144. How to lighten the mental load of DECISION FATIGUE

We hear a lot about the mental burden that moms carry. We have so many things on our minds about all the people and all the things that need to happen PLUS all the things we want to be doing for ourselves too. It is a weighty mental load that we are carrying around. 

I want to talk about a concept that will help you see some ways you can lighten this mental load. The concept is decision fatigue, which is the overwhelm we feel from having to make so many decisions in our day. 

And if you pay attention, you will notice how almost every moment we have another decision to make about what to eat, how to respond, how to spend our time, how to act, what to do next. And by the end of the day, we are exhausted by it. 

I want to talk about practical ways to manage decision fatigue, so it is one less contributor to your mental load as a mom. 



In this episode we cover:

  • Three ways that having too many choices impacts us and our satisfaction
  • The three ways we respond to too many choices
  • How struggling with making decisions impacts our view of ourselves and our capabilities
  • One guiding principle to deal with decision fatigue
  • Practical ways to put that into action
  • Helping our kids with decision fatigue
  • Why deciding ahead of time is more proactive 


Products recommended here may include referral links to Amazon. If you click through and buy something I may earn a commission, at no cost to you. 


The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwarz

The Paradox of Choice TEDTalk

The Life on Purpose Workbook

Homemaker, on Purpose

Family rhythms

A Simple Hack to Make Meal Planning Easy

Moms 30for30 (wearing 30 items of clothes for 30 days)

How having fewer clothes makes my life easier

Tips for putting outfits together

Planning your day (for moms)

What Happened When I Took Away Half of My Kids’ Toys

Practical Advice For Purging Kids’ Toys

Decluttering with kids FREE MINIGUIDE

The Live Your Values FREE WORKSHEETS

The Live Your Vision FREE WORKSHEETS



The very funny Instagram account I like to follow is Hayley Morris. Her skits of Me vs My Brain are so simple and clever and show so many great examples of our mental drama

A fave skit from her: Calling to book a haircut


woman laying on couch with text :How to lighten the mental load of DECISION FATIGUE"


Hey Friends Welcome to simple and purpose podcast I am Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and life coach. And I am a mom of three, practical minimalist, a life coach helping women live their lives on purpose. I’m also the author because I don’t say this often enough, you guys are like what you have a book, I have the like on purpose workbook, and the homemaker on purpose book. And that homemaker on purpose book, it isn’t about baking bread, and embroidering tea towels, neither of which I have skills to do. But it is about taking the mental drama out of housework, and learning to create simple habits that help you take care of your home.

So here we talk a lot about mental drama, because we are just walking around with our mind full swirling with thoughts and ideas and errands and tasks and feelings and avoidance of feelings. So our mental life is happening and our mental life matters. Because what’s happening up there in our mental life, it seeps into how we feel and how we act. And there’s a lot of our mental life that does run under the radar, this is called the subconscious or I just call it the autopilot. We might not even realize I didn’t have that mental load, we’re carrying that stress and anxiety until something happens. And we just snap, it’s just gone too far. Or we just burst into tears. And we realize, oh, I’ve been carrying that all day.

And I know we’ve heard a lot lately about the mental load the mental burden for moms, we think about all of the things that we need to remember and pay attention to and do and the things that aren’t being done. And it’s just a lot to be carrying in our minds that I want to talk about. Just one way that we can simplify that mental load today. And I’m going to talk as well about decision fatigue, which I brought up before in the past, and I just talked about it in the identity clutter episode, but I want to talk about a practical way to deal with it.

So decision fatigue is coined by Roy Baumeister and decision fatigue is when you just get overwhelmed by all of the decisions you need to make in a day. And there are lots right like, what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, what shoes to wear, how to answer kids requests for the things that they want. So you can remember that next time, how to word an email or a text, how to spend lunch hour, do I go on Facebook or Instagram, shopping for online vitamins, what to make for dinner, you get it, there’s just so many decisions that we have to make in a given day.

