After a long exhausting day, it can be very difficult to maintain the kinds of habits or routines that help move us in the right direction for our lives. There is something called decision fatigue that can result in poor decision-making. It’s often why we end up with only enough energy to binge a show at night snacking on unhealthy (but yummy) food.
Decision fatigue is when the brain gets exhausted from making decisions. You may have heard of the study where judges make better parole decisions at the start of the day and after lunch. They calculated that the later you were in the day prior to a rest, the more likely the answer would be ‘no’. It’s a lot easier to play it safe and say no rather than go through the difficult process of thoughtfully weighing all the information.
You may also have heard about people like Bill Gates who wear the same clothing over and over again. It is to reduce the number of inconsequential decisions in order reserve energy for more important decisions.
Why is that so important for parents to understand? It means that not only do you often have a career that you are trying to maintain, but you also have parenting responsibilities that take up a lot of your mental capacity. Your brain never takes the time to recover from decision-making all day long.
This builds up frustrations that can explode when our children do things that feel counterproductive, like talk back or ignore us when we are asking them to do necessary things. Decision fatigue will result in us sliding into what is easiest at the moment, which is blow up — rather than pause, approach it with curiosity, and figure out what is really going on.
This is not a problem that can be solved using a One and Done approach. This is something that has many layers and will require a lot more effort to change. It is very important to break it down so that we can slowly work on things one tiny piece at a time. The Power of One can change that for us. It reminds us to focus on one thing at a time and slowly build it up until we own it. Once we own it, it’s ours and becomes much easier to do.
The POWER of One
P – PICK
PICK one goal to focus on at any moment in time.
Do not get distracted by the many competing priorities, shoulda woulda couldas. Do not jump from one goal to another. Focus on one goal at a time.
O – ONE
Keep breaking it down until you reduce it to ONE tiny step and commit to it.
Make sure that it is small enough for you to say, yes, I can do this. And I will commit to it, because it’s easy. If it’s not small enough, break it down even more. Break it down until it becomes one thing you know you can do without fighting yourself. Make sure that one task does not involve any decision-making that gives you an out. In other words, MAKE IT AS EASY AS POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO DO WHAT YOU COMMITTED YOURSELF TO DOING.
W – WIN
When you complete it, check it off and count it as a WIN.
In the beginning, it may be helpful to write it down and check it off. Sometimes the act of checking something off can help us feel productive.
E – EVOLVE
Be open to EVOLVING it, depending on your resources at the moment (energy, circumstances, etc.).
Do not compromise that it has to get done, but shift it harder and easier as you need to. Just commit to getting it done.
Each time you go through the POWER steps, you can adjust the routine
R – REPEAT
REPEAT it and build it into your daily ROUTINE.
Commit to doing it everyday, evolve the what, where, when, and how until it becomes second nature to you. Don’t worry about how good or bad it is, just do it. If it is too easy and you are up for more, do more. If you don’t think you can do more, do the most basic version of it. But just don’t compromise that it gets done.
Pick one goal: Stop Yelling at the Kids
This goal can be easy for some people or a monumental ginormous mountain to overcome. If we have rage, it’s pretty difficult to repress it. It will come out at some point in time — or else we end up turning it inwards and the stress can be harmful to our health. So we have to find the tiniest step that we think we can practice until it becomes second nature.
Commit to One: Depending on the Stage of Your Evolution
Depending on where you are in your evolution, the One you are committing to can look very different. At the beginning of the journey, the one may just be to be aware when you are actually over-reacting, even if it’s mid-yell. Just notice it. No judgment, just awareness. Oh, I’m yelling. I’m really mad. I’m about to say words that might be hurtful.
Check off the Win: Keeping Track
Do not use this step to judge yourself. This is not an exercise in making yourself feel bad. It’s an exercise to give you information about whether or not this one thing is the right one for you. You are doing research. Make it as easy as possible to keep track. Just be able to say, now I’m aware. If you did it, write it down and say, Yay, I was aware of it!
Evolve the Goal: Figure Out How to Fit It in Your Life
Once you are aware, figure out how you want to manage it. For me, I started to pivot a bit, not too much, because it was so difficult. As soon as I noticed it, I would continue to yell, but the words would change to “I’m yelling. I’m sorry. I’m mad, but it’s not your fault. Let me calm down.” And it helped, because then we were all aware that I was over-reacting. They knew that I knew. And I knew that they knew I knew.
Repeat: Make It into a Routine
It became a game for us. Noticing it made it less emotionally charged and we even had moments when I would overact the anger and we would burst out laughing. That took awhile, but after awhile, I was no longer a ‘yelly’ mommy. Going through the POWER loop, I picked the next step, which was to take a breath. Then the next step was to figure out where the anger was actually coming from. Then the next step was to find other ways to share my thoughts. Then the next step was to figure out how to allow them to express their own opinions without feeling like they were disrespecting me.
Everyone’s steps and routines will be slightly different depending on resources, space, time, personalities, etc. But the one thing that can get us through is the power of that one little tiny step. Commit to one. Watch how that one step can turn into 100 steps.
You can do this!
- Start with ‘find a task management application I like to use’ and try out different ones until one works for you where you can list out things you want to get done and then check them off. But don’t start adding a bunch of things that won’t get done. Just add a thing or two and check them off as they get done until you using the task manager starts working for you. Then play with it.
- Commit to something like one push up. Or even something as benign as change into exercise clothing. Or walk around the block once. Pick something you know you can stick with. And if you can’t, make it even smaller. You don’t have to do more, but if you do, it’s an EXTRA win.