Are we there yet? No, we’re not. Unfortunately. We will need to follow social-distancing mandates for a few more weeks, which brings a host of work and family challenges, no doubt. Even if we agree that social distancing is the right thing to do to “flatten the curve," it requires we navigate in uncharted territory.
Much has changed lately, and we've had to adapt as best as we can. Working from home, for example, is a considerable disruption of our routine, and it’s more challenging for those unprepared for it. To successfully adapt to these unfamiliar events, we need to relax our standards and simplify the decision-making process.
Lately, much has been written about how to stay productive while working remotely. However, I want to talk about one strategy in particular that will streamline your days no matter your situation: default decisions.
Default decisions are those we make once and stick to them, like Steve Jobs wearing a black turtleneck to avoid having to choose a different outfit every morning. One less morning decision he had to make. We make thousands of decisions every day, and the process takes energy. Some decisions need to be weighed carefully, yet others can be streamlined without any negative impact. By turning some decisions into default choices, we save a lot of time, stress, and energy.
To make matters more complicated, during this stay-at-home mandate, most of us will have to make do without outside help in the house. Childcare, meal prep, cleaning, and laundry will all fall on mommy and daddy's shoulders. We can simplify these unavoidable duties by making default decisions beforehand, like having a family schedule and reducing chores to only the indispensable -forget about non-essential tasks, nobody will notice if you didn't dust the lampshades! To maintain our sanity, we need to be more flexible. These days, we need peace of mind more than a spotless home.
Decide, with your partner, who's on childcare duty in the mornings and who's in the afternoon.
For meal prep, default decisions are also of great help. We all know about the already famous Taco Tuesdays; you can come up with other fixed easy-to-prepare menus for other weekdays. Why not have a family meeting and discuss meal options? Choose items that everybody loves so you can repeat them every week. By making this default decisions, you avoid having to think about what to prepare every day and what to buy every time you hit the grocery store.
Schedule house chores according to your children's ages. Are they too young to take out the garbage can? Fine, have them make their beds and set/clear the table at every meal. Every task needs to go on the family schedule along with the name of the person accountable for it. Laundry day? Have kids help sorting and folding their clothes -teach them how to do it, and if you don’t like the final result, don't fret and look the other way. They'll do better next time.
No time to fold towels? Skip this step by laundering them and hanging them back in their hooks. The goal is to have clean towels, right? Good, goal achieved!
To make this work, you have to make these decisions beforehand. Avoid going through the same decision-making process every time you need to complete a task.
Default decisions make your life easier. Think about what you want to do once and stick to your choice. If it didn't go as planned for some reason, fine, make adjustments next time, but once the solution works, repeat it—no need to dwell on the same question over and over again.
Default decisions free your brain from having to come up with answers to routine issues. Decide on a weekly menu (and replicate it every week), decide on a brand of cereal and buy the same one every time, decide on a daily schedule of activities for your kids and follow it daily. The goal is to streamline your must-do activities as much as possible, freeing time for the good stuff.
Do you have a few default choices already? I would love to hear from you! Comment below and like and share this post.