Keeping Up by Dr. Janet Lapp


The increase in the volume of work resulting from regulatory changes is superimposed on a backset of a) unprecedented instability and b) an increasing and overwhelming number of decisions we are forced to make daily.


  1. The 2022 Collins Dictionary word of the year ‘permacrisis’ means an ‘extended period instability and insecurity.’ The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Risks Report defines a ‘polycrisis’ comprising global and local threats of “inflation, cost-of-living crises, trade wars, capital outflows from emerging markets, widespread social unrest, and geopolitical confrontation.”
  2. A 2023 Oracle Survey of 14,000 leaders in 17 countries found that 86% are less confident in making decisions, 85% suffer from decision distress and 72% have been paralyzed from making decisions at all.

Generative A.I. is compounding the overwhelm. The number of decisions every day has increased tenfold over the last three years (74%), 78% are bombarded with more data than ever, and 86% say the volume of data is making decisions much more complicated.

One of the top skills to navigate through this is to recognize and avoid decision distress and decision paralysis.


Brains are cognitive misers. They avoid decisions when they can because decision-making takes a high degree of energy. Willpower and decision-making ability deteriorate with the number and complexity of decisions. After a time, caution goes down and decisions become more impulsive. That’s why impulse items are at grocery checkouts.

  • The brain can tolerate just so much before it goes into a rest cycle.
  • The demand for decision-making is increasing daily, but our capacity to make them is not.
  • After we have peaked our capacity, more data only overwhelms us.
  1. Make important decisions earlier in the day before brain fatigue sets in.
  2. Cut down on unimportant decisions. Streamline your life to avoid low-level decision-making. Monitor and control the number of decisions you make daily.
  3. Give your brain a rest. Get into nature. Go for a run. Take a shower. Meditate. Stare at a blank wall.
  4. Think about doing less. If your brain is shouting that you’re doing too much, you’re doing too much.


Decision fatigue at the individual level can blossom into group paralysis, with slower and less-efficient decisions despite the use of technology.

  • Several meetings are devoted to the ‘problem,’ but nothing gets done.
  • More data is continually being requested.
  • Important decisions about products, markets, and technologies are not being made.
  • Projects relating to what needs to be done become unfunded or withdrawn.
  • Several layers of approval are needed before a decision is approved.
  1.  Are you working on the right problem? Dan Burrus advises to “take your biggest problem, and skip it.” Move on – especially if you’ve determined sunk-cost fallacy is involved (we’ve put so much into it already, hate to let it go).
  2.  What level of decision is this?

    LEVEL 1 Hard trends are clear (preferable or probable futures). We’re sure this future will happen. These decisions are usually made easily.

    LEVEL 2 Possible outcomes are clear, but it’s hard to predict which one will happen. Most people get stuck in the uncertainty of LEVEL 2 and freeze. Instead, plot out the three most probable future scenarios and gather relevant information.

    LEVEL 3 An ambiguous future, almost impossible to predict. It might not even be possible to identify the relevant variables that will define the future. Save this area for your future scenario brainstorming time.

  3. Are you managing the process? Groups in paralysis lie on the right downward slope, having missed the optimal decision point. There is no payoff in spending time here other than to bolster egos and waste time.

Here are specific actions to take:

At the beginning of a project,

  1. Describe what the project will look like when it’s optimal.
  2. Define who the project is for, and what their needs are. When will it be adequate?
  3. Identify two trackers who can watch for this point.
  4. Define how and when you’ll know the project is successful after the decision is made.
  5. Plan the steps you’ll take to reverse or change the decision if it isn’t working.

Dr Janet Lapp was the Keynote Speaker at the IIAR Annual Convention in Long Beach CA March 2023. She is a neuropsychologist, author, and keynote speaker and can be contacted at