I first learned about this concept from a book I read called Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. He also has a great TED Talk. And he’s researched the impact of too many choices on people’s ability to decide and be satisfied with that decision. And he has a few interesting findings.

First of all, too many choices. They just cause overwhelm. Like if you were at a restaurant and that menu has 20 entrees, you’re going to feel a lot differently about ordering than if you are at a restaurant that just does for entrees, right? Too many options like at the grocery store, what if there’s like 37 jams? I feel this way ABOUT BRA shopping like why are there so many bras!, I just want the one that does the thing, like the simple one that feels comfortable.

Too many choices can also lead to FOMO, the fear of missing out because when there are too many choices, you kind of feel like you’re missing out when you commit to one. I’m calling out my sister on this. Whenever we go to a restaurant and she finally chooses she’s I was like, Yeah, I should have got the other thing. And what if you went to a movie theater and there was like 17 movies you could go to, you’re going to pick one but the whole time you’re kind of going to be wondering, Is this really the best one did I pick the best one?

Too many options also increases our expectations. It increases that bar we set for how good it has to be. And he gave an example in his TED talk about buying jeans. And it was kind of the first time in years he had gone out to buy jeans. And suddenly there’s all these styles and fits and he thinks the perfect jeans are out there for me. And when he learns that there are actually no perfect ones, but a lot of good ones. He’s kind of let down. Maybe it was me maybe I picked it wrong. Maybe I should keep looking.

So too many decisions can lead to decision fatigue when you just feel done with it, overwhelmed by it can’t even I think a lot of us feel this around like 4pm or into the evening hours. Because this is also when our willpower muscle has been used up all day. So as the day goes on, and decision fatigue increases, there’s more decisions to keep making along with the willpower decreasing well, soon we are just palming handfuls of ketchup chips into our mouth as well hitting over the kitchen sink or so I’ve heard.

Another thing that can also happen is decision paralysis when we’re just kind of frozen We can’t make a decision anymore. And soon this can all lead to just an outright avoidance of decision decision avoidance, we postpone having to make a decision, we avoid it. Or we just take no action, right?

So why does this all matter? Why does decision fatigue matter? Well, I think the obvious is that it’s draining. It’s overwhelming. It’s just another stress to carry throughout the day. And I think there’s some not so obvious outcomes of it. For instance, we’re starting to think some unhelpful things about ourselves. As we struggle with decision fatigue and making good decisions, we start to think I just have no willpower. Something’s wrong with me, I’m not doing it right, I just always have these bad habits, I’m so stressed life is so overwhelming. And the more that we’re in this place, the more we lose trust with ourselves to make good decisions. Because we aren’t practicing. We aren’t practicing making good decisions, we’re just too overwhelmed to do it. And if we aren’t practicing it, we aren’t getting good at it. Rather, we’re just staying frustrated with ourselves that we aren’t good at it already. We aren’t good at making good decisions.

So if decision fatigue is something that shows up for you, I have one big kind of principle to offer you and some practical ideas on how to put it into action. And that big principle, that big tip, that big idea is to make fewer choices by having fewer options.

And I know we love options, like when you were a kid, and you’re like I can’t wait to be grown up and do whatever I want. And now you’re an adult and you can do whatever you want. And you’re like someone helped me, please. We love options. Oh, we love freedom and autonomy and personalizing things. But science is showing us there’s a tipping point where it becomes overwhelming and counterproductive.

A place that I felt this in my life was scrapbooking. And before scrapbooking was even a thing like it had its big day back in the 90s. I was scrapbooking my diaries. So really just imagine a lot of 17 magazines cut out against like weird poems, and some jewel lyrics that I found, you know, deep and meaningful. As side note, if you have teen diaries read those because they’re just going to give you so much more respect for your future teenage children. And Around this time, we’re just after my mom started scrapbooking and making cards and on the outside I was like lame roll my eyes, mom. But on the inside, you know that Fiona Apple side of me that appreciated that level of self expression was kind of drawn to it. But I knew I had to say no, because because if I welcomed those endless array of pattern papers, and pens, and stamps and all of the ideas, where does it end, every sheet I would ever make would have to be epic, I would take it too far. Oh, as my friend, Wendy would say, I’m earning my nerdy girlfriend status, right.

