There’s been a bit of buzz lately about Mark Zuckerberg’s explanation of his wardrobe. In case you haven’t noticed, his attire consists primarily of grey t-shirts. The reason, he explains, is it is one less decision he has to make each day. This allows him to focus his mental energy on the important stuff.
This isn’t a new concept. Steve Jobs wore his sneakers, jeans and black turtleneck ensemble throughout his career. Albert Einstein wore the same suit all the time, and President Obama does something similar.
All these folks tapped into the research that we have a limited amount of willpower to use toward making decisions. If we spend too much time choosing an outfit for the day, we may not be at the top of our game as we attempt to work out the intricacies of relativity or negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, for example.
Research suggests that it’s true. My favorite example of this is from a study of judges ruling at parole hearings. It seems that first thing after a breakfast or a meal break, they will grant 65% of parole petitions. But as they get further away from a meal break that number drops until it reaches zero.
It’s as if those judges were lifting heavy weights with each decision they made.They exhausted their decision-making muscle. So, to avoid further weight-lifting they erred on the side of caution and started denying requests.
Sound familiar? You make healthy food choices all day long, and right before bed you just can’t face another choice. And the ice cream – it’s right there, ready to eat and make you oh so happy.
This concept of willpower depletion has been around since the 90’s. And on its heels came solutions. The most commonly advocated solution is to automate as much as possible, which is what these powerful leaders have done with their wardrobes.
It’s also, coincidentally, what the Couch Potato Portfolios do for you. With your investment decisions automated, you aren’t constantly checking the markets and making daily decisions about where to put your money. You have built a buffer against investment decision-fatigue by using this approach.
And if you hope to be a Healthy Couch Potato, you should consider automating some of your health decisions. According to BJ Fogg, PhD, you can do this through changing your environment and taking tiny steps toward your goals.
Change your environment.
Stock your pantry with healthy foods, for example. If there isn’t any caramel corn in the house, you can’t eat it.
Or decide on your workout routine at the beginning of the week and get ready for it. Make sure you have the clothes you need, clean and waiting for you. Get your playlist ready on your iPod. Mark off the time in your calendar, so there are no excuses when the appointed time arrives.
Take Tiny Steps.
Fogg studies and teaches about human behavior at Stanford. He recommends choosing the habit you want to build and starting with the smallest piece of it you can. Like flossing one tooth daily. I’m not kidding.
So maybe you shouldn’t start out with a goal of losing 40 lbs. A smaller goal of eating more protein and fewer carbs for breakfast might be a better place to start.
By automating your healthy habits, you have a greater chance at maintaining them. You’ll be more able to resist temptations as they present themselves throughout the day, and you’ll be better at making solid decisions in other areas of your life. Like turning down Candy Crush requests on Facebook, no matter what color shirt Zuckerberg is wearing.
Amy Rogers MD is not a practicing physician and nothing written here should be taken as medical advice from either Amy or AssetBuilder. Medical decisions should be made with care in consultation with your health care provider.