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For Obama, Jobs, and Zuckerberg, Boring Is Productive 398

Posted by timothy
from the your-prism-for-the-autism-spectrum dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Robert C. Pozen writes in the Harvard Business Review that while researching a behind-the-scenes article of President Obama's daily life, Michael Lewis asked President Obama about his practice of routinizing the routine. 'I eat essentially the same thing for breakfast each morning: a bowl of cold cereal and a banana. For lunch, I eat a chicken salad sandwich with a diet soda. Each morning, I dress in one of a small number of suits, each of which goes with particular shirts and ties.' Why does President Obama subject himself to such boring routines? Because making too many decisions about mundane details is a waste of your mental energy, a limited resource. If you want to be able to have more mental resources throughout the day, you should identify the aspects of your life that you consider mundane — and then "routinize" those aspects as much as possible. Obama's practice is echoed by Steve Jobs who decided to wear the same outfit every day, so that he didn't have to think about it and the recent disclosure that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is proud that he wears the same outfit every day adding that he owns 'maybe about 20' of the gray, scoop neck shirts he's become famous for. 'The point is that you should decide what you don't care about and that you should learn how to run those parts of your life on autopilot,' writes Pozen. 'Instead of wasting your mental energy on things that you consider unimportant, save it for those decisions, activities, and people that matter most to you.'"
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For Obama, Jobs, and Zuckerberg, Boring Is Productive

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  • it worries me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamagloworm (816661) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:32AM (#41548237)
    it worries me how much mental energy they were putting into something as simple as getting dressed or what to have for breakfast. sounds like an anxiety disorder to me.
    • it worries me how much mental energy they were putting into something as simple as getting dressed or what to have for breakfast. sounds like an anxiety disorder to me.

      You'd be surprised. I mean, let's take myself for example. Even starting to think about shaving sets my mind abuzz with contours and shear strength equations dealing with each follicle of hair. Before applying the lather, it's a pain to model my face in a three dimensional image so as to optimize the amount of face covered per stroke versus a random walk pattern across the ... and I've already spent too much time on it so I don't shave.

      Then there's the possibility of showering. However, to achieve the optimal temperature at which my body enjoys a shower requires me to measure the temperature of the water leaving the shower head. But wait, as my body enters this spray, the temperature adjusts based on the laws of cooling since my body is a colder object than the water or air inside the shower ... and I've already spent too much time on showering so I don't shower.

      Then there's selecting an adequate living arrangement. First I start out walking about the city inspecting each apartment and judging the socioeconomic surroundings with an expected value weighted against my monthly payment combined with the ability and freedom to do whatever I want when I want. But that's a nebulous construct that requires set theory and a rigorous modeling of how I'll spend the coming year since the contract length is variable based on property ... and I've already spent too much time on selecting a suitable place to live so here I sit in my mom's basement.

      Don't even get me started on employment or fornication. I need to conserve that brain power to be the indomitable force of genius that I am.

    • Re:it worries me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by StoneyMahoney (1488261) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:45AM (#41548401)

      The amount of time some people can spend on trivial stuff like that is mindblowing people people like us. The reason we can't see the importance here is probably because we've already optimized these simple processes without even thinking about it. The weather is the most important variable factor in my clothing routine. I avoid eating the same thing two days in a row, but it follows a simple sandwich/salad + fruit/snack formula.

      On the other hand, I did some field maintenance in a modelling agency (not as glamourous as you might think - an office of 15 women all with sync'd up periods, BAAAD place to be one week of the month) and it took me about as long to purchase, eat and digest my lunch as it did for a small group of these people to decide what they all wanted. It wasn't like they were trying to decide to go somewhere as a group, they all went off individually to get food from different places. I eavesdropped on their conversation while progress bars were doing their thing, they seemed to consider lunch to be some kind of personal expression that had to be absolutely perfect or face ridicule from everyone in the street for the rest of their lives. I could feel my inner feminine side trying to scream "It's just lunch! Get over it!" at them. I can't imagine what the damage to their productivity was. Maybe if they spent more time concentrating on work and less time mulling over the minutae of office life they wouldn't have had to work late every night.

