If you are anything like me, your life is full. Sometimes all the different responsibilities in our life seem to collide. You know the feeling? Your mind races or comes to a screeching halt. Maybe you feel forgetful. You definitely feel overwhelmed. If this sounds familiar, you have lived with decision fatigue.
Did you know that the average adult makes over 35,000 decisions a day? Over 200 of those have to do with food choices alone! We all know a mom is anything but average. With all the events our children have, the thoughts that roll through our brains about their development, their challenges, our family life, and the spiritual growth of each family member, no wonder we feel overloaded.
Learning to Slow Down
I have spent a number of years overcoming stress and learning how to be properly busy instead of scattered, overcommitted, and burnt out. I dug into the roots of why I say “yes,” and cultivated a habit of saying healthy “no” answers. My life includes intentional times of rest. I wrote about all of this in Slow Down, Mama: Intentional Living in a Hurried World. I’ve also picked up a few habits which have diminished my decision fatigue greatly.
I learned about Theme Days from Emily P. Freeman on her podcast, The Next Right Thing. If you don’t listen to Emily, you need to. She’s a breath of fresh air. Her whole mission involves helping people diminish decision fatigue. Creating Theme Days, involves designating each day with one category.
I’m going to use my life as an example. Here are some roles I fill at home and in the world:
- women’s ministry leader
- sunday school storyteller
- part-time consultant
- homeschool mom
Now, on any given day, each (or all) of these roles can demand or need something from me. My life can quickly look like a ten car pile up on the freeway if I don’t manage all the moving pieces and give everything a place. Enter theme days.
How Theme Days Work
My theme days look like this:
- Monday – Work for my Consulting Business
- Tuesday – Women’s Ministry and Church Projects
- Wednesday – Blogging, Newsletter, Social Media
- Thursday – Travel for Work
- Friday – Homecare
- Saturday – Prepare Homeschooling, Write on Books, Prep Talks for Speaking
- Sunday – Church, Family, Rest
I keep a To-Do List on a sheet of paper with Six Sections (one for every theme day except Sunday). Whenever I think of anything that needs to be done, I jot it under it’s theme. Then — and here’s the beauty — when that day rolls around, I tackle the list for that day. Simple.
Why do Theme Days eliminate decision fatigue? Each day I don’t have to decide what to focus on. I don’t have to juggle in all the things. I simply focus on work on Mondays; Ministry on Tuesdays; Blogging on Wednesdays, etc. Can you feel the weight lifting?
Of course, this doesn’t mean I never do a homecare task on a Monday, or I don’t answer Consulting calls on any day outside Mondays and Thursdays. Life happens. Still, having theme days helps me corral all my tasks into places where I can give them the attention they deserve. If I don’t get to everything, I know I’ll be back same day next week to do more. Ahhhhhh.
In the Closet
A few years ago I stumbled into this habit. As I was putting away laundry I started playing around pairing pants and tops on the same hanger. Once I made one outfit, I thought, “I’m going to make a bunch of outfits while I’m standing here.” I ended up pairing up 10-12 outfits, even hanging jewlery on the hanger with the clothes. From that time on, I spend about 15-20 minutes every other week putting together about two week’s worth of outfits when I’m hanging laundry.
I mix things up so I don’t always pair the same things. I make some casual outfits, some dressier, and a few for church or special functions. Every morning when I face my closet (except those days when I throw on yoga pants and call it a day), I simply pick through what I have paired up. Yes, I make a decision, but I don’t get decision fatigue because I’m only looking at 12 or fewer choices instead of staring into a mass of clothing like a deer in headlights. On days when I’m in a hurry, or days when I work out of town I can set the outfit out the night before.
You can do this for your kids as well. They can even help you. On laundry day, pull out five hangers (don’t overwhelm them with too many choices). Lay out five shirts and five pairs of pants and put them together. Then your child can easily pick an outfit any given day. This helps eliminate the common battles over mismatched outfits and clothes they love which should have been donated a few months ago. You are welcome.
In the Kitchen
The last tip I have for you to help overcome decision fatigue involves meal planning. I don’t always keep this habit in place, but when I need it, I go back to it. It’s called having theme nights. You can make the themes whatever you like. Much like having theme days for your tasks, having themes for your meals helps narrow down the looming question, “What’s for supper?”
Here are some great ideas for theme nights as you meal plan. You can find some more here.
- Mexican Night (Tacos, Burritos, Enchiladas, Nachos)
- Breakfast for Supper
- Crock Pot Meal
- Fish and Veggies
- Pizza Night
- Casserole or Asian Night
- BBQ or Soup/Salad
You get the idea. Make themes for each day, and when it comes to planning suppers each week, you already have an idea of what to buy, and what to prepare. I always use the crockpot on nights when we’ll be coming in from an extracurricular. We have breakfast for supper when my husband is at a church ministry mid-week. Pizza night is on Fridays when we wind down together with a movie. You can make this work for your family too.
I hope these three tips bless you deeply as you diminish decision fatigue. I want to help you be the best mom you can be. I’d love to hear anything you do to make your life less chaotic and more peaceful.
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Wendy Wallace says
These are some really great ideas to combat decision fatigue. I particularly appreciate theme nights for dinner. I think any time we can schedule things out, like chores, it simplifies our life and our decision making.
Thank you, Wendy! I have loved theme nights … though, right after I wrote this, wouldn’t you know it, our oven decided to keel over and die, so we have been off our rhytm and eating skillet suppers, crock pot suppers, and soup/grill suppers not at all a part of our “theme” order. As my friend says, “Blessed are the flexible!”
I’ve got a few strategies for managing decision fatigue, like not wasting my peak decision time on whether or not to like a stack of pancakes on Instagram, but I love the idea of making outfits ready to wear for the week. What a great idea! It’ll make putting away the clean laundry much more fun, too. Thanks for the tips.
Sandra, I think you and I could compile a great list of tips … knowing your penchant for not wasting time. I am so glad I was able to give you something new to add to your repertoire of strategies. I am honing my use of peak decision time (guarding my morning hours, which for me are probably about 5x as keen as the rest of the day). Your instagram comment made me chuckle! Thanks for popping in and reading.
I organized my shirts by winter and summer, and then I just grab the first shirt on the row, and then when I’m hanging up the clean shirts, the newly clean shirts go to the back, so I wear all of my clothes before I wear the next one.
If I find my self skipping a particular shirt several times than I put it in the giveaway box. Makes my life so much easier.
That’s a great system! My husband does that with his work shirts too. I do seasonal purges, and then when something seems like it wasn’t worn, but I’m not ready to part with it, I put a rubber band around the hanger hook. If it gets to the next seasonal purge and the rubber band is still there it means I never wore it and it must go. All these little tricks help, don’t they? Thanks for chiming in with your tip, Ticia.