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Do you have Decision Fatigue?

Resolutions For Life.

It's the time of the year when we reflect on where we've been and make ourselves promises about where we want to go. Let's do it with meaning, purpose without setting ourselves up for disappointment.

They say that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. I am pretty sure the average New Yorker makes twice that! After we decide what to wear and whether to eat breakfast and what that breakfast should be, we decide which route to take to work, whether to leave extra time for the inevitable MTA collapse, where to pick up coffee, when to stop at which grocery store on the way home (using the most expeditious route) and what to make for dinner tonight…nah, let’s order take out…ok from where? And should we order one of everything?

I think you all know what I’m talking about. That is just getting through the most average of days in this city. Now think about how we get through our personal and professional lives as Go-Getting New Yorkers. We are often exhausted and sometimes a good night's sleep alone doesn't solve that problem.

When I first started in private practice, and again this year when I took over this practice in a new neighborhood, the series of decisions I was faced with seemed never-ending. I did indeed feel fatigued a lot of the time during my off-hours (if those truly exist when you are self employed).

Decision Fatigue has gotten a lot of attention and the conventional wisdom has been to automate and make routine, as much of your day as possible: famous adherents of this advice have been President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg keeping to their basic same wardrobe choices every day.

Some people believe that this notion of decision fatigue only has power over you if you let it; if you believe that willpower is a finite resource. They believe that changing your mindset is all you need.

Needless to say, no one is perfect at keeping a perfect mindset. Life throws us curveballs, and as we’ve learned by watching children: starting and keeping to a regular routine can be the grounding needed to help us swing away at those curveballs with ease. (who is excited by my use of sports metaphors here?!)

The new year is upon us, and inevitably we all start reflecting on the year gone by (particularly challenging for a lot of us) and what we can change or improve in the new year. This often causes anxiety and sometimes sets us up for failure, so allow me to make some gentle suggestions about some Life resolutions to lay the ground work for you to swing at the curveballs and tackle the decisions that life in this city will throw your way in 2018.

Make a routine in whatever way that means for you. Automate as much as possible, some ways this can be done are:

  1. consider a ‘uniform’ for work – what do you like to wear the most? Invest in a few variations of a favorite style and stick to classics: a pair of black pants, a black skirt and a few sweaters or scarves. (Just today I brought 2 heavy bags of clothes and shoes to my local consignment store – I’m already feeling lighter knowing I have fewer clothing choices to make every day)

  2. “Batch cooking” on Sundays: make a few batches of staples: cook a few servings of rice, roast a pan of vegetables, make a batch of soup or stew in the crockpot and you have easy meals to put together and warm up for the week. You can even boil a few eggs to have a quick grab breakfast.

  3. Build a general schedule for yourself. Set regular times to eat – this is my personal struggle – my schedule can be tricky! And then assign yourself slots for other things in your day, if you like going to the gym, do it at a regular time, if at work assign yourself a slot to reply to emails and a manageable slot to tackle larger tasks.

  4. ***This is important***: don’t forget to take the long view when it comes to productivity: by this I mean, as much as we try to stick to schedules, it’s not paramount that you stick to it every single day… one day you might be inundated with emails and have to answer them for a long time. Another day your major project might take the whole day… but at the end of the week or the month, all of these things will have gottten done. Be kind to yourself and allow for the natural variations that come with our busy lives.

  5. Treat your down-time and self care time as non-negotiable. Much of the world understands this – you need to turn off sometimes to be at your best when you’re on. It seems counter-intuitive, but if you allow yourself time in your schedule to relax, you will be all the more productive the rest of the time.

  6. Perfection is the enemy of Progress. When faced with a project, task, or even the prospect of leisure time, sometimes we get stalled in our progress because we think we need to be perfect. Again, be kind to yourself and make peace with the notion of “good enough” – because if you do, you’ll progress and eventually, the perfection you were seeking, will reveal itself. It’s also helpful to remember, many solutions can actually be perfect.

Set goals for yourself. If you don’t take the time to take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually, you will have difficulty taking care of the other people and responsibilities in your life. Make your goals achievable, play the long game to success and happiness.

For some people, their time with me in the practice is when they are able to relax, and the acupuncture maximizes those effects. They make meditation or walks in the park a part of their routine, so that it is effortless to stick to these habits. This medicine is about maintenance and optimizing your body for longevity and maximum achievable output. I'd love to hear how each of you achieves your self care goals and would love to see you in the practice this year.

I wish you abundance, joy and happiness in 2018.