      • Re:it worries me (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jader3rd (2222716) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @11:59AM (#41549873)

        seemed to consider lunch to be some kind of personal expression that had to be absolutely perfect or face ridicule from everyone in the street for the rest of their lives.

        Early on in my marriage my wife expressed frustration over how I wasn't giving much input into what I thought we should have for dinner, and how I was generally happy with whatever was decided upon. It was something that created a minor divide between us. One day, about two years into being married, my wife mentioned that she was hungry, and so I looked in the fridge and offered to get her two or three things. She declined all of them, saying how she didn't feel like eating any of them. I asked what she did feel like eating and she responded that she was trying to figure that out. After a couple more comments I drilled into something that I've confirmed with multiple other female associates of mine: women don't get hungry for food; women need to get to the point where they 'feel' like they need to eat a specific kind of food. It's possible that as time goes on the set of acceptable foods grow, but the desire to eat is rarely driven by their stomach, it's pretty much driven by their emotional 'feelings' (whatever those are). My wife found it very odd that when I'm hungry, it's because there's a pain in my stomach and any and all foods can satisfy this pain (just need to reduce the stomach acid). As long as my tongue is okay with it, all foods can make the hunger go away.

        So for your co-workers, what they're doing while they're standing in the queue deciding on what they should eat, is having an introspective therapy session. They're trying to find out what their current hormones tell them they 'feel' like eating, and are hoping that something on the menu matches their 'feelings'. That's why it takes so long.

        • by rsborg (111459)

          So for your co-workers, what they're doing while they're standing in the queue deciding on what they should eat, is having an introspective therapy session. They're trying to find out what their current hormones tell them they 'feel' like eating, and are hoping that something on the menu matches their 'feelings'. That's why it takes so long.

          Perhaps it's because your body can actually communicate not only that you need food, but what kind of food you need. Ever ate something and then regretted it because it made you feel oily, irritable or gave you carb burn? Perhaps you don't have this issue, or haven't listened to your body enough to decypher these messages. Until I went on various diets (some of my own formulation, some like South Beach which had specific rules), I didn't get a good understanding of what my body was saying when I ate. A h

      • by PPalmgren (1009823) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @12:13PM (#41550083)

        Now granted, the foot issue you explained is pretty rediculous, but there's other people on here saying they eat the same thing every day. That is actually not good for your body. Its just like an exercise routine, if you do the same thing every time then it gets easy as your muscles adapt and you get less benefit from it. Your body also adapts to your diet, and keeping your food choices irregular helps burn more calories and keep your metabolism high.

        • by Pope (17780) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @04:31PM (#41552851)

          Now granted, the foot issue you explained is pretty rediculous, but there's other people on here saying they eat the same thing every day. That is actually not good for your body. Its just like an exercise routine, if you do the same thing every time then it gets easy as your muscles adapt and you get less benefit from it. Your body also adapts to your diet, and keeping your food choices irregular helps burn more calories and keep your metabolism high.

          Well, that smells like grade-A bullshit.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        If I had to eat as little food as models usually do, I'd also spent forever deciding what I'd use that tiny little quota on. You don't have many ounces of fat on your body before you're a "plus size" model.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet (841228)

      Besides...isn't that what your woman is for? before any ladies start throwing shit at me the average guy knows we have no taste especially when it comes to clothes and since most women want their men not to look...well like bachelor slobs, are happy to do that task. The same thing at least to me when it comes to food, my GF likes to cook and likes variety, and she knows i can burn water and my idea of breakfast is pizza from the night before so she decides what we are gonna have and i'm happy to go along wi

      • by nschubach (922175)

        But then you end up with pink walls...

