Achieving goals isn’t easy, but decades of management research demonstrates that setting a clear goal provides us with a huge amount of motivation. In the workplace, when managers set clear goals and provide their employees with specific feedback, they see better performance. It’s no different when setting your own goals, although it’s harder to get that feedback, because you have to give it to yourself!
This time of year, managing motherhood often means managing your family vacation. We just got back from vacation, and although it was a lovely time, I was again reminded of how different it is to vacation with children. We’ve done it quite a bit with both boys, but it required an adjustment in our expectations. When he was 9 months, we took Tony to Brazil along with a study abroad trip I was chaperoning, and last summer when they were three and five months, we took Tony and Gus to Copenhagen and Oslo. This summer, we’re laying a bit low – a trip to New Jersey and the Catskills, and in a few weeks our family gathering at Long Beach Island. Along the way I’ve discovered some helpful ways to travel with children.
I’ve written about decision fatigue, the phenomenon of decisions becoming more difficult when we make too many of them. You can learn a little more about my framework in my guest post on Our Parenting Spot, or check out the Smith Brain Trust video on decision fatigue featuring my VARI framework.
Digitize, Delegate, Delay, and Diligence
Automation may sound high tech, but it simply means making things “self-moving.” I place things you automate into four buckets: digitize, delegate, delay, and diligence. Digitize is just what it sounds like: use technology to make something easier. Delegate means getting someone else to do the work; don’t worry, it doesn’t always involve hiring someone. Sometimes, we can delegate to our partner or our kids! Delay means just waiting on something until you know you’re more capable of making a decision. And finally, diligence means setting up a habit for yourself that takes the willpower out of making important decisions, such as exercise or saving money.
Today I thought I’d share five ways I like to alleviate decision fatigue through automation. Sure, a couple of these cost money, but a couple are no cost ways to make your day a little easier. Enjoy!
- Wearing an exercise tracker. While the new Apple Watch runs anywhere from $349 to $17K (what?!?), you can get a pedometer on Amazon for less than $17. I finally invested in a FitBit, and while I have not yet gotten to the 10K steps per day, I’ve definitely increased my activity. I finally accepted that right now, I couldn’t carve out a whole separate half our for the gym, but I can make moving more a part of my regular life. The tracker helped me actually start taking the stairs to my fourth floor office. By providing a feedback mechanism for how much your moving, the tracker motivates us to move more. The reinforcement theory of motivation proves that just like giving your kid a cookie for cleaning up, seeing your progress in black and white can have a truly inspiring effect!
- Establishing multiple email accounts. This was a trick I learned from Mike Vardi over at “The Productivityist” (yeah, a mouthful) – set up different email accounts for each of your roles. I now have an email address that is solely dedicated for my undergraduate students, who tend to email me a lot. Rather than waste time sorting through their emails when I’m not in a mindset to deal with them, I tackle that particular inbox only when I’m ready. I also have an inbox just for mailing lists I’m on. That way, if I have five minutes of downtime and I want to catch up with the blogs I like, I can just go to that inbox and enjoy some fun reads. Like the laundry, my email is pre-sorted. You can do this for FREE by using Gmail or another internet-based email service.e.
- Setting up a laundry drop-off station for the whole family. Based on a homemaking video I watched by Holly, a self-described “Family Manager Coach,” I set up a single laundry station in our upstairs hallway where everyone drops off their laundry and in doing so, sorts it into lights and darks. It took about one minute to explain the concept to my four year old, who now likes to help (“Is this a light, Mommy?”), and now anyone can grab a load and go. The laundry sorts itself! Well, sort of.
- Getting groceries delivered. There are a lot of new apps out there that can deliver your groceries to your door. From your local grocery chain to the behemoth Google and their new service, Google Express, let someone else do the grocery shopping for you. I have been using Instacart. On the weekend, it allows me to spend some more time with the boys while having someone else do the shopping. There’s a $3.99 delivery fee, and for some stores, they mark up items. Because I get to spend the time playing with the boys, I find the delivery well worth it. (Please note, the link takes you to my “referral” link for Instacart which does save me money on it if you sign up, just a disclaimer. Feel free to Google it separately if you feel that’s sketchy.)
- Doing nothing. Yes, a tried and true tactic. Try doing nothing this weekend and see how it makes you feel. I read Greg McKeown’s Essentialism, and it had the profound suggestion that sometimes, we could fit in some extra work or an extra activity, or… we could take a nap. If the baby is sleeping, and my older son is playing with my husband, I sometimes just lay down for a nap. It feels great. No one will die if the laundry doesn’t get done, and my students can wait another day for their papers to get graded. Doing nothing with your kids is sometimes fun, too. Rather than fit in another activity or another educational moment, just see what they want to do. In my house, a lot of the time, it’s have dinosaurs attack each other. Just try “nothing” for an hour or two this weekend, and see if it doesn’t help you feel a bit more relaxed.
Do you have any automations? Share them in the comments!