Jacqueline Leib shares the weekly planning process that allows her to avoid decision fatigue
I believe in planning ahead. Do you? Do you plan in the morning? Or are you a planner at the end of the day? Do you plan yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily? How do you plan? Do you use paper and pencil or a planner? Do you use an app on your phone or a program on your computer?
I recently read an article which stated that “Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist, coined the term decision fatigue in reference to the decline in the quality of decisions that are made by a person after many decisions have been made in a row.” The more decisions we make in a day the more fatigued we get as the day passes. Have you ever had a day at work where you made hundreds of small decisions and when you walked in the door at home and were asked “what’s for dinner?”, you opted for pizza or fast food? I can honestly say that planning ahead helps with decision fatigue, but I would be lying if I said I never opted for pizza. Mmmmm.
I admit that I am a mixture of technology and paper. I keep my calendar in Google calendar, but when I sit down to plan out my week, I like to use paper. I thought I would share with you my weekly planning process that helps me eliminate as many decisions during the week as possible. To do this, I sit down on Sunday afternoons, for less than an hour, and make decisions for the entire week ahead.
I print out a weekly form I created that has room for all the items I need to be successful. I created this form in Microsoft Excel as a table with three columns. The first side of this form has a column that lists all the days of the work week with plenty of space for each day, a column for appointments/meetings/phone calls etc. and the last column is to write down tasks to tackle during the week. The second side of this form has the same format on the top. I continue with the three columns in the middle listing the days of the week in the first column, the second column is for lunch and the third column is for dinner. Below the food diary section is the wardrobe area with several lines for each day of the week. And lastly, I added a section for notes.
I like to write my weekly list with pen and paper. It gives me pure joy to check a box or cross out an item and put it to rest. I will then take my Google Calendar and write down all the meetings I have each day, all the meetings my Executive has each day and any after work activities for that week. I have a standing meeting on Mondays at 6:00pm to clean up my email inbox and on Wednesdays at 6:00pm for professional development. This could be watching a replay of a webinar I missed because of a meeting, listening to a podcast, picking a subject in the vast library of All Things Admin, Eat Your Career or LinkedIn’s Lynda.com or reading an industry book, blog, or Executive Secretary Magazine.
Based on meetings or after work activities, I will put together my outfits for the week all the way down to tights, shoes, jewelry and/or scarves. If I have an event in the city, I will even pick the purse that will match my outfit. Dinah Liversidge told me that she uses a baggy to house the small accessories and attaches the baggy to the hanger. What a creative way to keep yourself organized and eliminate the decisions on the day of the outfit! By pulling out your outfits and accessories, you can see ahead of time if any repairs need to be made, if an item needs to be steamed or ironed, or if an item needs to be replaced. Naturally, I look at the weather as well so that I am dressed appropriately.
By putting all the outfits with accessories on my weekly form, I not only know what I am going to wear for the week, I also have preplanned outfits that make mornings a breeze. You will never need to worry about wearing the same things twice in a week. You can look back at previous weeks when you get stuck on what to wear and pick an outfit that has all the parts put together. Brilliant! If you want to take it one step further, I take pictures of myself in the outfits and group them on my phone by categories such as business casual, casual, board meetings, etc. I also have them sorted by colors and clothing piece.
Forbes reported “former President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg basically wear the same outfit every day to cut down on making decisions. Obama either wore a grey or blue suit. Zuckerberg usually wears a grey t-shirt.” A fellow Admin takes it even further: they wear tan on Monday, blue on Tuesday, black on Wednesday, gray on Thursday and cream on Friday. By limiting the color you wear in a day, you limit your decisions. This also helps on your wardrobe budget if you purchase items only in your color palette. Perusing websites such as Pinterest or looking up fashion icons that you admire can help you put together outfits in a snap and again, eliminate the decisions during the week.
I plan my meals, mainly lunch and dinner. We have a cafeteria that has a wide variety of food to choose from. When not watching my diet, I will go for all the carbs – bread, pasta, French fries, but when I am trying to eat healthy, I need to bring some things to augment the salad bar at work. My husband will grill some chicken breasts that I cut up, bag and pack with lite salad dressing, a big plastic bowl and my salad chopping scissors. No decision needs to be made and I am eating healthy foods. It also helps me to skip the dessert bar… most of the time.
If I have a late board meeting, or a dinner with friends, I will put that on the form so that I do not need to decide what is for dinner that evening. If we are having Taco Tuesday, I will note on my form to take out the ground beef from the freezer on Monday evening. By having this information on my form, it eliminates decisions on what food I need to purchase or prepare for the week.
The last thing I add to the weekly form is a list of the items I would like to accomplish during the week. I assign items to specific days. If I have a board meeting on Wednesday, I will assign the tasks to prepare for the meeting on Tuesday or Monday. If payday is on Friday, I will assign all my payroll prep on Monday. Any other items that I want to get done that week are listed in the column I have on the right-hand side that allows me to see them and I can pick off each item as time permits. This also allows me to add tasks as the week goes on. If I am unable to tackle tasks during this week, I will transfer these items to the next week’s form when I sit down on Sunday.
I add any tasks that are repetitive in my Google calendar as reminders. At the beginning of each month I need to send out email reminders on expired drivers’ licenses or renters’ insurance for our faculty and staff. By putting a reminder for these tasks in my Google calendar as a “to do” on repeat, I do not have to think about it each month. It automatically shows each month on the day I have set up. What is even more exciting is that if I cannot tackle it on the day I plan, it will continue to show up on my Google Calendar until I mark it as done. Oh, I could kiss you Google Calendar!
Taking the time to sit down on a quiet Sunday afternoon and make decisions for the entire week is a great way to alleviate daily decision fatigue. It allows you more opportunities to make decisions on more important matters. I hope that you found some of the ideas I presented here helpful in eliminating repetitive decisions that can lead to decision fatigue.