        I recently bought a house where the walls in the great room were pepto-bismol pink and every room had a different bright color from a Crayola box. Someone needs to be the temper for the designer... the engineer to the architect.

    • Re:it worries me (Score:5, Informative)

      by BitwizeGHC (145393) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:36AM (#41548993) Homepage

      No, Obama solved an important problem: as President he needs to look impeccably dressed. But he doesn't want to invest much more time in getting dressed in the morning than throwing on the first thing that comes out of his closet. So what he did is arrange his closet so that the first thing that comes out is one of a few very nice suits. That way he gets the best of both worlds: he can look Presidential without having to fuss over his wardrobe.

      Practical, I'd say.

    • Re:it worries me (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) <davec-slashdot@l ... t ['per' in gap]> on Thursday October 04, 2012 @04:29PM (#41552835) Homepage

      You'd be surprised how much of a toll it can take, being in a position where your primary duty is to make hard decisions, i.e., those without definite answers. I remember very clearly, being a network admin at a company that was on the verge of failing for the last 10 year, whose infrastructure was an ad-hoc mess that was built up purely as a response to immediate needs. I had to make so many decisions, none of which had clear right answers due to the constant constraints of time, money, and the need to "sell" absolutely everything, that I would literally get irritated at the thought of deciding what to eat for lunch.

      Most people probably spend the majority of their life without even being aware of it, but you can actually feel it, your decision-making reserves emptying. And if you spend a lot of time tapped out, you come to resent the utterly irrelevant decisions that have to be made, like what to eat for lunch. I'd think, "Oh my GOD I don't care, I just need to stop being hungry so I can function."

      I never got to the point of resenting the decision about what to wear for the day, but then again I've never really cared about that, and usually didn't start to feel the drain until about 10 AM anyway. But I can easily see how a more demanding situation would lead to it, and I'll never forget that feeling. If you haven't felt it, I can see how it'd be hard to understand, but it's real, and there's no "anxious" feeling about it. You've just got none left. If you'd never run in your life, you might find it hard to understand what it's like to feel like you don't have enough breath. It's just a finite resource that most people never really put pressure on.

    • by riker1384 (735780)
      Have you ever _seen_ Obama try to decide what to eat? This is him ordering burgers:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1TxMKaYHYA [youtube.com]

      Imagine if there was a war on.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't most people eat the same thing (or about the same thing) for breakfast and lunch every day? I have for years and years, but I guess I didn't realize it was noteworthy to do so.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Extroverts are stimulated by new things; as often as possible. Quite often they tend not to consider that introverts don't, and instead find the constant novelty draining.

      • by The Pirou (1551493) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:30AM (#41548899)
        I started reading this post and thought INTJ myself. Googling says Zuckerberg is an INTJ, Steve Jobs an ENTJ, with a whole lot of non-Mastermind opinion on what the President may be.

        Personally I buy 2-5 of everything so I don't need to worry about changing my 'look.' It's obvious that I care about my 'look' since I took the time to determine what it was, but beyond initial determination I don't care. Having multiple copies of clothes enables the 'same' shirt or pants with regularity without resorting to wearing dirty clothes. Were I to wear a pair of shorts 2 days in a row at home, who the hell notices? It's not any different than choosing profile images or appearance of an Avatar; Aside from shaving and general cleanliness, I don't ever need to think about my look while being readily identifiable and presentable at all times.

        It's not the clothes that I'm concerned about. There are far larger matters at stake every day of our lives as one day we will die, and the best that we can hope for is that we leave a better world for friends, family and other people to live in.
      • by sjbe (173966) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @12:07PM (#41549961)

        Quite often they tend not to consider that introverts don't, and instead find the constant novelty draining.

