Photo by Stanley Dai on Unsplash

“Decision making is an art only until the person understands the science.”
― Pearl Zhu, Decision Master: The Art and Science of Decision Making

The average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions daily (Sahakian & LaBuzetta, 2013). Have you ever stopped to think how to be more effective at making conscious decisions? What is the best time and moment to make important decisions?

Let’s look at this through an excerpt from a scientific study published in 2011, on how the time at which we act influences our decision-making ability:

“Three men doing time in Israeli prisons recently appeared before a parole board consisting of a judge, a criminologist and a social worker. The three prisoners had completed at least two-thirds of their sentences, but the parole board granted freedom to only one of them. Guess which one:

Case 1 (heard at 8:50 a.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.

Case 2 (heard at 3:10 p.m.): A Jewish Israeli serving a 16-month sentence for assault.

Case 3 (heard at 4:25 p.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.

There was a pattern to the parole board’s decisions, but it wasn’t related to the men’s ethnic backgrounds, crimes or sentences. It was all about timing, as researchers discovered by analyzing more than 1,100 decisions over the course of a year. Judges, who would hear the prisoners’ appeals and then get advice from the other members of the board, approved parole in about a third of the cases, but the probability of being paroled fluctuated wildly throughout the day. Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.

The odds favored the prisoner who appeared at 8:50 a.m. — and he did in fact receive parole. But even though the other Arab Israeli prisoner was serving the same sentence for the same crime — fraud — the odds were against him when he appeared (on a different day) at 4:25 in the afternoon. He was denied parole, as was the Jewish Israeli prisoner at 3:10 p.m, whose sentence was shorter than that of the man who was released. They were just asking for parole at the wrong time of day.”

Our decisions are influenced by external circumstances and the effect these have on us personally. The time of the day is a big one! How rested or tired, how hungry, stressed and/or rushed we are at that time, among other things, are crucial conditions to keep in mind when looking into making more effective decisions.

Find below my main takeaways from reading such thorough article with so many cases, studies and science behind:

  • The mental work developed over the course of a day wears down people’s decision-making capacity.
  • As our energy is depleted, the brain will look for shortcuts. One shortcut is to make more impulsive decisions, and the other is to postpone decisions.
  • These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. That’s why it’s harder to resist temptations at the end of the day.
  • Part of the resistance against making decisions comes from our fear of giving up options. The word “decide” shares an etymological root with “homicide,” the Latin word “caedere,” meaning “to cut down” or “to kill,” and that loss looms especially large when decision fatigue sets in.
  • Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision-making.
  • Glucose level influences decision-making. Do not make decisions on an empty stomach.

Sources: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? and “Extraneous factors in judicial decisions” by Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso

Powerful question to ask yourself:

What is the time of the day where I feel I can focus better, listen to others, analyze things, and connect with my emotions?

Make change happen:

Try this!

When planning your day, make sure the important personal/business decisions are made when you (and ideally everyone else involved!) will be at your their best!

  • Check your schedule for the next 2 weeks.
  • Plan decision-making meetings at the best time to tackle the most important team decisions.
  • If you can’t re-schedule, use the meeting to discuss ideas, without making a final decision if possible. Leave that for a quick meeting the next day at the right time!

Adjust your schedule to this, no matter what, for the next 2 weeks, and let’s see what happens!

In the upcoming newsletters we will explore other related topics influencing decision-making such as: “Who should be involved and how to get commitment to action?” and “How to improve the quality of a conversation and optimize the time spent to make good decisions?”

Stay tuned!


I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter, so you can successfully lead transformation processes: inspiration to engage, a question to reflect on, and an action to try. Make change happen!

Cookies on this site are used by Fran Cherny and third party partners for different purposes, including personalizing content, tailoring advertising to your interests, and measuring site usage. More information

Los ajustes de cookies en esta web están configurados para «permitir las cookies» y ofrecerte la mejor experiencia de navegación posible. Si sigues usando esta web sin cambiar tus ajustes de cookies o haces clic en «Aceptar», estarás dando tu consentimiento a esto.