I am so excited about this week’s episode of the podcast all about decision fatigue.
Have you ever felt like at the end of the day a simple question from your child like can I have a snack is enough to make your head explode?
There have been times where I have sat thinking about a question as simple as that for 5 minutes running through all of the options.
Well, they just had a snack an hour ago, are they really hungry?
What if they don’t eat their dinner?
They need to learn to eat when food is on the table.
Did they eat that last snack?
Maybe they actually are hungry. I probably am a terrible mother.
The cycle goes on and on.
What is decision fatigue?
The idea of decision fatigue (coined by Roy F Baumeister) is that our ability to make decisions decreases the more decisions we have to make.
This is idea is well illustrated by a Princeton University study that found that judges were more likely to deny parole in the afternoon after he had already had a lot of hearings. Subconsciously after so many hearings the judge makes the safest choice by denying parole.
How does decision fatigue affect you and your meal plan?
All humans (and if you are mom I’m gonna say this applies double to you) are faced with a billion decisions every day.
If you are faced with a brownie at 8:00 PM when you are mentally exhausted you will probably eat it even if you are trying to avoid sugar or make a positively lifestyle change.
You probably think this is because you have no willpower, but the truth is, your decision-making brain is tired and unable to make decisions as effectively as it could earlier in the day.
Every decision we make depletes our energy for the next decision.
How can we overcome decision fatigue?
There are lots of ways that decision fatigue can be overcome, but here are the 6 ways I suggest overcoming decision fatigue specifically as it relates to your meal plan.
6 ways to overcome decision fatigue
- Stop making the same decision over and over– You don’t have to head to the pinterest drawing board every time you meal plan. You know that meal planning will happen every week, so why not automate it as much as possible. Make a list of your family’s favorite meals and draw from that list instead of a blank slate when you’re deciding what to make for dinner.
- Delegate Decisions-You know who LOVE to make decisions? Your kids. They would be thrilled if you let them pick out what to eat, what to wear, what to do. Let them be involved in the process. If your kids are old enough you could assign them each a day to plan what’s for dinner, give a day to your husband too and your meal plan is half-finished! You don’t have to do it all and often the people around us want to help with our heavy load.
- Develop routines and be consistent about them-A routine is basically a decision that you’ve automated. Once you have exercised every morning for a year, you are no longer really making the decision to exercise. It’s become automatic. You can (and if you are a mom I think you should) develop routines for just about everything. Meal time, snack time, play time, chore time. If you designate times for these activities they will get done and you will get to spend less mental energy thinking about them.
- Lump similar decisions together-This is similar to the first tip but slightly different. I think the best way to illustrate this idea is to think about productivity. How productive would it be to go throughout your day deciding every hour what you will do next? I don’t know about you, but the thought of doing that drives me crazy. Instead, I can start as part of my morning routine planning out what tasks I have to do and when I will do them. That way, I’ve made most of my decisions in the morning when my brain is fresh and the rest of the day I am just implementing those decisions.
- Simplify the decisions you do have to make- Make in-n-out burger decisions, not cheesecake factory decisions. The fewer options you have the better. Barack Obama implemented this by choosing to only wear two different colors of suits. I try to implement this by only following certain trusted influencers online. If I need information, I go to my trusted source first. If an ad pops up that promises to make me a million dollars doing xyz…I ignore it, and go back to my trusted influencers to see what they have to say on the topic.
- Make decisions when your mind is in the right place– When I go to the store at 9:00 PM guaranteed I come home with 3 times as much stuff as I need and there will be peppermint oreos in my cart, no question. For me, evenings are not for decision making. Regardless of what time you choose to do your planning, try to make sure you are well-fed, well-hydrated, and well-rested and you’ll find your ability to make good decisions soars.