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How to manage decision fatigue

If you’re a Mum, I’m going to guess you’re familiar with decision fatigue. From the moment we wake up, we’re presented with thousands of decisions. How to dress the kids, what to serve for breakfast, what to pack in the school lunches, how to answer your children’s endless questions, and so on. And these are just decisions about the children; we still need to address our work, relationships, and personal choices. When you think about how many small decisions we make in a day as Mums, it’s no wonder we can feel exhausted, irritable and less responsive by the end of the day. 

An effective morning routine undoubtedly helps us be more productive, less stressed, and move through our day with intention, ease and energy. But how can we support ourselves better in the afternoon and evening to avoid or manage decision fatigue? In this article, I’ll share the life-changing strategies my clients use to get them from school pick-up to bedtime without falling in a heap. 

What is decision fatigue? 

If you’ve experienced that dull pain in the back of your head, barely able to remember your name, let alone answer another question, regardless of how simple it is – that’s decision fatigue. Like a fuel tank that gradually depletes as you drive, our mental energy decreases with every decision we make until we’re finally running on empty. The constant barrage of decisions can quickly drain our energy, especially if we’re already sleep deprived. 

And decision fatigue doesn’t just affect our energy; it can impact our productivity, well-being, relationships, and quality of life. Because as our cognitive resources drain, we’re more likely to be impulsive and irrational or avoid making decisions altogether. 

I recently ran a survey with my mailing list, asking them what they struggled with the most in the afternoon and evening, and decision fatigue was one of the highest responses. So if you’re reading this, nodding your head and thinking, I know that exact eye-ball-falling-out-of-my-head feeling, this article is for you. Let’s get stuck into some practical strategies you can use to make decisions with ease, reclaim your mental energy, and enjoy the journey of motherhood.

Tips for managing decision fatigue 

Set boundaries 

As a mum of four inquisitive boys, I quickly learnt to communicate my boundaries with their question time. I don’t know if everyone experiences this, but our kids are just so curious and love having in-depth discussions, especially before bedtime. I love that they ask questions, but I’ve made it clear to them that at nighttime, I’m usually no longer capable of having in-depth discussions about the wonders of the world and that it’s best left for another time.

Eliminate decisions with processes and systems.  

Anytime you can remove a decision from your day, you save fuel for another task. Wherever you notice the same questions being asked, systemise it. For example, if your children constantly ask, “What’s for dinner”?, plan meals ahead of time and write them on the fridge so your children (and partner) don’t have to ask you (if they can read, of course). 

Can you set up direct debits if you have repeat payments or bills? If you have routine activities, such as swimming lessons, school assemblies etc., write the days on a shared family calendar so you don’t have to remind everyone. Other examples might be creating a capsule wardrobe, buying the same weekly groceries or taking the same route on your morning walk. 

Understand what you can and can’t control 

One thing I’ve found incredibly helpful to reduce decision-making, stress and exhaustion in the afternoons and evenings is focusing on what’s in my control. Rather than wasting my precious energy trying to answer or control everything, I’ve learnt to focus only on the things I can control. 

Things in our control 

  • The way we respond
  • Our thoughts 
  • The way that we show up 
  • Our attitude
  • Whether we’ve had something to eat 
  • What we eat and drink 
  • Whether we take time for ourselves 

Things out of our control 

  • Sleep
  • Sickness 
  • Energy levels 
  • Nervous system response
  • Our children’s emotions and behaviour 
  • Our partner’s emotions and behaviour 
  • Your children not wanting to go to sleep 

Create an afternoon routine

When you have a solid afternoon routine, you naturally have fewer decisions to make. Set times for certain tasks, have specific afternoon snacks and create go-to afternoon activities. When you make decisions in advance by creating a routine, you don’t have to use up your mental battery for the same questions or decisions every day. 

Do the most important things first in the day

Prioritise the tasks that require the most energy at the start of the day, whether paying bills, having important conversations, or finishing work-related tasks. Leave the tasks that require the least mental battery until later in the day, such as folding clothes, cooking meals, or scrolling on your phone. 

Give yourself permission to look after yourself 

Make sure you eat, rest (when you can), do what you enjoy (again, when you can) and do other essential self-care activities. Because if you’re constantly tired, sick or struggling mentally, these strategies may not be enough to manage your decision fatigue.

Need help managing decision fatigue? 

I hope you’ve found this topic helpful and can take away one or two strategies to bring into your afternoon routine. Understanding decision fatigue and focusing less on what’s outside of my control has been a real game-changer for me and many of my clients. 

If you need help simplifying things, creating better systems, and making the afternoon much smoother, get in touch to see how we can work together. 


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