        Novelty isn't inherently draining to an introvert - social interaction is. I'm an introvert myself, albeit not severely so and I am quite energized by novelty. I just don't much care what other find novel. Engineering and science research fascinate me whereas fashion and reality tv could not be more boring. Both have novelty as a component but the difference is one is internally directed and the other is externally directed.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I don't, for lunch anyway... but that's because I usually buy lunch at work so it's either a hot dish or some kind of sandwich or some kind of salad with variation within each of those three. Even if I make lunch packs myself I usually rotate what's on them as I empty packages. Can't really comment on breakfast since I usually skip it.

  • Error in the summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:35AM (#41548263)

    English isn't my first language (so correct me if I'm wrong) but from TFA

    The president first touted the necessity of daily exercise — a habit that I endorse wholeheartedly. But what he said next was even more interesting: "You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits. 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."

    I share President Obama's practice of "routinizing the routine." I eat essentially the same thing for breakfast each morning: a bowl of cold cereal and a banana. For lunch, I eat a chicken salad sandwich with a diet soda. Each morning, I dress in one of a small number of suits, each of which goes with particular shirts and ties.

    I don't think that the quoted part means that Obama always eats that breakfast, etc. as the summary seems to imply.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      English isn't your first language? You're qualified to be chief editor of Slashdot.
      Demonstrated a high level of reading comprehension? You're now disqualified from the chief editor position.

  • Misquote (Score:5, Informative)

    by MisterPuddles (1090583) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:35AM (#41548269)
    If I'm reading the article correctly, the President did not say "'I eat essentially the same thing for breakfast each morning: a bowl of cold cereal and a banana. For lunch, I eat a chicken salad sandwich with a diet soda. Each morning, I dress in one of a small number of suits, each of which goes with particular shirts and ties". The author said that about himself.
    • It's clearly a conspiracy. Someone's trying to slander the president by making him look like a monkey that eats bananas. Don't fall for it!
  • I don't put forth any effort in to dressing my self. For work I have a few pairs of black and grey pants and some dress shirts that go with either color pant. I just grab one of each and put them on. For weekend cloths all my t shirts go with my jeans so I just grab what ever is on top in the drawer. For me it is pure laziness, while it seems like my wife frets over every thign she wears.
  • Any virtue can be taken to a fault. Asimov grew his sideburns because he realized he could save much more time just shaving his chin. Taking it to an extreme, we'll have:

    I bathe every other day because I don't smell that bad.

    I pee in my empty soda bottle so I don't have go get up from my chair during a raid.

    I eat other people's lunches out of the fridge at work because it saves time on making my own.

    With any of this stuff, if you can live your life without adverse impact it's a quirk or an idiosyncracy. If

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Asimov's sideburns weren't a fault. As somebody described him in the introduction to The Hugo Winners:
      "The person qualifying as editor for such an anthology would naturally have to be someone who had not himself received a Hugo*, so that he could approach the job with the proper detachment. At the same time, he would have to be a person of note, sane and rational, fearless and intrepid, witty and forceful, and, above all, devilishly handsome."
      * At the time he wrote it, Asimov had not actually won a Hugo.

      So

  • I realized somewhere along the line that there were a lot of little everyday decisions that really didn't matter to me. Choosing what to have for lunch every day is a great example of one of these things. Lunch on a weekday is still "just lunch" to me, I have no wish to go out and eat some extravagant delicious meal, I just want to eat something relatively tasty and get back to work so over time I've resorted to having a fairly small number of "standard" lunches that I prepare for myself. This way I know I'

  • Just like Sheldon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:39AM (#41548315)

    There was an episode on The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon started using dice rolls to make mundane decisions, thereby freeing up his mind to work on more complex problems.

    I never really thought about it, but I gravitate towards that kind of behavior. I too tend to eat the same things for breakfast and lunch, and have a limited set of wardrobe choices.

    IIRC there was a recent study that indicated that multitasking was not such a good idea. It tends to make one mediocre at all tasks rather than making one good at any single task. This seems to tie in to the thesis of this article.

