Our brains can only handle a certain number of decisions before they just slow down.
There’s a fascinating study put out about prisoners facing parole boards. Here’s an article about in the New York Times. They looked at 1,100 decisions over the course of one year.
Prisoners facing the parole board in the morning were paroled about 70 percent of the time.
Prisoners facing the parole board in the afternoons were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.
The study indicated, the judges ability to make sound decisions wore down as time went by in the day.
A closer look at this study shows decisions in favor of parole would spike up right after a lunch or afternoon break.
A lot of decisions – or big difficult ones.
Last Wednesday in episode 127 we talked about how we could increase our self-discipline if we focused on having it in one area alone. So instead of trying to cut smoking, learn a new skill, eat healthier and start exercising, just focus on doing one of them at a time until it becomes a mindless habit and then move to the next one.
But, this idea goes beyond just our projects. It applies to all of the decisions we make each day.
The less we have to make, the more disciplined we’ll be in making good ones.
Eliminate the unnecessary decisions
I saw a very successful Facebook friend of mine the other day posted a photo of what he eats every day. No, not a bunch of photos showing each item, but one photo with the food he eats every day… as in the same thing.
This friend said, “By eliminating the need to decide on what I’m going to eat, I free my mind up to focus on important decisions that matter more than what I’m going to eat.
Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama
This same friend said he owns 20 or more identical polo shirts other than the color. He wants to eliminate that as a fatigue factor. The same pants, the same shirt… every day. No need to agonize over what goes well with what and if you have a pair of shoes to match.
Mark Zuckerberg was once asked “Why do you wear the same exact T-Shirt every day? His response was, and I quote:
“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,” He went on to point out that every decisions is using our “decision energy tank.”
President Obama said “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Steve Jobs wore his iconic black shirt everywhere he went. Whether it was to introduce the brand new iPhone or going in for a normal day at work, he had that same black shirt on. It was for the same reason the president and Zuckerberg cited. Decisions fatigue.
If you’ve ever spent a day at the mall, you know this decisions fatigue is real. in fact, I’m suspecting this is how Cinnabon has made a fortune. By preying on mentally fatigued shoppers who would normally say no to something like a sticky gooey cinnamon bun. Brilliant!
Just for Decision Days
This doesn’t mean you throw out all of your fun clothes, but it means, when you wake up Monday morning, you’re going to go into the closet, grab a shirt (they’re all the same) pants and shoes and go into work. No decisions no fatigue.
You can have another section of your closet where you keep your fun going out clothes. That’s fine on the weekends or for an evening event. But, for daily work… keep it to the same thing and save that decision energy for the important stuff.
Call to Action
I have to admit, I’m entrigued. I’m working on so many things at once, I’m always feeling this decision fatigue and I know I would benefit from something like this. I’ve already started this with my weekday breakfasts and I may even do the same for lunch.
This isn’t easy for me… i love food. My wife could do this without any problems, but I thrive on variety in my food.
The clothing I think would be much easier for me. It just means I’ll have to buy a week of identical clothes so I don’t have to think about it.
Will you try this with me and report back on how it worked for you? I really want to see if this will help with self-discipline.
Now.. to decide what that one piece of clothing is going to look like. Haha…