I don’t like getting ready for work. You know the process. You shower, fix your hair, put on make-up, get dressed (after finally deciding what to wear), grab your things, then commute. For me, the entire fiasco takes about two hours.
Then, once you arrive at work, you have to transition into actually working. Almost three hours later, you’re finally focused and ready to do some actual work.
The next day, you do it all over again.
Avoiding this entire getting ready to actually do work process is one of the reasons I love working remotely. What used to take three hours now takes maybe an hour.
I’ve considered adopting a uniform to simplify my morning routine. You’ve seen famous people who have uniforms. Steve Jobs was well known for his jeans and black turtleneck. Mark Zuckerberg is known for his jeans and hoodie. Richard Branson wears the same pair of jeans every day with a white T-shirt or button up, depending on what his day entails.
The idea behind having a uniform is that it’s one less decision you have to make every day. You don’t have to waste valuable time or mental resources deciding what to wear.
I’ve adopted a sort of uniform while I’ve worked at home. I get up every morning, go through the getting ready process, which now consists of minimal make-up and my hair pulled back, then I put on a journalism T-shirt and shorts or leggings. Since any call I’m on is with journalists, I’m both supportive and casual. It’s one less decision I have to think about in the morning, and the rest of my routine is on autopilot.
But you don’t have to stop with your clothing. Each decision we make throughout the day takes a toll on our finite amount of energy. True, it may not take a ton of mental energy to decide what to wear, but these small decision stack up. They have a cumulative effect that leads to decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is where we’re so mentally exhausted from making decisions that our ability to choose breaks down. Decision fatigue is especially common at the end of the work day when you’re mental energy is depleted.
When you think about this in relation to the men above who wear uniforms, it makes a lot of sense. They don’t want to waste valuable brain power on things that don’t really matter. They need to save those mental resources for major decisions.
You and I likely aren’t making the same level of decisions as Zuckerberg, but we still want to be strong leaders who make good decisions when they matter. Here are some things we can do, aside from a uniform, to save our brain power for important things.
Routines are key to mindless productivity. Consider creating a morning routine, where you do the exact same things in the same order to start every day. Also, a shutdown routine, where you end you work day the same way every day, signaling to your brain that it’s time to transition into your non-work life.
We spend a silly amount of time and energy deciding what and/or where to eat. Instead, consider eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. Preplan the meals to make it simple, then develop a menu for dinners so you never have to waste brainpower thinking about what to eat. This plan also will ensure that you don’t skip meals, which is a common problem among student editors.
Limit the amount of resources you consider before writing or decision making. Otherwise, you can do a lot of research, but never write or decide anything. Also, consider limiting the amount of tech or apps you use. The more inputs you have, the more there is to consider.
Having a schedule and reviewing your next day’s activities the night before helps you avoid using precious mental resources on decisions you make repeatedly.
Get rid of everything you don’t regularly use. Keep only what you actually need and value. This minimalist approach helps make decisions easier because every choice is one you’ll be happy with.
Do it or document it
If a task takes less than two minutes, do it now. If it takes longer, document it and schedule it. This approach helps eliminate your use of working or short-time memory, which causes fatigue over time. As David Allen said:
“You’re mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
Each decision we make throughout the day takes a toll on our finite amount of energy. It’s best to save up your energy for making big, important decisions. What small decisions could you automate to help you save energy for bigger things?