Simplified by Teresa Huff, Episode 22: Preparation for Grant Writing: 6 Things Your Nonprofit Should Have on Hand
- Sacred Rest by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith
- “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.” -Ecclesiastes 10:10, NKJV