File this under things no one tells you before you have kids: As a mom, you’ll have to make what seems like a million decisions each day. What time should you wake up the kids? What should you make for breakfast? And what is there to pack for lunch? Do you eat one cookie or abstain? Should you go to story time at the library or haul the kids to the gym? Which laundry pile do you tackle first? Should you wake the sleeping baby?
The more kids you have, the more decisions you are making — especially if the kids are young. If you find yourself in a brain slump by mid-afternoon and it feels like you just can’t make another decision, take heart. You aren’t losing your mind, you’re just suffering from decision fatigue. The gist of it is this: The more choices you make in a day, the harder each one becomes for your brain. This leads you to take shortcuts in decision making (make poor decisions) or to skip decision making altogether (do nothing).
Luckily for frazzled moms (and this is a category that includes me) there are a few workarounds. You can minimize decision fatigue by developing routines for pedestrian daily tasks, thereby saving your precious brainpower for deeper thoughts.
Think “What room should I vacuum first” versus “What can I do to be a better parent?”
Here are five that could help save your brain:
1. Implement a cleaning schedule
Don’t waste anymore time wondering when you last scrubbed the toilets. Come up with a cleaning schedule for you and your family (or your cleaning service) and then you won’t have to think about what to do again. I’ve adopted a simple plan from CleanMama.net that lets me breeze through cleaning in 30 minutes or less each day.
2. Adopt dinnertime themes
By dinnertime, you’ve probably overloaded your brain with decisions. No wonder you can’t decide what to make for dinner! Dictate a theme for each night of the week to make meal planning a breeze. I generally plan a meatless meal for Monday, a pasta dish for Tuesday, try a new recipe on Wednesdays, eat leftovers on Thursday and make or buy pizza on Friday.
3. Simplify your wardrobe
Whittling down your wardrobe to only clothes you regularly wear or colors that look good on you can eliminate the “What to wear?” decisions that bog many of us down daily. Try a Project333 capsule wardrobe, where you mix and match the same 33 items for 3 months (see theproject333.com for details). Or, like my older sister, decide to only buy and keep clothes in a few select colors that make you look and feel great. You could even take it a step further and adopt a uniform that you wear every day, like Steve Jobs’ black mock turtlenecks, only jeans and striped T-shirts (or whatever it is you prefer to wear).
4. Make your exercise work for you
Don’t waste time at the gym wondering what to do. Make it a no-brainer by picking an exercise schedule ahead of time. Using a class schedule from the gym and your own daily schedule, pencil in specific days for cardio, weights and something more relaxing like Pilates or yoga.
5. Stick with a bedtime routine
A consistent bedtime routine is good for kids and parents, too. It will hopefully (hopefully) eliminate arguing and pushback from the kids if they know when they need to start winding down and how many stories they get before bed. I’ve even implemented a rotating schedule for nightly family prayer. It’s one less thing to think about.