Most people like to have choices – they represent options, flexibility and they allows us to exercise control. However, making too many decisions can wear away your ability to select the optimal choice quickly and efficiently. Research shows that humans do have a mental and emotional limit, so using routines to eliminate lots of smaller meaningless decisions will leave you with a greater capacity to make the best choice when a decision really matters.
Have you ever noticed that you are more productive in the morning, or you find it difficult to concentrate on serious matters later in the day? Many of us are also less resilient after 7pm at night (think impulse eating, drinking, gambling or online shopping). This is all to do with decision fatigue, and once you understand this, you can really use routines to your advantage.
These days, I try to tackle my most important or strategic work first thing in the morning, next I’ll do calls and meetings, and then wherever possible I’ll lump all the smaller decisions/to-do items together in the last hours of my day. I use my diary as a way to routine my workflow. For trivial decisions like what I’ll eat or wear, I make these choices before bed, so I don’t waste valuable decision power in the morning.
By sharing my routines with others, I have support. People understand and respect the way I work, and they have started to adopt routines of their own because they can see the benefits. For example, I have a colleague who does not want to be interrupted when her earpods are in. Another colleague turns off all digital alerts while he’s doing his ‘heavy thinking’ work.
At home, my family now sets the breakfast table at night, and fills their water bottles, packs their school bags and puts out their clothes before going to bed. Our pre-bed routine sets us up for a positive morning, and I have to say, our family morning routine has made a material difference to my wellbeing. We all get out the door on time, calm and happy almost every day.