So the concept of fewer choices, how to put that into action, I want to tell you some of the things that I have found helpful.

The first one is routines, whether that’s daily routines, or just rhythms in our week that things are happening on the regular. And I really rely on routines as a type nine on the enneagram, who kind of will just do the unessential things instead of the essential things. I rely on routines to help me get things done. So we have things like the morning routine, the dinner routine, and it’s not like this big thing. It’s just, I know what I’m going to be doing. And I don’t have to think about it. These are the tasks that get done, how long it takes me to do, and I just go through the motions.

meal planning is another big one that I really rely on. So I lay out the menu for the week, we get the groceries and of course we can alter it because we’re in charge. But when I don’t want to decide what’s for dinner tonight, I just look at the menu on the fridge and I don’t have to think about it tonight is pork and carrots done. Another strategy I bring into this is a food uniform. I’ve talked about it before, where I eat the same breakfast every morning like the same kind of combination of sweet potatoes, a meat a green and cashew cream. Because I just know that that morning meal can make or break my day. And especially being gluten free. I don’t wanna have to think about it. I just want to show up. It’s in there and I can just eat and go.

Fewer clothes is a great way to reduce decision fatigue and lots of people would call this having a capsule wardrobe. So just kind of these really high quality clothes that fit you well that you can mix and match that you like to wear. And I’ve done this to some different degrees where I’ve given myself a capsule wardrobe, especially the 3430 where I wore 30 items for 30 days I’ve done that many times. You can even do a seven for seven where you were seven items for seven days. There was even a time where I just rotated the same three outfits that I wore to church on Sundays. I really nobody noticed. But you know if you’re someone who also likes clothes And you like having the options and you like trying new things, I think something really helpful with that is to do some upfront work of putting outfits together. So just spending like an hour in your closet, make a nice coffee, put on some music, and just put different outfits together. So then you don’t have to think about it. You can take a picture on your phone, you can write it down, I don’t know how nerdy Do you want to get. But you have these outfits, you don’t have to think about it, they’re just there for you.

A big way that I reduce the amount of decisions I have to make is I make a plan for my week. And I have certain days that I do certain work and certain tasks on. Some people might call this time blocking. But to me that’s more of like, a drill down focus on how you spend the chunks of your day, like from nine to 10, I’m gonna walk with the girlfriend from 12 to one hour fold laundry. So for me, I do more of like, this is the day I do this, no matter how you do it, though, it really takes the effort out of thinking, what should I do next? What should I be doing right now. So if you spend some upfront work, just deciding how your weeks going to be laid out what needs to get done, when can you do it, then you’re going to feel so much more freedom, when you just know, like, yeah, this is what I’m doing this afternoon.

I think how we spend our time is something that mums can get the most decision fatigue on. Because there’s too many options. There’s what we aren’t doing, what we should be doing what we want to be doing, what we need to be doing. Like all of the options you could do in an afternoon, if you think about them. There’s the exercise, which I know we all put on our list, I should be exercising, there’s reading something we enjoy, or chores like laundry, or cleaning out the fridge, doing some freaking self care, like meditation, or the errands, making phone calls. There’s just too many options. And we can’t do it all. But it’s all screaming at us. When we’re in this moment asking ourselves, what should I do right now. And your brain is like, I don’t know, all I got is ketchup chips, go eat ketchup chips. By the way, if you’re in the States, I don’t think you guys have ketchup chips there. So they’ll tell me what your equivalent, like brainless snack food is that you just like defer to. So that is making a plan for how you’re spending your time.

