Barack Obama, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg All Swear By This High-Performance Habit
By Nick Wolny
In his bestselling book Willpower, psychologist Roy F. Baumeister points out that one of the biggest threats to our self-control and goals is decision fatigue. With deeply limited time reserves and demands to make important decisions quickly, entrepreneurs and politicians face pressure to be “on” all the time, every time, even though these expectations are often biologically unrealistic.
Pair this limitation with the growth of the attention economy and eroding attention spans and the temptation to ponder low-value decisions becomes nearly irresistible. Great orators, CEOs and founders are obviously bombarded with important decisions day in and day out, but it turns out the average joe is too: We make, on average, about 35,000 decisions a day.
What do billionaire entrepreneurs, deep thinkers and high-profile politicians know about preserving willpower that we don’t? For President Barack Obama, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and dozens of others, there’s one best practice that gives them a running start: They wear the same thing every single day.
If it’s good enough for billionaires and Presidents, it might work for you too. Now is the time to simplify your wardrobe and streamline other decisions that chip away at your focus.
Related: 5 Creativity Exercises to Keep You Sharp While Working From Home
Why making decisions wears you down
Every decision we make in a day takes time and energy — and it adds up. Research published in the Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology found that decision fatigue led to ego depletion and an aversion to planning. Participants whose activities were frequently interrupted and had to be reworked were less likely to want to make plans at the end of a session than a control group.
At the highest echelons of business and government, “not feeling like it” is not an option. That’s why many of our heroes choose to free up mental energy by systematizing their wardrobe.
Barack Obama is considered one of the most stylish American presidents, but his look is pretty formulaic. Obama attributes some of his leadership to prioritizing minimalism.
Mark Zuckerberg is known for wearing the same grey t-shirt daily, even as Facebook has grown to become one of the most powerful companies in the world. In a 2014 Q&A, the CEO quipped that “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
And Sir Richard Branson is happy to acknowledge that his go-to trousers of choice are a pair of blue jeans… every single day.
Decisions aren’t hard, but they are taxing — especially when you’re trying to change an existing habit or create a new one. If you’re perfecting a pitch or drafting your next business idea, consider looking at other parts of your day first and find ways to free up mental energy.
Related: Make Your Next Pitch Instantly More Compelling By Using This One Philosopher’s Framework
How to prevent decision fatigue
Information overwhelm, impostor syndrome and weak follow-through are some of the most common roadblocks new entrepreneurs face. But all of these challenges can be overcome by making a series or productive — albeit uncomfortable — decisions. The true occupational hazard of the aspiring entrepreneur is, without a doubt, decision fatigue.
To start freeing up mental space today, consider giving one or more of these protocols a try.
Systematize day-to-day activities. What can you outsource to preserve valuable mental energy? A few of my splurges include a meal delivery service and having a virtual assistant help me with research. Self-care routines and labor delegations can serve as anchors if your calendar is riddled with decisions.
Rebalance your brain. If creativity is an important part of your career, a decision-stacked workday could be stunting your potential. Decisions tax your analytical left brain while leaving your imaginative right brain dormant. Find something analog to get away from screens and balance out your brain chemistry.
Actually take the time to figure it out. Most people never achieve their goals because they don’t slow down enough to research a solution, make one decision and then automate it for the future. Automation feels ruthless at first, but once some piping hot free time bubbles to the surface, you’ll wonder why you didn’t prioritize it sooner.