5 simple strategies to prevent decision fatigue (without wearing the same outfit every day).

by Tara Fitness

What do Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook; Jon Goodman, founder of The PTDC and Online Trainer Academy; and Matt D’Avella, Freelance Videographer and director of Minimalism have in common?

They all wear the same outfit every day. Not the same clothes, of course. But they each own 5 of the same t-shirt, 2-3 pairs of jeans, some shoes and I guess they wear underwear too. Every day it’s the same. Every day ‘what to wear’ is a decision they don’t have to make.

I like the idea, to an extent. When I was an online trainer, I had 3 work shirts made so I could wear them every day. I didn’t train anyone face to face, so I didn’t need them, but it meant I didn’t have to decide what to wear every day. I wasn’t ruining my nice clothes by wearing them around the house all day, and I looked professional in videos. Winning all around.

I still wear those shirts sometimes, but never when I leave the house. I have a pretty minimalist clothing style myself, choosing to purchase higher quality items that fit perfectly. But I know I wouldn’t enjoy wearing the same thing every day.

If you wouldn’t either, here’s 5 tips for reducing decision fatigue that don’t involve you wearing the same outfit day after day.

1. Plan your outfit the night before.

It may not feel this way when your alarm’s electronic screeches break the silence at stupid o’clock every morning, but you’re at your freshest when you first wake up. By the time your feet hit the floor you’ve made very few decisions, which makes this your best time for creative work or idea development.

But how often do you waste this key decision-making time on things like:

“Does this shirt go with my shoes?”

Should I wear a tie today?”

“What do I feel like for breakfast?”

If you don’t protect this decision-making time, suddenly you’ve made 100 different decisions before 9 am, and not one of them is productive.

The fix.

Lay out your clothes the night before. Plan your outfit, hang or fold your clothes neatly, then when the sun peeks its head above the horizon, you can pick up your pile and dress.

If you’re super keen, you can even plan your entire month of outfits one Sunday afternoon.

2. Plan your dinner menu & shop once.

Sitting at your desk, suddenly you hear your stomach grumble. Your colleague turns with an accusatory look and says “was that you”?

“Yep,” you say followed by a big sigh. “I guess it’s lunchtime”.

“What’s for lunch today?” your colleague questions.

“No idea yet, I have to buy something”.

And so begins the trek to the shop, flicking through the catalogue of lunch options in your mind. Nothing excites you today; you’re feeling shattered having not looked up from the project you started at 9 am. Suddenly, you realise you’ve wasted half your lunch break, so you grab a ham and cheese sandwich and rush back to work.

You rush in the door just as your break ends, so you trudge back to your desk and pick at the sandwich you didn’t really want as you check which emails have arrived this morning.

The fix.

Take a couple of hours each fortnight to plan a dinner menu for the coming weeks. If you have the facilities to reheat food at work, plan to cook double each evening, so you can take leftovers to work. This way, there’s no decision making at lunch. You simply reheat and eat.

3. Plan your workday.

Speaking of work, you’d hoped to have that project proposal finished by lunch, but despite starting at your screen non-stop for 4 hours, you’re not even close.

Darren in marketing sent an email about another project, and you spent 30 minutes replying.

Helen from finance called to talk through your recent outgoings report.

Sarah, your best friend, sent you 17 photos of her new baby and, as required of best friends, you oohed and aahed at each one.

The fix.

Firstly, start by turning off your notifications, especially those on the device where you complete most of your work. If you need to be connected consistently, set a timer to remind you to check your emails every hour. Regardless of how urgent someone says it is, if they’re sending an email, it’s not.

Because you’ve now implemented better lunchtime routines, you can leave the socialising until your break. Sure Sarah might be bored because she’s at home, all alone with her new bub. But you’ve got work to do.

Work you should have planned the day before…

Each night before you go home, plan your three priorities for each day. Then when you enter the office, get to work on those tasks immediately. Leave the emails until a little later in the day.

Read “Understanding your Daily Minimum Effort“.

4. Plan your workouts.

After a hectic day, you’re feeling wrecked, but force yourself to the gym anyway.

You step up to your favourite cardio machine and coast for 15 minutes, absorbed by the tv on the front wall. Hitting the stop button you wonder:

“What should I do next? Maybe some squats, or abs. I might jump on the weights machines. I don’t feel like doing much.”

And this happens again and again until you give in to decision fatigue and walk out, having only put in a half-arsed effort.

The Fix.

Plan your workouts in advance. If you’re not confident doing so, ask a trainer to plan a workout program for you. Then write them on a piece of cardboard and take your workout card to the gym every time you train. Follow your workout religiously. Get it done; then you can go home for the evening.

Quick tip: If you have a habit of getting caught up in conversation mid-session, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. If you get distracted by your phone, get an iPod and leave the phone in your locker or car.

5. Plan your ideas.

After dinner, you sit staring at your laptop. The blinking cursor on the open Word document screams “just write something”, but your mind is blank as a brand new whiteboard. You’re trying to creating a writing habit, but it’s proving more difficult than you thought. More and more evenings, you find yourself wasting 30 minutes trying to pluck an idea from your exhausted mind. Eventually, you give up, slam your laptop closed, and head upstairs to take a shower.

The fix.

Regardless of when you write (or create), ideas and actions don’t always occur at the same time. In fact, for me, it’s quite rare.

So when a lightning bolt hits me, I scramble to my phone to record every thought that’s flying around my mind. I write each post idea in a new Trello card, which Zapier turns into a new Google Doc in my ideas folder. Then when I sit down to write, I simply open the folder, choose a pre-formed idea, and write.

Read: ‘How I publish a blog post a day“.

You don’t have to wear the same clothes every day to be productive.

Choosing what to wear is just a small collection of the decisions we make every day. If you’re comfortable wearing the same thing all the time, by all means, give it a go. But if you’re not, try one or all of the strategies above to reduce your daily decisions, leaving more time for creativity and productivity.

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