Decision fatigue. Really? Who knew what was even a “thing?” And why should you care?
If you're a small business owner, the decisions you make are critical for the success of your business. And with so much riding on the decisions you make, it's important that you're able to consistently make the best decisions.
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What Does Decision Fatigue Mean?
In other words, our brains get fatigued after making a lot of decisions and begin to make decisions that aren't the best.
How long does it take for decision fatigue to set in? Would it surprise you to learn that, for most adults, one day or less can actually be a “long period of decision making?”
Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?
If you’ve ever had days where you find yourself having difficulty making small decisions… like what to have for dinner… you have experienced decision fatigue. If you’re normally a very decisive person and suddenly find yourself having difficulty choosing a course of action, you may be experiencing decision fatigue. Or those decisions you’ve forced yourself to make when you felt distracted and depleted and, after a good night’s sleep thought, “What was I thinking?”. Those, too, are examples of decision fatigue.
I think that nowadays most people suffer from decision fatigue from time to time. And that happens because, as adults, we make an estimated 35,000 decisions each day, but have a limited capacity for decision-making.
Why? Because decisions are processed in our short-term memory, which is limited. And, when short-term memory fills up, our brains need a break to perform housekeeping tasks which include dumping unimportant information and moving the important stuff to long-term memory. That’s why getting sleep is so important! It's the time when our brains have an opportunity to perform these important housekeeping tasks that replenish our decision-making reservoirs.
But as business owners, it’s important to stay sharp and be able to make effective decisions quickly whenever the need arises. And we don’t want to make poor quality decisions or defer important decisions because our brains are too tired. So the question is...
How Can We Effectively Combat Decision Fatigue?
One effective technique is to reduce the number of non-essential, non-critical decisions we have to make, especially on particularly busy days or on days when we will be exposed to new situations or a new environment.
You’re probably already doing this to some extent if you:
- Create and use meeting agendas
- Schedule tasks on your calendar and work from a To Do list
- Lay out your outfit the night before an important meeting or event
You may also be delegating some decisions to members of your team or others to reduce the number of decisions that depend on you. For example, you may have a social media manager who makes the day-to-day decisions about how to best increase your followers and engage with your community based on the strategy and plan you have approved. And you may delegate decisions about maintenance of your website to a web developer. This is also an effective way to combat decision fatigue.
Making big or important decisions in the morning is another way to combat the adverse effects of decision fatigue because most decisions can be postponed until the next day so you can make them when your decision-making reservoir is at full capacity.
But the technique that has made the biggest difference for me focuses on combating the most frequent, recurring, non-essential decisions we all have to make each and every day. Wondering what those might be?
The answer is… FOOD! On average, adults make 226.7 decisions about food… every… day! But, if you’re a woman who has to plan meals for others… like your children, aging parents, business events, etc… that number can be substantially higher.
If you or anyone you plan meals for has special dietary needs such as gluten-free, dairy-free, diabetes-friendly, vegan, etc. the number of food decisions becomes exponentially higher as you review recipe ingredients and consider substitutions you can make.
Then, when you add grocery shopping on top of that, you can see why food is easily one of the biggest contributing factors to decision making fatigue for businesswomen. And why we may find it so challenging to eat right at the end of a busy day.
This is why I want to tell you about...
The Best $6 You’ll Spend To Combat Decision Fatigue
I don’t know about you, but I get so much satisfaction from providing healthy meals for my family. And, in my house, that’s no small feat because I have food allergies and a sensitive tummy. I also plan and prepare meals for someone who has a whole different set of special dietary needs, and help to plan meals for someone else with another set of special dietary needs.
Thanks to my studies in Nutrition and Dietetics, I’m usually able to manage all these decisions with relative ease. But, there are times when I really need help with new recipe ideas, meal planning, and grocery shopping without spending countless hours online searching for new recipe ideas and ingredient substitutions… I’ll bet you've secretly fallen down the Pinterest recipe rabbit hole a time or two as well.
A little over a year ago, with my business getting busier and more decision-making required of me, I reached a point where I realized the status quo was no longer sustainable. Something HAD to change, and I wasn’t willing to compromise our health… so… I started testing different meal planning sites to see how well they would meet our special dietary needs and whether they would make much difference for me. And, after all that research and finding the right meal planning site, I can unequivocally say the answer is a resounding YES.
In a minute, I’m going to share with you which site is The Best $6 You’ll Spend To Combat Decision Fatigue. But, before we get into that, I should probably give a little...
Introduction to Meal Planning Sites
Meal planning sites help you plan and prepare healthy meals… effortlessly... in a fraction of the time it would normally take you to do it yourself. They eliminate so many decisions, end the stress and frustration of meal planning, and even make it easy for you to get the ingredients you need. They are subscription services that can usually be paid on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis and offer lower prices for longer subscriptions.
Here’s how it works. You typically begin by selecting a “diet” (diabetic, gluten free, heart healthy, keto, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, etc.). Then, based on the diet you select, you will be presented with a “meal plan” that includes a schedule of at least a week’s worth of recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some sites will also offer additional recipes for desserts and special occasions or feeding crowds.
Most of the sites also have a recipe section where you can browse and print individual recipes available from the site itself, or from external contributing sources like professional chefs or the Food Network, for example. However, access to recipes from contributors is usually available for an additional fee, and not included in the meal plan subscription.
They may also provide a shopping list based on the ingredients for the recipes they recommend on your meal plan. So you won’t have to go through each recipe and compile a list of the items you’ll need plus add up the amounts from each recipe to determine the quantity of each item to purchase. Instead, you'll know exactly what you need to buy to prepare meals for the entire week.
