Overcoming Decision Fatigue with Family Meetings

My husband David shared something interesting he read about recently called Decision Fatigue.  I couldn't believe it's actually real and affects so many people these days.  It helped explain why we both were feeling tired at the end of the day, sometimes to the point we couldn't remember our name or what we did yesterday.  Yes, we're getting older but come on!

That week I thought about how many decisions I was making on the spot. So many of the same questions from my kids, requiring the same decisions over and over. Like a computer program on a loop, wearing my brain down.

For example, when I'd pick Delphine up at school she'd ask "Mommy, can I have a play date today?"  Finnegan who loves to cook would say "What are we cooking tonight?"  I had put their sports and piano activities on the calendar, but not these routine decisions. Was this causing decision fatigue? 

Time to figure it out. So I told everyone to meet at the dining table this Sunday at 1:00 for our first family meeting. 

We began the meeting by going around the table. Everyone shared one inspiration from the week. Then one frustration we had with another family member. Risky I know, but the person speaking had to practice respectful communication and the other person active listening. They could offer a solution or simply repeat back what was mentioned.  David and I had to take our turn (must role model for the kids was my selling point!) The truth is, it's an easy way to let go of normal marital stress before things build up.

Next agenda item: meals. My kids love to cook so Finnegan broke out the calendar asking others for input on what they wanted to eat, then writing down weekly meals. We don't spend time noting all the details like an exact dishes. The key is to keep meetings short, 15-30 minutes tops. Just things like: Monday - fish, Tuesday - beef, Wednesday - veg. Then Finn and I plan the details when we grocery shop. 

Next, events. Any new events this week? Finnegan notes them down as people speak.  Gone are the repeated questions "When is the next play date?" or "What are we doing today Mommy?" Delphine knows Tuesdays is her big play date day.  Friday is family reading night. Saturday family movie night (except when David and I are on dates which is now at least once a month). Family chores are Sunday morning, game night that evening.  

My mom knows I call every Tuesday at 2pm while walking to school. Less missed calls and voice mails. My mom is happier and I have less reminders floating around my head to call Mom. 

It's only been 3 weeks since our first family meeting. I have more white space to live like a carefree, creative woman! We even crossed a corner with the kids. Finnegan wants to take my job running the meetings. Delphine told me she isn't going to tell me all about a new frustration with her brother because she wants to save it for family meeting.

And best thing ever. I can finally remember my name at the end of the day!

Want to start a Family Meeting? Keep these tips in mind:

1. Schedule for same time each week.
2. Pick a location that suits your family (dining table, outdoors on hike).
3. Remove all distractions, everyone must look people in the eyes.
4. Keep short, 30 minutes or less.
5. Use a consistent agenda.
6. Let your child run meeting if they want.
7. Practice compassionate speaking and listening.
8. Make sure everyone is benefiting in some way. And have FUN!
 

My Winter Reading Ritual

Photo by Aga Putra

Photo by Aga Putra

During winter, I like to nest indoors with a good book. And these last few weeks of winter, where the air still has that crisp chill, is the perfect time to enjoy one last good read knowing that spring is about to bloom in my garden and I will spend more of my days outdoors. 

This year in particular, with the flood of information during our national election on top of all the emails, text and daily routines, I really need a good book to reboot my mind.

One thing that motivates me to slow down and read is the special ritual I've created around winter reading. After putting the kids down to bed, I leave my phone in another room (otherwise I know I'll check it constantly). Then, I make myself a cup of tea or my current go-to: a few slices of fresh ginger root in my favorite vintage cup then pour on hot water - that's it! It's simple, soothing and a great way to protect against colds.

Suitably prepared, I curl up with a wool blanket before falling into my book. Ahh! I already feel lighter and happier just thinking about it.  

If you need a book recommendation to get going, I'm loving The Course of Love: A Novel by Alain de Botton right now. The words float across the page, so romantic and uplifting. Just what my mind needs right now. 

Or if you want to explore amazing personal growth titles, check out the favorites from my book club at the bottom of this YStory.

I hope you have a winter reading ritual that is unique to you. If not, create one if you like. The simpler the better. Having a ritual will inspire you to turn the television off, put the phone away, stop folding the laundry.....and refresh your mind with the magic of a good book. OK off to make a cup of ginger tea....

