Every single day we make hundreds of decisions: Should I hit the snooze button or not? What time should I leave for school/work? Should I exercise today? And if so, what time? What should I eat for dinner? Should I work more hours today or go home? Etc.
There are hundreds of things, if not more, that have to be decided on daily. Some decisions are important, but most are trivial. Unfortunately, studies have shown that as humans, our capacity to consistently make well thought out decisions is finite.
What this means is that when you use your brainpower earlier in the day deciding what to eat for breakfast, you’ll consequently have less of it later in the day when you have to decide if you should have that piece of cake or not. This is what’s known as decision fatigue, which is the psychological condition where making a decision in the present will reduce your decision-making ability in the future.
John Tierney, the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling book “Willpower,” says,
“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue – you’re not consciously aware of being tired – but you’re low on mental energy.”
Simply put, every decision you make uses up your mental energy. Just the simple act of thinking about whether you should choose A or B will tire you out and reduce your brainpower. This means that the more decisions you have to make throughout the day, the weaker your decision-making process will become.
This is why many successful individuals like Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Albert Einstein decided to reduce the number of decisions they make throughout the day by doing things such as choosing to adopt a monotonous wardrobe.
They understood that less time spent on making decisions meant more brainpower and time for everything else.
For the majority of the time Obama spent in office, he always wore either a gray or blue suit. In an article by Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, President Obama explained why he did this,
“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
Steve Jobs famously wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers every day. This quickly became his signature look as well as a part of the overall brand of Apple. Steve also understood that he had a finite capacity of brainpower to make well thought out decisions. A minute more a day using his brainpower to decide which T-shirt to wear is less brainpower he would have to think about his company.
Albert Einstein was also known for owning several variations of the same gray suit so that he wouldn’t have to waste time and brainpower deciding on which outfit to wear every morning.
If you’re constantly worrying every day about little decisions like what to wear, you’ll become more mentally exhausted as the day progresses. In order to save your mental power for the important decisions of the day, you have to learn to automate the mundane decisions you go through every day so that you don’t have to constantly think about them and waste brainpower.
Here are some things you can do:
1. Like Steve, Zuckerberg, and Einstein find a few t-shirts, sweaters, jeans, and dresses you like and buy multiple quantities of them. Then essentially wear the same thing every day.
2. Schedule a set time to exercise every day. Don’t constantly use your brainpower trying to think about when is a good time to exercise.
3. Do your grocery shopping at the same time once a week.
4. Design a morning routine. The morning is filled with a lot of mundane decisions that you can learn to automate such as what to wear, what to eat, what time to leave, what time to wake up, etc. You can automate all your morning decisions with a routine.
5. Make a few meals that you have every day the same. This can be a great dieting tool, but the main idea is you don’t want to be worrying about what to make, which ingredients to use and what the nutritional value of each meal is throughout the day, every day.
These are just 5 of the hundreds of decisions that you make throughout the day that you can learn to automate. But truthfully, you could probably automate and eliminate about 80% of the decisions you make every day. You just have to be aware of this concept and learn to notice which decisions aren’t high-quality important decisions and then delegate those.
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