And they sometimes integrate with online shopping sites (like Amazon Fresh or Shipt), personal shopping services (like Instacart), or grocery store sites (like Kroger or Walmart Grocery) so once you decide you’re going to use the meal plan that’s presented, you can order your groceries and either have them delivered or use grocery pickup which substantially reduces the amount of time you’re spending finding and purchasing the ingredients you need.
Which would you rather do… spend an hour or more walking aisle after aisle selecting your groceries and standing in a checkout line, or 15 minutes or less at grocery pickup or receiving your grocery delivery? I’ve done both and I’ll be happy if I never have to step foot in a grocery store again.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the grocery stores and each person who works there. I worked at a grocery store the whole time I was in high school, so I know what it takes to keep the shelves stocked so people can put food on their tables. But I really dislike grocery shopping. And one meal planning site, in particular, stands head and shoulders above the rest.
8 Reasons Why Real Plans Is the Best $6 You’ll Spend To Combat Decision Fatigue
1. Diet Options
And, unlike other meal planning sites, Real Plans allows you to exclude food groups (like nuts, shellfish, eggs) and specific ingredients and their variations (like vinegar, rice wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar) so you can truly create custom meal plans that meet your specific dietary needs and preferences. No more struggling to figure out substitutions for ingredients in recipes, or trying to adapt recipes to your dietary needs.
2. Planner Options
Of all the meal planning sites I’ve tested, Real Plans is the only site that allowed me to select:
- The number of people I’m preparing meals for, and then gives me the right amount of each ingredient on each recipe in my meal plan to feed that number of people. No more calculating on my part!
- Whether I want to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner and how many of each of those meals I want to prepare for the week. So, if you’re one of those people who grabs some fruit in the morning and won’t be preparing breakfast, your meal plan won’t include a bunch of breakfast recipes you’ll never use. Or, if you always treat yourself to a restaurant dinner on Fridays but make home-cooked meals the rest of the week, your meal plan would include only six dinner recipes instead of seven.
- How many portions and how many meals I want to make leftovers for because, let’s face it… we all like a fast, easy, tasty meal from time to time. And, for some of us, it’s a necessity in order to keep up with our busy and ever changing schedules.
- Whether I prefer to make different breakfasts throughout the week, make a big batch of breakfast items that are used throughout the week, have only smoothies for breakfast, or skip breakfast altogether.
- Whether I prefer to use dinner leftovers for lunches, make box lunches to take with me, make something quick, or skip lunch (for those whose meals are provided by their employers or who prefer to go out for lunch).
And the meal plans I’m presented with reflect these selections. For example, I selected one day of leftovers that would feed four people. So, it automatically doubles the ingredient amounts for one of the dinner recipes in my weekly meal plan. What could be easier?
3. Advanced Options
Real Plans is also the only site that allowed me to specify advanced options like which measuring system (metric or US) I use, whether I want seasonal recipes included in my meal plans, and perhaps most importantly, which kitchen equipment I have (such as a food processor, blender, air fryer, pressure cooker, slow cooker, and more).
There’s nothing worse than being presented with a recipe that sounds delicious but you don’t have the equipment needed to make it or have to convert the ingredient measurements. Who has the time for that?
4. Pantry Inventory Management
Have you ever wished there was an easy way to know, at a glance, what you have in your pantry and be able to update your pantry inventory as you empty an item so you know when to stock up again? Apparently, so did the folks at Real Plans because they built a “Manage Pantry” feature that enables you to do just that. With the click of your mouse, you can update the items in your pantry.
5. Editable Shopping List
Most meal planning sites present you with a shopping list for the recipes on your weekly plan, but those lists are usually static… meaning you can’t remove ingredients you already have. But with the click of a mouse, Real Plans lets you remove items from the shopping list and then enables you to submit that edited list directly to Instacart.
6. Access To Four Weeks of Meal Plans
Most of the meal planning sites I tried provided access to one or two weeks of meal plans. But Real Plans gives you access to four weeks of meal plans so if you’re like me and prefer to do one big shopping trip a month then just get a few staples the other weeks of the month, you’re going to love this feature.
7. Ability To Browse Recipe Collections & Add Them To Your Meal Plan Schedule
All of the sites I tested enable you to browse a collection of recipes within the diet you have selected, but only Real Plans allows you to browse recipes within and outside of your meal plan and add the ones you like to your meal plan schedule.
This feature is so handy if you’re planning to cook a meal for guests who have special dietary restrictions you don’t know how to cook for. Imagine how delighted they’ll be when you serve a meal they can actually enjoy.
8. Ability To Add Your Own Recipes To Your Account
You might be thinking, “I already know those recipes and can cook them whenever I want! So why would I want to do that?” Well… wouldn’t it be nice to be able to add your favorite recipes to your meal plan schedule so you don’t have to wonder if you have the ingredients on hand or have to search for your recipe? By scheduling your own recipes, the recipe will print with all the other recipes for that week, and the ingredients will be included in your automated shopping list. How easy is that?
Can you believe you get all of this for as little as $6 per month when you pay for one year in advance? If you make $18 per hour and using Real Plans saves you just one hour a week, you’ll recover the cost of your annual subscription in just one month. If you make more than that, you’ll get a return on your investment much faster.
In the spirit of full disclosure, there is one feature that doesn’t quite work as I would like it to. When I update my pantry items, it doesn’t update my shopping list. I have to go into the shopping list and remove the items I already have. But that’s the only complaint I have, and it’s minor to me because I have the ability to modify the shopping list myself.
If you’re ready to combat decision fatigue and reserve your decision-making reservoir for the decisions that matter most