All three of them wear/wore basically the same thing every day: Obama a blue or gray suit, Zuckerberg a gray T-shirt and Jobs his signature turtle neck tee and Blue Jeans.
What’s with these Men and their Uniforms?
What does the World’s most powerful man have to say about this weird behavior:
Barack Obama “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”
And what does Mark’s grey Tee say about how he works his grey matter.
Mark Zuckerberg “I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life,”
Steve Job’s personal uniform of black turtle necks and Jeans was very well known in the Silicon Valley and outside too.
Mental Muscles and Decision Fatigue
Mental muscle required to decide what to cook or eat today, what to wear for the meeting, whether to run and catch this train or wait for the next one, the font type and size to use in the report are exactly the same mental muscles that are also required to take decisions for the billion dollar deal that has the potential to change your future, or the critical hiring decision or sealing the partnership deal.
Neuro Scientists call this concept as the ‘decision fatigue’. Decision making is a limited resources which we use up every time we take a decision immaterial of whether decisions are big or small!!
Wearing out your mental muscle
Can you believe that … You use the same limited resource to decide between coffee and tea and between which one of the two prospective brides/grooms to choose from ? This also means if you have taken too many decisions on Coffee/Tea during the day, by the time you have to decide on your bride/groom, you are too tired to think over it and may go with your default choices without considering all the critical points.
When you spend your mental muscles earlier in the day taking frivolous decisions on what to wear, what to eat, which train/bus to catch, should I take the share auto or hail a cab, which toll line will get me out on the road faster we are exhausting this limited mental resource. Being patient in the queue and crowd, take some more of the will power too. No wonder many are drained before their work day starts and no wonder shopping is as tiring as running a marathon if not more.
Paradox of Choice
We often think choice is a good thing and most people try hard to keep their options open, be it with dating or with jobs or even with Fruit Jams. In the context of decision making, choices may not be a good thing at all. In the now famous Jam study conducted by Sheena Iyengar, 6 Jams displayed attracted lesser crowd than a display of 24 variety of Jams but got much more sales. It was also found in US that as the number of choices increased in the 401 K plan, participation of employees dropped. Choices also increase opportunity cost of a decision their by reducing the satisfaction derived from a choice made.
Henry Ford’s masterful choice of making Model T in only black freed him to focus on making the best automobile rather than trying to figure out if they should paint the cars lime green or cherry red.
What does this mean to us and how can we use this knowledge better?
If you are a marketer or a leader who wants to influence people to comply to or adapt to something new limit the number of choices you provide them. Optimize your schedule by following the rules of automate, delegate or eliminate. Just by being conscious of the mental fatigue, makes one act differently. Here are some things you can do that will help you conserve the use of your precious mental muscle.
- Don’t have a overflowing or a walk in wardrobe with 100’s of choices. A fairly simple rule of what goes with what should work for most people.
- Have same meals or atleast a rule based schedule for your meals.
- Have a recurring list of Groceries and preferable order online. Many of these apps like Grofers, Big Basket allow you to save a custom repeatable list that you can use for recurring purchases like Curd every week, oil every month etc.
- Give your team permission to take decisions that do not have high impacts. Your team here could be anyone including your spouse, child or even your maid. Let them decide which brand atta or which flavored icecream to get or in what order certain activities are to be done.
- Factory workers and school children are blessed with uniforms eliminating any need for decisions on what to wear everyday. Some schools and factories provide food and eliminate decision making in the cooking and eating aspects too. But if like Google one has 16 canteens all free that is another whole new dimension.
Rejuvenating your mental muscles
Your mental muscles and willpower is maximum at day break when you are fresh. So plan your important meetings or pondering over or coding time in the beginning of the day or whenever your energy levels are maximum. On the flip side, you may plan some of the insignificant but important stuff like what to cook and wear (if you are not going to stick to rule or uniformity) on the previous night itself.
Sleep and Meditations are great ways to rejuvenate your mental muscles too. A short nap in the afternoon can give you much more to your day than you can imagine. Winston Churchill, Edison and many other leaders had the habit of mid- afternoon siesta to refresh themselves. Meditation with a timer is a good alternative too.
What has your experience been and what will/do you do to reduce the decision fatigue?