    • by JustOK (667959)

      But, how did he decide on what dice to use?

    • I keep a D10 handy for just such mundane decisions - those where the outcome really doesn't matter - and it makes life interesting. It's actually fun not knowing what you are going to do all the time.

      It is also a bit relaxing to know that I don't have to waste any time on those thoughts; just roll the die and get on with life. I can't say I apply it to getting dressed, but choosing what to have for breakfast falls into that category. We don't keep anything I won't eat around, so a quick roll, count, and eat

  • by Orp (6583) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:41AM (#41548339) Homepage

    I had no idea getting dressed was so mentally taxing to some people.

    The president, I can understand (he's always in the public eye) but the others? Whatever, dudes, you have/had more money than God, if you want to wear the same clothes every day, knock yourself out, but don't give me this bullshit about expending energy on deciding what socks to put on in the morning.

    • by DogDude (805747)
      It's not bullshit. Some people, myself included, have completely all-encompassing careers that demand a tremendous amount of time. Sure, I waste some time (like posting here), but it's *my* time, and it's precious to me. I don't waste time on things like clothes, food, transportation, housing, etc. All of that shit needs to be simple, and out of my way so I can focus on what I want to focus on.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:41AM (#41548347)

    I've routinized phone calls from friends. I just give bland answers while I'm also on the computer, until they go away. That way they don't distract me from what I really love, which is my computer and phone, for work and play. I also skip birthday gifts and cards, and even routine courtesies like saying please and thank-you -- you know, manners. By routinizing them, I can check my eight favorite websites 10 times a day.

  • by WankersRevenge (452399) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:48AM (#41548419)

    If you haven't read Jurassic Park, check it out. I picked up recently and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. The article made me think of this passage
    ----
    "But don't you find it boring to wear only two colors?"

    "Not at all. I find it liberating. I believe my life has value, and I don't want to waste it thinking about clothing," Malcolm said. "I don't want to think about what I will wear in the morning. Truly, can you imagine anything more boring than fashion? Professional sports, perhaps. Grown men swatting little balls, while the rest of the world pays money to applaud. But, on the whole, I find fashion even more tedious than sports

    • yeah having a wardrobe that all works together (bonus points if you have somebody with Color Sense set things up for you) prevents looking more ridiculous than you have to.

      part of the trick of not panicking is to "predecide" things as much as possible.

    • by chill (34294) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:22AM (#41548805) Journal

      While many of the things I've done over my life resulted in disapproval or derision from my grandmother, everything paled in comparison when I made the mistake of giving her an honest opinion of why I didn't pay much attention to sports. Specifically, the Chicago White Sox and Bears. Her being a lifelong, rabid fan of both.

      All she asked was "Why didn't you watch the game last night?" and I answered honestly.

      "Because I have better things to do. Honestly grandma, it is nothing more than grown men playing a children's game of advanced catch. Its not like they're curing cancer or doing anything useful with their lives. What's the point?"

      It was like a small thermonuclear device was set off in the living room. Two different neighbors came over to survey the wreckage -- one from a couple houses down. Someone had even called the police. One said that after 50 years of living next door, she couldn't remember anything like it. She wanted to know if grandma finally snapped and killed grandpa.

      Nothing so trivial. I had blasphemed not only the beloved Sox, but called into question the very game of baseball itself.

      It was three months before she'd speak to me again. Hell, when my cousin came out of the closet not only as a lesbian but also a registered Democrat, she only got two months of the silent treatment.

      At least I didn't tell her I was a Cubs fan. I probably wouldn't be here today if I did that.

  • CT scan (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheP4st (1164315) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:48AM (#41548421)
    If selecting what to wear and/or what to have for breakfeast impair you to the degree that it affects your actions for the remainder of the day then you probably seriously should consider a CT scan.
  • by Type44Q (1233630) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:50AM (#41548447)
    Sociopaths are obsessive-compulsive about what they eat and wear. Who would have figured?!
  • by necro81 (917438)
    Dean Kamen [wikipedia.org] is known for wearing jeans, a denim shirt, and workboots [popsci.com] ever day. Same idea.
  • Dean Kamen is also know for wearing the same outfit every day.

