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!