Want to meet someone who knows about decision fatigue? Check out this woman, whose story I read a few years ago. She chose to wear the same outfit for 365 days straight. That’s right. For one year she made the conscious choice to eliminate one decision from her day by deciding in advance what to wear every day.
She got the idea after having a stressful Monday morning in her closet trying to decide what to wear. That might sound trivial but that stress caused her to be late to a meeting with her male counterparts, which in turn led her to feel unprepared and flustered. After seeing successful people, like Mark Zuckerberg, opt for the same attire on a regular basis and wondered just how much it mattered.
She decided to test the theory and bought 15 pairs of white silk shirts and black trousers. This decision raised quite a few eyebrows because she worked for Harper Bazaar, a fashion magazine. Wouldn’t wearing a single outfit stifle her opportunity to showcase her true personality? Not quite. In fact, she said, “No wonder many people walk around feeling that the world owns them, when it really should be the other way around. These black trousers and white blouses have become an important daily reminder that frankly, I’m in control.”
In control. She followed up by clarifying that this control stemmed from the fact that she not only felt great in what she had on but that she didn’t have to think about what to wear every day. This is a bigger epiphany than meets the eye and it led me down the rabbit hole of looking up something that plagues parents and professionals who are juggling too many balls in the air at one time — decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is a real psychological condition. It refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions after an individual makes too many decisions in a row. For this woman, eliminating the decision of what to wear every morning helped her focus more on her work. For working parents, what would happen if we eliminated the need to plan detailed menus week after week? For stay-at-home parents, what would happen if someone else chose the weekend entertainment plans for a change? For professionals, what would happen if a colleague decided to take a mundane task off your plate?
As we continue to move at warp speed into a technologically driven world, what can we do to give up more of our control for tedious tasks, freeing our minds to make better decisions at work and at home? The thought of giving away control to a machine or even a piece of clothing might sound scary on the surface but just think of the possibilities.
What will you choose to become your white silk blouse and black trouser outfit?