And the other component to that is the habits you do want to have in your life, make a plan for those. So I am trying to stay accountable with just being active in the week and exercising about four times in my week. And if I don’t decide in advance what I’ll do like exactly what I’ll do, and when I’ll do it, and you know, I even really like to spend some time visualizing it to give my brain that dress rehearsal to pump me up. Like I know, tomorrow morning, I plan to go on the treadmill after breakfast. And I am kind of thinking about what I’m going to listen to when I do it and how long I’m going to go like all of these things. I’m really thinking about it and putting that visualization in process. Because I think it is really rare that we find an extra 30 minutes in our day and we proactively decided we’d muster up that motivation muster up that willpower. And we say yes, I’m gonna go run on that treadmill for 20 minutes, and then I’m gonna have a quick rinse. That’s how I’m going to spend my next 30 minutes. We don’t really do that. So for me just having more of a plan like if you decide I’m going to exercise today will do I go to the gym, do I run outside? It’s still nice. Do I have an arm day? Like, is that a thing? Should I be doing that? Do I take pre workout like, I don’t know about you, but my brain is just like spiral. Because there’s just such this overwhelm of choices that come with the idea of exercising. So I need to spend a little bit of time ahead of time, keep it really simple. Here’s the two things that I rotate between. And here’s how I do them and which 1am I going to do today.

So I think offering fewer choices is also something we can start to offer our kids and just bring this into their life over time. To me, the easiest way to start is having fewer toys. And what I’ve noticed over the years of helping my kids declutter their toys decluttering for them is that the less options there are the less overwhelmed because imagine just standing in a room full of toys. The kid is like picking things up and kind of putting it down. But have you ever been somewhere and the only thing your kid has is like a Rubbermaid bin and a balloon and they play they make this game up, other kids are playing with them because that is just what’s available. Like think of the things that your kids play with when there’s nothing else to play with because it’s just available.

So reducing the options reducing the overwhelm. I think it engages them more. And to me that’s really my bigger takeaway is choices and options. They become a distraction. They are mental clutter, their physical clutter, their life clutter, and when we remove those distractions, that noise, we start to make space for Well, just to like breathe, right. But we also start to make space to just be who we really are, and do what we really want to do the most right now in this season of life.

And I think the key always comes back to getting to know who you are and what you want. Knowing your values, knowing your vision, spend some time doing that. I talked about it like every episode, and just spend some time deciding ahead of time on purpose, because your brain acts differently in the moment, when you feel the pressure to just decide the stress response kicks in, you’re using a different part of your brain that does not deal with long term rational decision making, you’re using that more stressed out part of your brain that says just make it stop, just fix it now. So deciding ahead of time, proactively, it helps you to be so much more intentional.

Alright guys, let’s wrap up with a simple pleasure. And today is an instagramer. I enjoy Instagram. I don’t know if Instagram has curated it’s feed to me to include a lot of dance videos and cats. I’m enjoying my Instagram experience these days, I want to share with you a woman named Hayley Morris, and she is a comedian with the cutest English accent. And she does these little skits that she kind of calls me versus my brain. And she brings in other body parts like the stomach and the liver. And it’s just so funny, because her brain is constantly like stirring the pot. And it’s just so many perfect examples of the mental drama that we have in our daily life. Like she does skits on dating and farting during yoga and getting your period and they’re just so clever. I’m gonna link to one they’re so clever, they’re so simple, but it’s just like so true. I’m gonna link to one about how it feels when you call to book a haircut is just so good. So check that out if you’re interested in some good laughs

And guys, as always, I appreciate the time with you. I enjoy you being here. And I do encourage you to take one hot minute, scroll down in your podcast player and click leave a rating leave a review, it would be so appreciated your ratings and reviews help this podcast help it grow. And I really do love reading your messages. Alright friends, have a great week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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