In 1956 Herbert A. Simons created a decision-making strategy he labeled satisficing. Satisfiers accept good enough. They don’t obsess over other options and can move on after deciding. Simons chose this word by combining satisfy and suffice. Satisfiers examine and weigh their options when making decisions. They are not rash. However, they are more likely to settle for good enough, even if it is not necessarily the best; Simons proposed that this decision-making process would lead to happier outcomes.
Satisfiers live in contrast to maximizers. A maximizer tends to weigh all possible options before finalizing a decision. Maximizers have high standards. They are willing to delay finalizing a choice to find their ideal option, which they believe provides the best benefits or highest utility.
“Decision-makers can satisfice either by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world. Neither approach, in general, dominates the other, and both have continued to co-exist in the world.”Herbert A.Simons
Satisfiers focus on enough. Maximizers focus on the best.
The 2022 Women at Work survey released at the end of April confirmed what working women have said for the past few years. Remote work still requires focused work. Pandemic shutdowns have brought tentative schedules and added responsibilities to almost every area of our lives. Despite the opportunity to work from home or with a hybrid schedule, 53% of women report higher stress levels than one year ago.
Understandably, we desire to put our best effort forward when it comes to work or family. Likewise, it makes sense that we want to maximize our time with our kids at home or the additional hours we aren’t commuting. However, the past few years have been about much more than turning dining room tables into desk spaces.
Maximizing isn’t Sustainable in Every Circumstance
We’ve dealt with food shortages, toilet paper outages, rising prices on everything from houses to fuel, and the emotional languishing of a long term impact of a pandemic. Adding to the layers of trauma, generations have had hearts broken by the skeletons of mentors’ rising to the surface, making this season one where many felt lost, lonely, and listless.
All these layers without a pandemic are a recipe for increased stress and burnout, so it’s not a surprise that women are looking for the escape hatch when it comes to the areas of life causing the most emotional strain.
When our goal is to present 100% effort at work, with our family, and as we care for our home, we will find ourselves exhausted and unsatisfied. Maximizing the moment without boundaries is not sustainable.
Satisfiers Avoid Burnout
Widespread burnout in women is made worse by poor work/life balance and an inability to “switch off” from work. While 45% of women rated their ability to switch off from work as good/extremely good, 34% rated it as poor/extremely poor.
With the group of women who can’t switch off thinking about work, 42% worried their career progression would be affected if they were not constantly available. Seven percent of women believe their employer is the main factor in their work pressure. So much so that they believe they will need to consider taking a career break or leaving the workforce completely if their employer does not address this trend.
While we can’t know every reason women feel additional stress, the way time is allocated seems to impact depleting energy. Women report that it takes longer to complete managing household tasks. The time spent looking after children and dependents has also increased.
We seem to have lost the art of satisficing, and it’s causing increased burnout.
We cannot focus on work and family at the same time. In fact, our attempts to multi-task will only divide our attention and exhaust our efforts to provide care for the person or promise in front of us. Rather than focusing on maximizing each moment, it’s time to give yourself a break.
Choose to do the best you can do each day. If this means you have to push a due date so you can be present at your child’s event, make sure you communicate what is happening. However, make your priorities clear. Your years with your kids are evolving rapidly, and their milestone activities generally happen a few times. Make memories when you can, and model a responsible work ethic too.
Don’t Confuse Satisfice with Laziness
One challenge remote workers experience is the extra effort it takes to communicate well when working collaboratively. Through my many years and various teams, I’ve learned that even when you’re looking at someone across zoom, and they repeat your words back to you, it does not ensure you have clearly communicated your work goals.
Working remotely has many pros. However, one of the cons, in my opinion, is the need to think through how to communicate to goals of a project, including every actionable step needed to complete the tasks. It’s not always enough to walk someone through each step, type them out and record a video of them.
However, what I’ve discovered is that the reason overcommunication is necessary is that some co-workers are maximizers, others are Satisfiers, and some are lazy. Remember, Satisfiers are content with “good enough,” and they are the ones that determine when “good enough” has been achieved.
This can be a helpful benefit to a maximizer in that a satisfier can add perspective to a project and keep everyone within the proper scope necessary to complete the work without going overboard. However, if Satisfiers are confused with laziness, it will erode trust within the team.
We maximize the moment when we accept we cannot achieve perfection in work or life and look for ways to settle for good enough in everyday moments.