We’re faced with hundreds of decisions every day beginning the instant we wake up.
Some decisions are important, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, most are trivial. Unfortunately, these trivial decisions are taking their toll as new studies have shown that as humans, our capacity to consistently make well thought out decisions is finite.
This means the more brainpower you exert early in the day deciding what to eat, the less you’ll have to make wise decisions as the day progresses. This is what’s known as decision fatigue, the psychological condition where making a decision in the present will reduce your decision-making ability in the future.
John Tierney, co-author of the New York Times bestselling book “Willpower,” explains:
“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 what playlist to listen to in the car 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, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg have chosen to adopt a monotonous wardrobe to reduce the number of decisions they make throughout the day.
For the majority of the time Obama spent in office, he always wore either a gray or blue suit. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the former POTUS explained, “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 also understood that he had a finite capacity of brainpower to make well thought out decisions and famously wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance sneakers every day.
Then there’s Mark Zuckerberg, who doesn’t just “like” (bad joke) his gray tee’s, he lives in them.
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.
So, what can you do to pare down your decisions?
- Adopt a signature look. Find a few t-shirts, sweaters, jeans, and dresses you like and buy multiple quantities of them.
- 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.
- Make a few meals that you can eat every day, consistently. 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 a few examples of ways to cut down on the number of trivial decisions you make in a day, but only you know what works for you. Get creative with your schedule, keep it consistent, and conserve your brainpower for when you need it!
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Don Patrick is an amateur writer and sports enthusiast. He loves reading books, listening to the Huberman Lab Podcast, and spending time with his family and friends. Don is also a personal trainer and youth hockey coach.