Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Happy 2/22/22! Pretty cool, right? Today we have a teacher work day which means meetings, meetings, meetings! Sigh.

Have you heard of decision fatigue?

According to the American Medical Association, it is “the idea that after making many decisions, your ability to make more and more decisions over the course of a day becomes worse

Do you know how many decisions that we, as humans, make in any given day? It’s insane! It’s exhausting! And, we are all just.so.tired.of.everything right now!

I used to get kinda mad when I would ask Tom what he wanted for dinner and he would basically say in a fairly nice way that he just didn’t want to be asked. He was telling me that anything was fine and he just couldn’t make another decision. Now I appreciate that he really doesn’t care. Sometimes I will give him two choices like I used to do with my kids. Two choices is easier than an infinity of choices! Moms that meal plan and post the meals on a board in the kitchen – this is why you do that, right? It’s one less decision to make at the end of a long day.

Here is what I have done over the last several years to help improve my decision fatigue:

First, let’s talk about my job as a teacher. I read that teachers make an insane amount of decisions in a school day (I’m sure there are lots of decisions to be made in any given occupation, but teaching is the one I know best, so forgive me!). Teachers have lesson planning, how to best approach different standards in your subject or grade, how to respond to that email from a student or parent, how to handle a request to leave the classroom, how to deal with a certain behavior, what to assign for homework, when to schedule that test, and the list goes on…

Several years ago, I decided to create a routine that would help me and my students. Every Monday we get a new list of vocabulary and every Friday we quiz over that vocabulary. Every Thursday we play a game with the vocabulary. Every Wednesday we incorporate music into the lesson. I have had students tell me they love knowing what to expect and that they love this structure. I take this one step further in my AP class. Our AP Spanish exam is based on four skills so we do reading skills on Monday, listening on Tuesday, writing on Wednesday, speaking on Thursday, and then tie up loose ends on Friday and review the week. This is also the exact order of the actual exam.

I got to thinking…why am I just doing this at work? What can I automate in my person life? I highly recommend The Lazy Genius by the way. There is a podcast, her website, and her books, by the way. One of her principles is “Decide Once”. Every Friday night is pizza. Everyone gets a new swimsuit in their Easter basket. Make a decision one time and then it is done. It makes a lot of sense to me.

A former blogger, Mel Larson, who is also a teacher and who you can follow on Instagram now, decreases decision fatigue in her wardrobe by having a weekly clothing routine. She always wears black pants on Mondays because the weekend is over, she wears another type of pant on Tuesdays, etc.

I have often thought about a dinner routine like this: Sundays for leftovers or soup, Mondays are for pasta, Tuesdays are for Mexican, etc.

Here are some of my routines:

-I do meal prep. I make all my breakfasts for the school week on Sundays. I also make my share of lunches (I split lunch prep with my co-worker) on Sundays most of the time. Done.

-I take my shower every night after dinner is cleaned up.

-I order my groceries every Wednesday or Thursday for a Wednesday or Thursday pick up. I go into the weekend with a stocked kitchen and my weekend isn’t just about running errands.

-I do my laundry once a week when my hamper gets full. I do the household sheets and towels once a week separately. I usually try to do this on Thursday so that my weekend isn’t spent doing laundry. Tom does his own laundry and J and M do theirs at college or when they come home. This also keeps the washer and dryer free for them on the weekends if they need it.

Now, obviously my routines will look different from yours. You have to do what makes sense in your life and at this stage. My routines looked very different when I had infant, toddler, elementary twins, worked full time, etc. My routines changed in the summers when I was home with them. You can periodically ask yourself if you systems are still working for you and adjust as needed.

Am I doing this perfectly now? No! There are many more things I could automate to decrease my decision fatigue. I am a work in progress.

And, can you break from these routines? Of course! Do not become so rigidly tied to them that you miss out on opportunities, but let them work for you to make your life easier!

Don’t you hate it when you finally have a chance to go out to eat and you and your husband have the age old “where should we go?” conversation?

Use your phone memo!

Here are some ideas of the lists I keep:

You always have your phone with you! I also take screenshots when I see new restaurants pop up in my social media feed. I try to remember to transfer them to my memo list.

What do you do to eliminate decision fatigue in your life?

I may post your tips if that is ok with you! Leave me a tip in the comments and I will assume it’s ok to post unless you tell me otherwise!

Amy

19 thoughts on “Decision Fatigue

  1. I love this post and yes making decisions can be exhausting. I think sometimes we don’t even realize what it takes out of us. This is something I do for meal planning: before I buy groceries me and my husband pick five meals we would like for the following week. I buy the ingredients and post the five meals on the refrigerator door. We take turns picking a meal. We know that eventually during the week we will have all of them. The other two nights we get takeout or eat leftovers or work late and just get a snack. This cuts down on food waste so much and limits the decision making. When we have a crazy week and this goes totally off the rails I put it in the fridge or freezer and it is out back into rotation the following week.

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    1. Thank you! We really don’t realize it. I love your 5 meal approach. I try to do that, too. Sometimes I give my husband two choices for a given night and he likes that I think.

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  2. I never think to use my phone app for ideas like that! I definitely meal plan to try and cut down on decisions but I don’t feel like I make all that many decisions in a day and I dress, eat, and plan my activities around my mood so I like to keep all that pretty flexible.

