Have you heard of decision fatigue? I feel like it’s something that I struggle with from time to time. If you’ve never heard of it, you can read more about it here, but the basic gist is that as we have to make lots of decisions throughout our day/life, we get tired, and then we start to make poor decisions or just generally feel really stressed. I usually hear it talked about in connection with individuals who might run a large organization, own their own business, or manage a large team. But I also think it could apply to anyone who has to make a lot of decisions throughout their day. I can tell it’s something that many of my friends with young children go through. It seems to me that parenting a young child (or two, or three) can quickly double or triple the number of decisions you make throughout a day as being a parent puts you in the driver’s seat of not only your own life, but your kid’s, too.
I know I feel decision fatigue from running my business and trying to manage our team as best I can. We are by no means a large company, but I still make a LOT of decisions every day and it’s one thing that others on our team rely on me for. And I absolutely love my job and love working with our team. So it’s important to me to minimize decision fatigue because it can lead to making bad decisions. I also think, for me, I sometimes feel like I use all my decision brain power at work and then I feel stressed by decisions I need to make in my personal life (even fun ones!). And since I know other people struggle with this as well, I’ve been trying to notice how leaders strategize to minimize decision fatigue in their lives, and I’ve been trying to implement some of those same strategies in my own. Here are three—and I’d LOVE to hear any additional strategies you might know as well.
Make Decisions in Bulk or Eliminate Unnecessary Decisions
Here are a couple of examples. So one area that can be surprisingly time consuming (or even stressful) is getting dressed in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion and styling but there are plenty of days when it just feels like another task to complete. I love how Elsie has incorporated many aspects of a capsule wardrobe into her clothing choices, making it easier and faster for her to get ready in the morning, but still look super cute, IMO. So she can save some decision power for her career and also the fun task of dressing her (3-year-old) daughter. I also LOVE all the jumpsuits she wears (mostly from Big Bud) as they are not only super cute on her, but they are very functional for mom/work life, as well as being a complete outfit in themselves. Very cool! Another example is my business mentor actually wears the same thing to work every day and just has 2-3 pairs so he can wash them as needed. He owns his own business and goes from working in a food-based factory, to meetings, to sometimes speaking in front of groups. And he has found a “uniform,” as he calls it, that works for all of these tasks and he simply wears that ALL the time, eliminating the need to make this decision in the morning.
Another example is meal prepping. There are many ways to do it (including using a service like Prep Dish or Sweet Peas Meals so they do all the decision making for you), but I like to prep things for breakfast and lunch for Monday through Friday during the weekend before. I’ve found that those are the meals that can stress me out during the week because even though I LOVE to cook I usually am working during those times too, and I like to have something healthy and already ready on hand, so I don’t have to make any decisions about breakfast or lunch.
Rely on Experts or Professionals
I think this is a good strategy for those areas of your life that you care about, but you are not an expert in and maybe don’t ever plan to be. Ha. I’ll give you an example from my life to help illustrate this. One big goal in my personal life is to be healthy. Of course, there are many aspects to health, and one area I try to work on is staying active and (at least somewhat) physically fit. I don’t really have an interest in becoming an expert in this area, as I am definitely not a personal trainer or really even all that athletic. So I’ve found that one of the best options for me is to utilize the group fitness classes available at my gym. I do a class called Body Pump at the YMCA (5 minutes from my home) 2-3 times a week, unless I am traveling. What time do I work out? The classes have a fixed schedule so my only decision there is to show up. What do we do in the class? Well, it’s weightlifting to music, but all you need to know is just do exactly what the instructor tells you! No decisions needed. There are so many days when I feel absolutely spent mentally from work (in a good way, but still) and I love that I can just show up, follow along, and get a good workout. I don’t have to really think much at all. I rely on other’s expertise to help me achieve my goals in that area of my life.
Create Habits and Routines that Serve You
Personally, I love routines, I feel much more grounded in life when I have a to-do list I can stick to or a daily routine that keeps me on track. But that’s not to say I don’t love surprises and spontaneous moments in life too, especially when I am on vacation. 🙂 But here is one more big benefit from having awesome habits or routines: You can almost click into autopilot mentally and still stay on track for any goals you may have. Here’s a hypothetical situation: Say you have a goal that you want to read more fiction. You love reading but in the last few years you just haven’t made time for it. Now it’s the end of a long day—maybe work or parenting was especially challenging this day. And you’re feel really, really tired, but you have about an hour before you need to go to bed. If you don’t already have a plan or routine you might just sit down in front of the TV and watch something you don’t even really care about, or sit down on the couch and just scroll your phone for a while, not even really enjoying the activity. BUT if you’ve started to make it a habit to read for a little bit before bed every night instead, you won’t need to make a decision about sitting in front of the TV or pulling out your phone. You can just go into autopilot and head to your bedroom with your book. And over time you’ll be reading more and you’ll probably be really happy about it. Habits and routines are useful tools, especially for those times we’re too tired to make decisions and we may end up making a poor choice simply because we are feeling so fatigued.
I guess this is kind of a random topic, but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately, so thanks for letting me share! And seriously, if you all have any additional thoughts, strategies, or ideas about this subject, I’d love to hear them! xo. Emma