How I Followed My Curiosity

September, 1997. A moving truck carrying all my possessions had just arrived in sunny San Francisco. For the past seven years I had lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. My life there was good, but I had a deep need to stimulate my mind and connect to my passion again. So I landed a job in San Francisco at a budding start-up in the center of the dot-com boom. Passion here I come!

The minute I arrived at work, feeling confident in my red power suit, I dove head first into the job. Best way I thought to find my passion, dive in. Every day my mind was more and more stimulated, expanding in every direction to absorb things at rapid-fire pace. Some days my brain ached so badly I could barely remember my name. But I was around passionate people and thought I was living my passion too. 

Little did I know then I’d made a wrong turn. I was letting my job lead the way, not my natural curiosity. 

But the signs were there. Whenever I met friends out after work, all I could talk about was work. No other interests came to mind. When I came home to my apartment, all I did was pull out my laptop, connect to passionate colleagues and work projects. Since everyone around me was living this way – calling each other Rock Stars as we were changing the world – I didn’t realize I was travelling further away from my own interests and passions, not toward them.

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On especially tiring days, I would come home and flip through a stack of home and garden books. Doing so grounded me in a strange way. Looking at the pretty rooms in the books was somehow refreshing my mind, wondering how the rooms were created. But I didn’t act on this curiosity or give it carefree white space to breathe. The next day, I simply jumped head first back into work, along with everyone else.

Finally, two years later. I left that start-up. While my brain had been stimulated, my heart yearned to find my real passion. 

After a year searching, one Sunday evening a lightbulb moment came. My fiancé David came home from an event he had attended in the city where Christy Turlington (yes, that beautiful model although she is also an author, as you will see) had spoken. He was reading a new autographed copy of her book next to me on the couch while I was flipping through a home decorating magazine.

After commenting to him that the cover was inspiring, he began to say how interesting her story was. Her book, Living Yoga, was all about her new passion for yoga.  As David recited her story, tears rolled down my cheeks. I hoped he didn’t notice, but when I couldn’t control the loud sniffling, he looked over.

“What’s wrong?” he asked with surprise.  Just responding was difficult enough, but I mustered an emotional “I am so happy for her, don’t get me wrong. But she is so passionate about something and I can’t help wanting the same. I am 35 and have no clue what my “thing” is!”

David, surely questioning my sanity, gave his best gentleman response, offering up “Don’t worry, maybe you could take a yoga class.” Immediately I lost it.  Quickly reminding myself it was best not to scare away the fiancé, I tried my calmest version of, “No, it’s not YOGA that I need. I will burst if I don’t find MY special thing! The thing I am passionate about. My message to share with world.” 

Yes, more tears, more blubbering. Feeling the need to pull it together, I politely asked if he could continue reading her nice story and pass me the Kleenex. David, surely relieved I had returned to a semi normal state, kindly added, “Don’t worry, Yasmine, you will find your something.” Yes, at least I had done something right and picked a wise guy to marry.

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That week, while alone at home, I reread Christy’s story of her finding yoga. And do you know what it reminded me of? How alive I felt flipping through those home and garden books! That inspired me to act. I decided to do something I used to do back in Charlotte that I loved, getting up at the crack of dawn and roaming antique markets on my own.   

In a few months, my curiosity around home and garden was in full swing. I was meeting people at the markets and making connections that would soon come in handy. Soon after, I happened to walk by a store in town that caught my eye – it had a For Lease sign. I could stand it no more – I had to act! Before you knew it, I was filling trucks every week with vintage finds.

Within 6 months from that night blubbering next to David, I was opening the doors to my very own home and garden store, Maison Reve (it translates to Dream Home in French). It was the outlet for my new passion, the fruits of my curiosity, and the channel to share MY life message: to inspire people to believe anything in life is possible. I’d share my message with customers every day in little ways.  I had that store for 10 beautiful years until I recently moved it online.

So the point is this. Christy’s story was what it took for a light to go on for me. Perhaps my story can be what will do it for you – is there a yearning inside your heart that needs to be connected to your passions?

If it is speaking to you, trust it.  Then try this YMoment: Follow Your Curiosity.  I can say from personal experience, your curiosity has the power to navigate you right to your passion.