Fatigue – how does it impact your decision-making?

Two bits of news about fatigue have popped up recently and raised my curiosity about how well I look after myself when major decisions are afoot.

Firstly there was the news that; if you only get 6 hours sleep a night for 10 days straight, rather then the recommended seven to nine hours, the Royal Society for Public Health suggests that you’d have ‘the same level of impairment… as if you’d been awake for 24 hours without any sleep at all’.

Seven to nine hours? Nine hours!

Really? What a luxury! I have a busy work life, home projects and a 10 week old baby. The best I get is 6 hours if I’m lucky.

Well, more fool me. I remember what that level of fatigue feels like having been up for 24 hours solid, mostly from going on long-haul business trips. Concentration is difficult, reasoning is poor, reactions are slow and tolerance of other people is not great.

The question is;

Do I want to be making decisions in that state of fatigue?

What is the quality of my reasoning skills, ability to recall relevant experience and mental dexterity at weighing up multiple options?

Not the best.

So, guess what, I’m capable of adapting my behaviour when made aware of issues so I’m back in the 6-7 hours territory now – not sure I’m ready for 8 or 9 yet.

Job done? Well, not quite.

Another study reported this week in the Guardian indicates that working more than 3 days a week once you have reached the age of 40 is not good for brain. Apparently the beneficial  mental stimulus of working has an age limit. Above this there is a fall off in memory performance and mental agility.


I get that it’s not a good idea to make significant decisions when I’m suffering from sleep deprivation but I’m 54 and not ready to be put out to pasture for 40% of the working week. This study raises lots of questions that it cannot answer as the data lacks detail but it serves as a reminder to consider the ‘state’ we are in when we are decision-making.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could add that to the meeting request?

“Business planning workshop – at our favourite offsite venue  – 9:00 to 1:30 – followed by a nice lunch – please bring ideas and sound judgements – oh and please ensure that you are mentally alert, cognitively rested and memory fit. No working for the 2 days previous and make sure you have had 7-9 hours sleep each night for 10 nights beforehand. See you there.”

But this is what some leadership programmes do. A FTSE 250 took its Executive Team off to the Alps, in summer, for a week of rest and walking together. Clean air, clear skies and communal activity. A recipe for breaking down silo-thinking.

But what can the rest of us afford to do in practice?

The Business Decision Design® approach takes account of where you are:

  • The faculties, knowledge, skills and experience you have available to help with the decision
  • How are you individually?
  • What state are you in as a group (how well will you work together)?

There are things you can do to improve your and your teams’ performance in the decision-zone. Do get in touch if you want some ideas.

Meanwhile, if you want some help catching up on your sleep – checkout the Snoozery!

Link to this weeks picture.

Happy summer!




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