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  3. Love this post. You are right! So many decisions can wear me down. I always has a routine for my students for bellringers- Monday vocab, Ted talk Tuesday & free write, Wednesday grammar, Thursday short article and response, vocab quiz on Friday. I had other routines too for collecting work, due date, etc. All students need this kind of structure …some more than others. I still can’t get my life together for Friday or Saturday grocery pickup very often…so it’s usually Sunday. Today, I’m picking up groceries after school because I didn’t have time until yesterday to place the order. I’ve shared before that I made dinner Sunday for leftover Monday because Mondays are my least fave day to make decisions 🤣 & I usually wear my Sunday church outfit on Monday. Again, one less decision to make

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    1. Thank you! Yes! I love a bellringer! I start class with a question each day that they are supposed to respond to in their notebook. Sometimes it is bad to pick up my groceries before I know everything I need for the next week but I have come to terms with running in for a few things if needed. I love that – Mondays are the day you are least equipped to make the decisions!

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  4. Tony and I were just talking about decision fatigue this weekend. I have it from making all the choices for the remodels we have been doing (rentals and personal homes!) it is ALOT and I am just tired. I will be happy when done though! I meal plan on Sundays, grocery shop on Mondays. I do plan our meals out for the week because I dont want to think about what to make for dinner at 4pm. I also keep a list of restaurants, clothes wish list, shows to watch, etc on my iPhone. and I take pics of things and add them when n necessary. I love being organized! Happy 2’s day…….PS….my nephew is getting married today in San Francisco at the courthouse. It is a beautiful venue and he and his fiancé are so excited. They had to cancel their 2020 wedding plans so I am happy they chose this special day! And they are doing it just the 2 of them. I think my sis was a tad sad ( I cant blame her!) but she is respecting their decision. Ok I am off to get my hair done. Allergy season is here in the Central Valley and I am not liking it!

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    1. Home renovation decisions are a great example of decision fatigue. You seem to have it together. I often wonder what my routines will be like when I retire.
      I heard of lots getting married yesterday – so cool! Maybe they can have a reception later?

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  5. When it comes to grocery shopping I was fantastic when the kids were small, and I just can’t take it no more… It’s so liberating to not have to plan! I live in the middle of the city and stores are close, so… it makes it easy to just drop in. But, you wanted tips, not the other way…
    So: get up early! Get some me-time before the family wakes up… I don’t plan my dinners, but I have the whole weeks outfits planned on Sunday (and check that everything is clean, etc.). I use my physical calendar for everything. I take photos of my whiteboard to remember what I tell the kids… I remove nail polish and put on a base coat in the evening, and paint the rest in the morning (on a weekend of course). That’s all I can think of right now – but I love routines!

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  6. I used to be a teacher and was the same way once I got home and the kids started badgering me about what they could and/or could not do. Sometimes I would look at my husband and say, “I have been making decisions all day long – please make this one for me“. Decision fatigue is real!! I am lucky because I do have a child at home who likes to be “in charge“ and this year I have tasked her with putting a list of meals for the week on the counter on Sunday afternoon. That way, I don’t have to think about what we are eating and I just go shop for those things and cook them. She gets what she wants and I have one less decision to make :/
    One year for school I decided I was only going to wear black and white all year. It was super, super great to take that decision out of my routine, however, I got very tired of “just black-and-white“. That surprised me and I didn’t do it again (although I saved a lot of money that year because there’s only so many black and white items you need). The only other real “hint“ I have for decision making is to use a travel agent! It really doesn’t cost any extra and they will make all the decisions for you… I hate trying to figure out what hotel to stay at, what restaurants to eat at, what tours to go on, etc.

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    1. It’s hard! That is so cool that you have tasked a child with that and it is so good for her, too! The black and white is really funny! Great tip about the travel agent!

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  7. I’ve been doing routine based plan since my children were small……..roughly 30 + years . It works well for me. Occasionally, I have to “step outside” the norm. My house is clean, my laundry complete and I can have the weekend mainly for what I want.

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  8. Great post! And I realized I have decision fatigue, but I never knew the name for it! I’m also a teacher, middle school reading but I used to teach high school French, and I have a weekly and daily routine. We do Reading Plus on Mondays and Fridays. The other days are very routine as well and we always wrote complete sentences, lol. I think it’s easier to teach and less stressful for me when the kids know what to expect. At home I don’t meal plan as my kids live together about 2.5 hrs away and my husband travels a lot, but I always clean up behind myself so I don’t create messes to clean up later. If I’m cooking something, I also unload the DW at that time. If I’m waiting for the Keurig to make my coffee, I’m putting my lunch in my lunchbox. It’s always leftovers from dinner, so less thinking!!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! I love your routine. We all probably have so many routines that we don’t even realize are routines, you know? I do that, too, with the dishwasher. Ideally I will start with an empty dishwasher at dinner time so I can load as I go.

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  9. I have many of the same routines, and I love the saying “Decide Once.” I have really thought about cleaning out my closet after seeing Mel’s wardrobe. I really wear the same things over and over again, and don’t need all the duplicates I have. Great post idea!

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