Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is one of the richest people in the world. Despite all of the money and power, there’s something about him that’s very ordinary…
In almost every picture you see of him he is wearing the same grey/blue t-shirt and jeans. Zuckerberg understands what is known as ‘Decision Fatigue’:
With every decision we make, our ability to make a good decision gets worse. These are his own words:
“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 the community.”
It’s not just the nerdy tech guys that do this. Barack Obama owns a number of identical suits. Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest and the late Steve Jobs all stick to a similar fashion most of the time.
With the number of decisions we make per day being estimated to be well into the hundreds, it’s important that you understand how this affects you. Your brain is the most energy hungry organ in your body and, unlike most other organs, it runs solely off glucose. Sugar.
Why this is bad for your diet
Think about the amount of decisions you have made today from the moment you woke up. Should I hit snooze? Should I hit it again? What should I eat for breakfast? What should I wear for work? Do I have time for a coffee? Should I speed up to beat this light that’s turning to red? All of these, plus the many countless micro decisions that barely register, are using up your mental band width.
So now you’ve went through your day deliberating about all of these little details and now it’s time to make a decision that may actually affect your health goals; lunch time.
You walk into Starbucks and pick up your over-priced sandwich. Now you’re contemplating which coffee to have and you catch sight of the plethora of fancy named muffins, cakes and slices. Your fatigued, sugar depleted brain sends a gentle reminder that your sugar levels are low and that these will provide a quick fix to the problem.
Obviously if your current goal is weight loss the logical answer is no. Unfortunately, the logical part of our brain requires sugar to work. Suddenly that Red Velvet Slice looks pretty good. You can’t use Will Power to overcome a powerful human need. In fact, using Will Power in the short term can have negative long term impacts.
The solution is to avoid the fatigue in the first place and use pre-commitment to avoid having to make so many decisions. This is what Zuckerberg and co have realized.
You don’t have to become a robot
You don’t have to wear the same thing all the time or live your life on repeat every week. But the fact is our brains LOVE routine. The more you can automate, the less decisions you have to make. The less decisions you make, the better the decisions.
It’s not just the clothes you wear. It’s the food you eat, the places you go, the things you do, every day. The things add up. The small decisions use up our precious mental bandwidth.
Be smart about it. For those self centered/fashion conscious among us that worry what other people will think if we wear the same thing most of the time, take a page out of the Mean Girls playbook:
Do things on a weekly schedule. Create rules of thumb that remove the decisions, such as having a gym specific gym outfit for each session and having the same healthy post workout meal every time. I have lots. I eat the same thing for breakfast most days, I try to go to bed at the same time every night, I start every day with a bottle of water and on Wednesdays I wear pink.
Doing all of this means that I make better decisions on things that matter. It also helps maintain the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time I eat well and do the things that count, so if 20% of the time I eat Pizza and drink the occasional beer, it doesn’t ruin my life.
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