We are creatures of habit and often follow the same path day after day. We see the same things, same people, have the same conversations, and thoughts running through our mind. If you’ve not recognized this or taken any time to notice, stop reading and just reflect on what you did today and how much was it like yesterday or last Tuesday? There will obviously be discrepancies for people that have just returned from a vacation, but those outliers withstanding, are your weeks or even days pretty similar? We actually save a lot of brain power by having regularity in our days, conserving our precious and finite decision-making abilities by not using it to determine the layout of our day like it was a blank page, no outline or bullet points.
However, can something else be lost or forfeited when we are entranced by our days? You decide.
As I mentioned, there is such thing as decision fatigue which basically is the process of our brain becoming exhausted by the number of decisions it has to make. We make decisions all day long from the moment we choose whether we are going to hit snooze or not. By setting up routines and habits, we establish triggers that begin the routine. Going back to waking up in the morning. If you decide ahead of time that you will not give yourself a choice of whether you will hit snooze or not, you next establish a trigger that makes that snooze decision unlikely if not impossible. Your alarm clock (or phone) could be placed across your bedroom, so when it goes off you have to get out of bed to shut it off. Once you shut it off, you are out of bed! Now that you’re out of bed you can begin your morning routine and pocket that decision that you just saved yourself for a more pressing part of your day, like what you’re going to make for dinner! Even that could be decided ahead of time. See how this works? You are going to have many things that pop up during your day that are going to require you to make a choice and the more you’ve banked energy for that, the more you will have to exert in making a deliberate and thoughtful decision. This is exactly the reason that you’ve heard people say they only go shopping with a list and not on a hungry stomach. If you go with a list, you have a plan and you’re less likely to deviate from that list if it is written and you refer to it. Have you ever went into a store with a few things in mind and then left with holiday decorations you don’t need and 5 boxes of something just because it was on sale and you might need it at some point or it looked good and you were hungry?
Fresh and spry – oh my!
Now let’s say that you are aware of decision fatigue and you plan as much as possible ahead of time and you establish routines and habits that lighten your load and help keep you fresh and spry all day long. Where is the space for spontaneity? Do we lose all the excitement in our days? Not necessarily. I would argue that the more you actually prep your brain and provide it structure and safety, it will experience less stress which leads to decision fatigue. Spontaneity can happen at any time and you’ll be ready to embrace it if you’ve kept yourself taken care of.
As we work our way through this first month of the year many of us are trying to establish healthy patterns to our day or set new goals to achieve. It would be beneficial to look at the structure you create to allow for the steps of your day to be predictable along the path. Since there is so much that can be out of your control, it is always the best idea to start with your morning – how you get out of bed and what you do as you prepare yourself for the day ahead. As soon as you walk out that door, more variables enter your life. Establishing a strong morning routine that involves self-care and quiet time to yourself, setting an intention for the day, and focusing on what you are grateful for in your life sets you up to be in control of your day rather that your day controlling you.