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Maximize productivity: Here are 7 ways to minimize decision fatigue in your life

Since I began thinking hard about people who wear the same thing every day, I’ve been examining other ways to minimize decisions in my daily life.


I’ve put this into practice in obvious ways, and unusual ones. Here are a few practices to minimize decision fatigue and maximize productivity and creativity.

1. Eat the same thing

Back in my Crossfit days, many of our gym’s elite performers ate the same thing every day. And I mean the exact same thing—turkey, green beans and almonds, 5 mini-meals per day, with only dinner for variety. They aren’t alone—many successful people regularly eat the same thing to free up mental space.

2. …Or almost the same thing

There are less drastic ways to implement the same principle. We have pizza every Friday. My friend goes further than this (and I’m thinking of following her lead)—she’s made a loose weekly formula for her family’s meals to guide their choices. Asian on Monday, Mexican on Tuesday, Italian on Wednesday. (More ideas on formulas here.)

3. Embrace daily routines

I make coffee every morning, then sit down at the computer (or grab a legal pad) and start writing. (Not Facebook, not email. Writing.) Then I’m out the door for a run. (Okay, not this week—but I can’t wait till the ice melts off our streets.)

It turns out I’m doing something right—time management experts say if you don’t know where to start, start with implementing a morning routine and evening routine. I also have a routine for the 2:00 hour, which is when I hit my daily slump.

4. Establish hard edges in your day

This tip is from the pithy guide Manage Your Day to Day.

“Set a start time and a finish time for your workday, even if you work alone. Dedicate different times of day to different activities—creative work, meetings, correspondence, administrative work, and so on. These hard edges keep tasks from taking longer than they need to and encroaching on your other important work. They also help you avoid workaholism, which is far less productive than it sounds.”

I’ve been gradually building more of these hard edges into my day. I’d especially recommend it if you flirt with burnout.

5. Create if-then rules for yourself

I learned this trick from 3 tiny habits and the Heath Brothers. You’re much more likely to follow through on your good intentions if you use if-then planning—if X happens, then I will do Y. The if-then allows you to decide your course of action in advance, before you’re tired, stressed, or swamped.

For me, this looks like—if I pour a cup of coffee, then I pour a glass of water. If I’m at Trader Joe’s for the first time in a week, then I buy fresh flowers. If it’s 4:00 p.m. and I haven’t been to the park yet, then it’s time to walk the dog.

6. If it incites decision angst, drop it

Otherwise known as “why we dropped our Costco membership.” I loved having gone to Costco, but I hated going. It didn’t fit smoothly into our routine—I was never in that part of town—and I dreaded making the trip. If we need to make a major a major purchase, we’ll be back (they have the best warranty around), but until then, I’m enjoying having one less option to consider.

7. Limit your options

This is straight out of The Paradox of Choice. Too many options are just as bad as not enough—we’re happier and more productive when we consider fewer possibilities. Here’s a recent example. We’ve needed new bedding for a while. I didn’t like the options at our local bedding store, but when I started looking online I was overwhelmed by the choices. I couldn’t handle shopping the whole internet, or even the whole mall. I needed fewer options.

I explained my dilemma to my designer friend and asked her to tell me where to shop. She recommended a single store, which brought my options back into the reasonable range. (Her answer: Pottery Barn. She also suggested I should wait for March’s great linen sales, buy a duvet cover instead of a king comforter for ease of washing, and watch the sales online and in the store because they’re totally out of sync.)

You’ve got this.


This article was originally published on Modern Mrs. Darcy.


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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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