    This also kinda reminds me of how Buckminster Fuller defended his sterile architecture by suggesting that its mass-produced homogeny would encourage people to differentiate themselves by what they do rather than where they live.

    It's a vaguely communist-sounding notion that bland equality can make us more free. Perhaps this is why most public schools in the U.S. don't require uniforms.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @09:56AM (#41548521)
    For guys like Obama, Jobs or Zuckerberg, they could easily afford a butler who would make those kinds of decisions for them, lay out their clothes for the day, prepare varied breakfasts and lunches, set out diary appointments etc. For normal guys there's always the wife, and mom for the basement dwelling types.
  • People are always drawing their own conclusions about why I wear all black all the time, but this is the real reason... I just can't be bothered to match colours in the morning, and it narrows down my options greatly when buying new clothes. (Plus black fabric is a lot more forgiving with stains.)

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:11AM (#41548685)

    Every non-metrosexual already knows this. Here's how we dress when we go to work:

    1) First socks and underwear we see in the drawer
    2) Top pair of pants on the pile (or on the rack, but I wear jeans these days)
    3) Warm? First non-threadbare shirt on the rack. Otherwise, first shirt with non-ratty collar, followed by first sweater in the pile.

    Takes about a minute. Heck, the time it took me to write this is probably the longest sustained period I've ever thought about what to wear in the morning.

    • by Mandrel (765308) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @04:42PM (#41552939)

      1) First socks and underwear we see in the drawer
      2) Top pair of pants on the pile (or on the rack, but I wear jeans these days)
      3) Warm? First non-threadbare shirt on the rack. Otherwise, first shirt with non-ratty collar, followed by first sweater in the pile.

      Shouldn't one ensure even wear by implementing a queue rather than a stack, or by taking the time to execute LRU algorithms?

      • That bothers me way more than it should. When I lived alone, if fixed that problem by two unrelated algorithms (makin the pile behave like a queue was just too much work):

        1 - You can just turn your stacks upside down once in a while. If that is not enough to cycle through all your shirts, you have too many shirts.
        2 - You can always postpone washing untill you have no other option. That ensures equal wear to all your shirts.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:11AM (#41548689)

    In the book "Surely your joking, Mr Feynman", Richard Feynman talks about how he decided that he didn't want to waste time deciding on what to eat for desert - so he standardized on chocolate pudding.
     
    Given that humans can't really multi-task there is a lot to be said for eliminating mundane decisions.

  • I think extreme lack of variation in lifestyle is one of the hallmarks of a hacker; at least it was in the 1980s. You don't spend mental energy on things unrelated to what you actually want to do. Clothes are there to cover the body, and serve no other purpose. Food is there to nourish. You don't immerse yourself in these things because they're distracting.

    This comes from a desire to be on autopilot in all the necessary but uninteresting aspects of life. Hackers never want to put thought into dressing, beca

  • Absolutely (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    All you nay-sayers in the comments should read about the phenomenon of decision fatigue [wikipedia.org].

    I do the same thing as Obama and Steve Jobs -- I keep the "routine" parts of my life as routine and predictable as possible, so I don't have to waste any energy on them. I've been doing this instinctively for at least ten years, but I only found out about decision fatigue [nytimes.com] a few months ago. It makes perfect sense; I have to make decisions all day long to do my day job as a programmer, and the quality of those decisions

  • Instead of wearing the same thing every day, have a variety of preselected options to choose from. If you know each one looks good on you, who cares which option you pick? If that's considered too much mental energy to spend then I think you're fooling yourself about how much work that same amount of mental energy will accomplish elsewhere. Hell, you could wear option #1 on Monday, option#2 on Tuesday, etc. to reduce the effort even further. Reduce it to a lookup table. :) Same goes for food.
  • I do all of the above because I'm a cheap bastard and only have a few pairs of clothes.. and am too lazy to go down to the local Target. Simplify.

