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Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Updated: Oct 5

Have you ever heard of the phrase "decision fatigue"?


Coined by social psychologist Dr. Roy F. Baumeister, decision, or cognitive fatigue, is based on the the psychological thinking that the less daily decisions we have to make regarding basic tasks, (e.g. what to wear) the more available our cognitive capacity is. Therefore, we have more resources to think about tasks at hand.

Think about the often tiring act of shopping, which involves multiple decisions regarding brands, prices, and even your values. Have you ever noticed in stores such as H&M and Primark, the strategically positioned low cost impulse items (e.g. socks and hair accessories) that line the maze-like aisles leading to the registers? If not, think of the supermarket, and the lollies (or sweets/candy, depending on what part of the world you are from) and chocolates that surround the till. The point is, when it comes time to pay your willpower can be low and your decision making abilities deteriorated. Those impulse buys may become harder to resist.


Paring down your wardrobe

It is fairly well known that notable business people and politicians have adopted the philosophy of reducing daily clothing options in order to reduce decision making.


Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, has publicly expressed his reason for donning the same rather bland grey t-shirt on a daily basis.

“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 this community. There’s actually a bunch of psychology theory that even making small decisions, around what you wear or what you eat for breakfast or things like that, they kind of make you tired and consume your energy. My view is I’m in this really lucky position… 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”.

Zuckerberg may have taken inspiration from none other than Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs. Jobs’ typical look of a black Issey Miyake designed mock turtleneck, Levis 501s, and New Balance 991s, stemmed from his own attempts to introduce a company uniform. The rather progressive breakaway from the "neck-tie" look to that of a West Coast ­business-casual look paved the way for the likes of Zuckerberg.


Barack Obama also seemed to be on board with this philosophy, stating in a Vanity Fair article: “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” Barack’s donning of a tan suit for example, sent the internet into a flurry.


Overcoming decision fatigue

Getting dressed is one of the first things we do very morning, and while this act may seem insignificant, the process of deciding what to wear can set the tone for your day. Speaking personally, I know that if I have to get ready in a rush, or I am not confident in what I am wearing, it can put me off for the rest of the day.


So how can you combat decision fatigue?

  • Streamline: I am not saying go full ‘Zuckerberg’ here, but being faced with an overflowing wardrobe can result in a stressful morning. Think about streamlining your closet. Why not sell, or donate those items you don’t wear?

  • Get organised: Why not try organising your outfit in advance, like the night before, and remove the decision from your morning routine.

  • Get in early: Prioritise and schedule those important decisions for when you’re at your best - early in the day.

  • Routine: There is value in routine. Think about it. Having a set time to get up, a set order for getting ready for work (such as shower first, then coffee), is only going to free up your cognitive capacity. You are removing the need to think about and decide what order to do things.


Have you experienced decision fatigue from your wardrobe? How do you overcome it?


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