Last spring I completed my third Whole 30, and while the first two I did felt super restrictive, this one actually felt freeing. So of course I wondered, Why is that?
Before this Whole 30, I hadn’t felt totally in control of my eating habits. I used to be a lot more disciplined about saying no to treats in the middle of the week and saving my indulgences for the weekends. For the past couple of years, though, I’ve struggled to walk by the break room at work without picking up a snack—even a snack I didn’t particularly care for—just because it was there. Sometimes I would try to hold out, debating in my head all the way to the bathroom and back whether to eat the brownie/cookie/muffin, and I’d usually end up eating it anyway.
But when I started doing Whole 30, I had a reason to say no; it was a policy I could not violate. Suddenly I didn’t have to waste any mental energy deciding whether to indulge or feeling guilty afterward. Because my options were limited, so was my decision fatigue (and my beating-myself-up fatigue).
I do this in other areas of my life too: I don’t hem and haw over whether to try to attend that event during Selah’s nap time. I just don’t do it. I also don’t think twice about how to use her Sunday nap times: I sit down, open my laptop, and write. (Actually, I usually grab coffee first.) I started defining these types of decisions back in 2014, when I decided to start pursuing a more simple life. It was my way of learning to say no without having to feel intense guilt each time I did. I also found that I could avoid expending mental or emotional energy making these decisions over and over again; I made these decisions once, and then I followed my own precedent after that.
Several months ago, I read a blog post called “Two Words that Will Make You Happier, Calmer, and More Certain.” Those two words? Personal policy. As I read the post, I realized that this is exactly what I’ve been doing but didn’t quite have words for.
The writer’s point was that by defining our own personal policies, we can minimize decision fatigue, stand up for ourselves, and not feel guilty about it:
When we create personal policies, we remove a lot of those gray areas that trip us up. We give ourselves the structure and support we need to do the things we say we want to do.”
So in a throwback to the days when I used to do list-style blog posts (and get ready, because I think they might be making a comeback here as I learn to minimize my creative fatigue), here are some of the personal policies I live by. (I also want to acknowledge that many of these personal policies are a direct reflection of my privilege to declare them in the first place and have the resources to follow them.)
- We are at home for nap time. This is partly because I want Selah to have a good nap and partly because those nap times are my only chance each week to be alone in my house. Only for very rare, very important events will I let Selah take her nap in the car, and that’s a recent development because for the first two years of her life, she wouldn’t sleep in her carseat.
- I do what I want during weekend nap times. On Saturdays, I read or watch Netflix (usually The Great British Baking Show or Gilmore Girls for the 1764th time). On Sundays, I draft new essays. No chores allowed.
- I don’t schedule more than one weeknight and two weekend obligations. Any more than that and my whole week feels way too frantic.
- I don’t do kids’ birthday parties. I make exceptions here occasionally for family and super-close friends, but mostly I have this policy just to release myself from guilt when I choose not to attend.
- I don’t attend online or in-person MLM events. I used to feel so much guilt about not going, and guilt about going and not buying, and guilt about going and buying and spending money on things I didn’t want. Now I just say no across the board, but if I am truly interested in the product, I’ll request an online catalog to peruse on my own time.
- I don’t stay at hotels whose doors are accessed from the outside. I’m too much of a scaredy cat.
- If I can pay to outsource it, I will. I pay for a cleaning service to deep clean my house once per month, and I keep up (barely) with wiping down counters and sweeping the floors in between. We recently did a ton of home renovations, and by “we did,” I mean we hired a bunch of people to do those renovations. Yes, it was more expensive, but with me working all week and Dan working all weekend, our precious hours of overlapping time was worth more than what we paid.
- If I am offered a treat that is topped with streusel, I will always eat it. Unless I’m doing Whole 30.
- I always get popcorn with extra butter at the movie theater. Because I’m human. If I’m doing a Whole 30, I just don’t go to the movies. It’s not worth it to me if there’s not buttery popcorn involved.
- I always check Amazon Prime for an item I need before going to the store. Because I can (almost) always wait two days for it to arrive, and running errands is my very least favorite thing to do.
These personal policies really do help me preserve my time and my physical and mental energy for the things that are most important to me—family, writing, and self-care.
What are some of your personal policies? Are there any new ones you think you might need to adopt?
P.S. These are the things I do, and these are the things I don’t do.
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash.