I remember looking at pictures of Steve Jobs and wondering why he wore the same thing every day: a black mock turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers, when he had more money than God.
It seemed to me that anyone with that much money should have a different outfit for every single day of the week. Maybe throw in several daily clothing changes: one for yoga/meditation/breakfast, one for apres lunch (perhaps with a stretch band sewn in for the inevitable gas build-up), and one for evening plus something comfy/cozy for bedtime.
When the sun set, he could donate his used clothes. Why the hell not?
It’s possible I have this attitude because I grew up very poor — the product of a single mom and a deadbeat dad. Clothes weren’t nearly as important as heat and food.
I was never much of a clothes horse but I do enjoy putting an outfit together that makes me feel good about myself, especially after losing weight (again! and again! and hopefully again!).
So I do not understand Jobs and his lackluster choices…
…until I started wearing the same thing every day myself.
Initially, it started as a joke. I wanted to see if my husband would eventually notice that I was wearing the same clothes every day, and if he did, at what day would he comment? How many days would I wear the same thing before he said anything?
The idea came to me when I felt like I wasn’t getting enough attention from him. To prove my theory of his inattentiveness, I devised my foolproof plan: I’d wear the same outfit regardless of the weather: a long, black skirt, a teal top, black sandals, and matching teal earrings.
I specifically chose a top that a normal person (read: non-engineer type) would remember from one day to the next — it wasn’t just a nondescript white or a deep black, it was a very specific blue/green with 3/4 sleeves and a boat neckline similar in style to this shirt.
The days passed quickly and quietly without so much as a peep from him about my clothes.
I I didn’t want him to fail, per se, but fail he did. After 10 days of wearing the same clothes, I gave up. He won, I lost. Or I won because my perception proved correct, and I lost because he definitely was not paying attention to me.
The confirmation was in the cotton.
My point was proven but with it came baggage in its revelation.
From the experiment, though, I had an epiphany.
As the mistress of silver linings, I crawled out from under the clouds and saw the positives of my negative outcome: wearing the same damn thing every day made my life a tad easier despite no gainful employment requiring a uniform.
No more pulling a thousand outfits out of the closet, only to reject them all.
No more stressing over which top matched which pants.
No more pawing through my jewelry to see what would complement the clothes.
No more wondering which shoes completed the ensemble.
No more decisions about dressing myself period.
It was like the Garanimals for adults I’ve always wanted, but one better.
It was so easy. No brain power expended, less anxiety, and less time wasted putting together something suitable for the day.
My outfit for each of those 10 days had been pre-selected. Everything matched. My only challenge was making sure it was clean for each wearing, or at least able to pass the sniff test.
The surprising outcome of my homemade experiment and personal success made me want to dig a little deeper to discover why Steve Jobs, and others like him, wear the same thing every day.
I conducted research via an online college library, and found that entrepreneurs wear the same clothes each day because it helps combat ‘decision fatigue.’
Humans are said to make up to 35,000 decisions per day — everything from what to eat for breakfast to the best way to get to work. Stairs or the elevator? Do I hold the door for the person behind me? Should I make vacation plans today? Where do I want to go, etc., etc., etc!
The theory is that as the day progresses, and as more and more decisions are made, the less likely you are to make great decisions for the important things in life.
Scary, right? Especially for successful entrepreneurs whose very livelihoods depend on making the best business decisions.
Turns out, there are some simple ways to avoid decision fatigue. One is to create routines for the small daily stuff like meals and outfits. Another way is to delegate less critical decisions to someone else, and the final way is to take frequent breaks throughout the day.
Once established, a routine is a decision.
Examples of routines include opting to wear the same clothes each day, eating the same breakfast, and spending one’s yearly summer vacation at the same familiar cabin. With these lower level selections made, your brain can focus on larger problems to solve and generate more creative ideas because it’s not bogged down in the day-to-day tasks that aren’t important.
Reduce decision fatigue by letting others decide for you.
Now, hang on, I don’t mean for the important stuff (Do I marry Bill or Bob?) but for everyday things like meals, activities, meditations, or an exercise routine. Letting someone else take over the hamster wheel can make your life a little less chaotic and less stressful.
Gimme a break.
A break is always a welcome reprieve from the constant noise of everyday life. Although most people believe in ‘powering through’ their day, research shows that those people who take breaks (legit breaks, not the kind that involve Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), have more focus, generate more creative ideas, and make better decisions.
Some decisions like where to work, which car to buy, and whether now is a good time to purchase a home should be made with the most care and consideration. Other decisions can be put on autopilot. Finding ways in which to reduce decision fatigue is a must for all people from all walks of life.
Even though wearing the same outfit every day might not seem as sexy as what I prescribed for people like Steve Jobs, it is beneficial for maintaining one’s sanity and avoiding decision fatigue.
Prior to this experiment, I wore a new outfit every day. After this experiment, I sometimes wear the same clothes two or three times per week.
What started as a joke/experiment has become a part of my routine. Turns out the joke was on me!