The average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. Oy! With all of the stimulation of modern life (news, social media, the buzz of email and text notifications) coupled with daily work and family responsibilities, it’s a wonder we get anything done at all. One surefire way to feel less overwhelmed is to find ways to reduce and automate your daily decision-making.
I’ll be transparent with you, even as an organizing expert who’s built a life and career around minimalism and simplicity, I still find it challenging to remember when my quarterly taxes are due or the car needs to be serviced. I just found out after nine years of owning a home that we’re supposed to be regularly cleaning out our gutters and checking and changing heating and cooling filters. WHO HAS TIME FOR THIS.
I’m honestly amazed at how many balls adults are expected to keep in the air (which is why I went easy on myself when we learned our kids’ passports were expired days before our trip to Europe).
With so much constantly competing for our attention, it’s up to us to constrain our choices and prioritize in advance what we want to spend our precious time and energy on. Automating the things that are important can help reduce decision fatigue and ensure you save time and energy for the things that matter.
Read on for a roundup of quick tips on to help you automate and simplify some key aspects of your life.
It took Jordan and me years to tire of the daily “who’s doing what?” check in and start clearly delegating our household chores and responsibilities. We’ve done our best to divide and conquer after I had a meltdown where I may have shrieked “I NEVER WANT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING FOR DINNER AGAIN.”
To streamline our process, we all have clear jobs now: I stock the house with household supplies, groceries, and snacks and handle all things having to do with planning, organization, and social events. Jordan does ALL the cooking, pays the bills, and oversees a million other things I’ve lost track of. The girls are in charge of feeding the dog, dishes, and packing their own lunches, and we are each responsible for our own laundry. I knock mine out every Sunday and Jordan and I take turns with the sheets and towels.
Try it: Consider how you can automate household responsibilities. You might want to consider a single “get it done day” or assign each day a few small tasks. I personally prefer to batch everything for Sundays so I can feel more carefree during the week.
The New York Times has a comprehensive home maintenance checklist that made me feel very sleepy. If you want to take good care of your home, consider giving it a skim and adding annual or bi-annual maintenance appointments to your little black book. Ditto for your vehicle(s). I plan to get right on this now that I’ve learned all of the things we’ve been neglected for years. Better late than never!
Try it: Make a list of your key household maintenance items from deep cleaning to painting to home upkeep and repairs and schedule them on your calendar annually.
I’m admittedly the worst at meal planning (see my guide for people who hate meal planning here) so I’m always on the lookout for great ideas to simplify this dreaded task. I’ve spoken with a lot of parents who swear by a weekly collection of themed nights (Monday is mediterranean, Tuesday is taco night, etc.) and my friend Naomi (a busy ER doc with three boys) has been able to streamline her grocery list into a repeatable online delivery order. She clicks a button and everything she needs to feed her family for the week arrives on her porch the next day. If eating the same thing on repeat feels like a snooze, you can also try setting up a meal swap with friends or neighbors. We teamed up with our neighbors to take turns hosting dinner every Wednesday. It’s been great to have a built in social plan and know that we don’t have to think about dinner every other Wednesday. Two birds, one stone.
Try It: Experiment with themed dinners, automated grocery, meal kit, or farmer’s market box delivery, or even a meal swap within your local community. You might also want to keep a note on your phone that includes all of your household and pantry staples so you can restock or re-order easily.
Rain or shine, every Tuesday at 7pm I meet my friends Laura and Caitlin for dinner. We order takeout (usually sushi) and fill each other in on the details of our lives. Caitlin hosts, and Laura and I bring wine and fancy chocolate. We’ve been doing this for years now and it’s one of my very favorite rituals – and a simple way to prioritize our friendships. No more texts back and forth trying to coordinate dates, times, and locations – Having a weekly plan ensures that we see each other consistently and without any of the headache of dealing with planning or logistics.
Another example: My friend Tiffany and I live a bridge apart, so we meet once a month for lunch. We both travel a lot, so she suggested instead of trying to sort out a regular date, we just check our calendars and schedule our next date at the end of lunch before we say goodbye. It takes about two minutes, and spares us from the draining email back and forth.
Try it: Who do you want to see more of? Whether it’s date night with your partner or social plans with your best friends, consider how you can automate and simplify your meet ups and social events. You can even automate your annual holiday parties and gatherings.
The only way I work out is if I schedule it. Period. End of story. I walk every single morning as soon as I wake up, and now I’ve also scheduled two weekly yoga classes on repeat. I used to search for classes each week when I was tired and then give up because it all seemed too complicated. Having weekly classes scheduled ahead of time ensures I get up and go. Bonus: I get to know the teachers and repeat students which adds more accountability and support for working out.
Try it: Whether you want to start small like me with a daily stroll, enroll in classes, or train for a marathon, solidify your fitness schedule in advance and schedule it in your calendar.
In an effort to reduce paper clutter, I’ve signed up for digital invoices and auto-bill pay for everything under the sun. When we’re really on track, Jordan and I review finances and pay bills together and also schedule an annual “tax date” in February so we can prep taxes for our CPA well before the April deadline.
Try it: When it comes to finances consider setting up auto bill pay, an annual tax date, and anything else that will keep you on track.
Wellness and Self Care
Oof… this one tends to really get lost in the shuffle, but might be the most important of all. Scheduling annual physicals, dentist appointments, gynecology exams, etc. is no one’s idea of a good time, but alas, they must be done. I’ve started scheduling annual or bi-annual reminders in my calendar so I’m cued to take care of business. You can also automate personal appointments like haircuts, facials, manicures, or facials.
Try it: Do a quick audit of the health practitioners you see and make sure you have appointments or reminders set up. Ditto for the fun stuff like your bi-monthly pedicure or quarterly trip to get your eyebrows waxed or your highlights refreshed.
While it may seem like a drag to do all of this pre-planning, and scheduling, automating your life can actually free up more time for creativity, spontaneity, and freedom. Have you found constructive ways to streamline and automate your life? Please share in the comments below.