Week by Week – Deciding Less

3 Jul , 2017 Culture,Lifestyle,Sports,Technology

Week by Week – Deciding Less

“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.” – Barack Obama, Vanity Fair



Decision FatigueDecision Fatigue is a real issue. As I get older I think more about how I can avoid mental exhaustion. To that end, we’ve automated a lot of key repetitive tasks in our lives. From grocery delivery, to landscape maintenance, pest control, dry cleaning, house keeping, food delivery, pet sitter, and much more. The goal is not to be lazy and have the free time to lounge around, but instead to open up our creative and critical thinking capacity. 

Many would not think that most of the above activities would be a brain drain, but when measured against the total number of decisions someone is asked to make in a day, it can lead to decision fatigue. That state has a measurable effect on the quality of your decisions as the day progresses. Moreover, I recently read an article about how we are constantly inundated with prompts from the smart devices around us which are really creating more and more decision points.

One topic that can lead to decision fatigue is the everyday battle with clothing choices. As part of a recent experiment, I wore the same outfit four days in a row to work and no one seemingly noticed or mentioned it. We make too much of deciding what to wear everyday. This interaction kills time and can drain creativity from our brains before we’ve even left the house. Therefore, I am going to make this experiment a permanent one adopting a life uniform; joining the likes of Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Tom Ford, and Michael Koda. I will be combining this approach with a Capsule Wardrobe technique and switch between two basic outfits everyday. 

The goal is to optimize one more area of decision making that I have hated dealing with since High School. Appearance, is extremely important to most of us. We derive confidence and, for better or worse, some sense of self worth. So what I am suggesting is, find one or a FEW really great items that go with almost anything, so that you can make that decision point one of the smoothest and fastest everyday. Then go into the world with that same confidence and high degree of satisfaction you need.

Capsule Wardrobes and Life Uniforms

Capsule Wardrobes and Life Uniforms

It’s not just on the topic of clothing where I want to bring precision level planning to my life. Some other areas I want to optimize include the list below.

Decision Optimaztion Areas:

  • Exercise: Create a simple and effective workout routine that can be repeated everyday and anywhere.
  • Finances: Reduce the number of financial accounts we have to 6 or less and have them all automated.
  • Wardrobe: Reduce wardrobe options and inventory a max of 99 pieces of clothing entirely.
  • Mornings: Simply my morning routine, to be completed within 30 minutes.
  • Food: Limit meal choices to 1 of 3 healthy options for 80% of meals; mostly breakfast and lunch.
  • Passwords & Security: Utilize a password generator and manager. 
  • Software Applications: Delete apps that do almost the same thing with no key differentiator.

Beyond these areas, I’ve also started to eliminate the notifications on electronic devices that are really inputs asking me to make a decision every time they pop up. I’ve also started to block and avoid advertising in my email by unsubscribing from everything, using ad blocking apps, and avoiding TV. In fact, I rank advertising as one of the worst assaults on our mental faculties. Email marketing campaigns, social media, search ads, and TV commercials all work together to erode our will power and eventual our ability to make informed and intentional decisions. When that comes to money, it can be disastrous. Below is a great action plan I came across that can help you fight this onslaught of stimulus. 

Action Plan for Combating Decision Fatigue:

From: Tony Wideman

  1. Make your big decisions in the morning.
  2. Choose the simple option.
  3. It does not have to be perfect.
  4. Limit Your Time On Social Media.
  5. If it is not a Hell Yes, Than It Is A No.

One could argue that suppressing the amount of decision making you have to make could starve the brain of much needed mental exercise. I would agree, which is why it is important to fill the newly freed up decision making capacity and time with creative, educational, and experietianal pursuits. From learning an instrument or language, to traveling to new places, or even just communicating better with those around you.

To be fair, not all decisions are the same. In fact, it’s because they are not all the same that they should not all carry the same prioritization. Given our ever busier and busier lives, it only makes sense to me automate the lowest value choices so that greater analysis can be put into the decisions that really matter. The shoes you wear don’t matter compared to a decision to buy or hold on a particular stock. 

Minimalism factors big into avoiding decision fatigue. The decluttering of your life has a direct connection to decluttering your mind. So, I have created and I am sharing here my target Capsule wardrobe to illustrate how detailed and organized I have tried to make my clothing options and remove a decision point from my everyday life. Also, I have shared some examples of highly successful people who took a similar approach.

Clothing Capsule

Pants6Blue, GreyDenim & Travel Jeans
Shirt6Blue, WhiteOxford
Shirt1BlueCasual, Short Sleeve
Shirt1WhiteFormal French Cuff
Shirt1BlackOU Golf Shirt
Jersey1RedAtlanta United
Jersey1WhiteAtlanta Braves
Jersey1BlackNew Zealand
Suit1Blue3 Button
Suit1Grey3 Button
Shoes1BrownLeather Boots
Shoes1BlueSuede Boots
Shoes1GreyTrail Running
Shoes1OrangeSoccer Cleats
Shorts3Grey, Blue, KhakiCasual
Swim Trunks2Khaki, RedBoard Shorts
T-Shirt6Grey, WhiteCasual
Long Sleeve T-Shirt5GreyCasual
Underwear7Blue, RedSport
Thermal Bottom3Grey, WhiteCasual
Tie2Grey, BlueSkinny Tie
Bowtie2Plaid, BeachFormal
Wind Breaker1BlackSport
Down Jacket1BlackSport
Shell Jacket1RedSport
Heavy Jacket1BlueCasual
Ski Jacket1BlueSport
Ski Pants1BlueSport
Athletic Shorts5GreySport
Athletic Shorts1BlackCycling Shorts
Athletic Shorts1GreySwim
Athletic Bottoms1BlackCompression
Athletic Tops5Black, Blue, RedSport
Athletic Tops1BlackCycling Jersey
Arm Sleeves1BlackCompression
Athletic Socks6BlackRunning, Cycling
Long Athletic Socks5VariousSki, Compression, Soccer
Hats3VariousPatriots, Kauai, California
Bracelet1RedCasual & Formal, Leather
Tie Clip1SilverFormal
Ring1GreyTungsten Wedding Band

Famous Decision Automators:

  • Karl Lagerfeld – many famous designers wear a uniform outfit themselves.
  • Barack Obama – limits wardrobe to two suit choices, used simple email responses of “Agree,” “Disagree” or “Discuss” for most emails, keeps a select social calendar.
  • Mark Zuckeberg – limits wardrobe to gray t-shirt with a black hoody and jeans majority of the time, simplified food choices.
  • Steve Jobs – wardrobe and car limits, black turtleneck with jeans and sneakers daily, same silver Mercedes for years.
  • Ablert Einstein – wardrobe, several versions of the same gray suit.
Mark Zuckerberg's Wardrobe

Mark Zuckerberg’s Wardrobe

Here are some additional articles you can read on Decision Fatigue if you want to learn more.

Recommended Reading:

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