  • Richard Feynmann was doing this back in the 30's and 40's....

  • by Runesabre (732910) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:34AM (#41548973) Homepage

    I like the sentiment expressed. Why waste mental resources on mundane decisions that don't amount to anything worthwhile. I created a similar routine with my clothes, however, I do not by wearing THE EXACT same thing every day (and bragging about it), but, by creating a routine system that still requires no decision making yet produces a diverse look.

    I have one pair of stylish black shoes (slip on even) that look great with jeans, pants or a suit.

    I have two dozen pair of black socks that are all identical. This means I merely need to grab two socks and I know they match. I don't allow variations (which means you end up having to inspect each sock to find it's right mate) and who cares about socks.

    Finally, and this is the key, I have a limited set of jeans and button shirts that all mix and match without exception.

    At the beginning of the day, I merely pick a pair of jeans, grab a shirt, two socks and slip on my one pair of shoes and voila I've spent no effort thinking about it yet I look great.

  • by erp_consultant (2614861) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:53AM (#41549145)

    What these guys have shown is an ability to rise above what I call decision paralysis. Everywhere we go we are inundated with choices. Next time you go to the grocery store or pharmacy take a moment and marvel at all the choices we have. Dozens of shampoo formulas, pain relievers, snacks, clothing...you name it. For many people that's a good thing but for others it just stops them cold. I remember being in a Walmart a few months ago. I go to the aisle and pick up a bottle of aspirin. There is a lady there trying to decide which one to get. I go to get something else, on the other side of the store, and discover that I had forgot to get something in the pharmacy section so I go back. That same lady is still there trying to decide what to get. Decision paralysis. It must have been a good 10 or 15 minutes and yet there she was still trying to figure out what to get.

    What Obama and others have figured out is that often the worst decision is no decision at all. You just pick something and go with it. If it doesn't work out, deal with it and adjust.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday October 04, 2012 @11:55AM (#41549835) Homepage

      What these guys have shown is an ability to rise above what I call decision paralysis.

      Congratulations! You're calling it by the name professionals have used for years. There's even a mention of it on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], where it forms part of a larger article on the problems with decision making.
       

      It must have been a good 10 or 15 minutes and yet there she was still trying to figure out what to get.

      I'm an educated and intelligent person, and this happens even to me. OTOH, that's one of the things that Costco attributes to it's sustained popularity and growth - almost always they have just one of a given thing. (And keep in mind that in many ways, Costco is the anti-Walmart. It's customer demographics skew strongly upscale and intelligent.)
       

      What Obama and others have figured out is that often the worst decision is no decision at all. You just pick something and go with it. If it doesn't work out, deal with it and adjust.

      Nope, they haven't discovered anything - at best, it's a rediscovery of an old military principle. "A leader can be wrong, he cannot be indecisive".

  • by spikenerd (642677) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @10:57AM (#41549183)
    My wife makes all the decisions I couldn't care less about. That makes her happy. I follow her around while thinking about science, technology, philosophy, and all the things that make me happy. She doesn't like making big decisions. That's my area of expertise. She fills my life with diversity and excitement, and best of all, she gives me time to do what matters to me. Jobs, Obama, and Zuckerberg may have a lot of money, but I seem to have something they all desperately lack.

    I was once accused of failing to "wear the pants" in my marriage. I just smiled. Pants are overrated. They should only be worn when you care. I like the arrangement exactly the way it is.
  • by Gorobei (127755) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @11:06AM (#41549285)

    A small number of suits, each with matching shirts?

    That's for losers, Barack. I have a small number of dark suits, and a set of white shirts. No time wasted on the matching process.

    I also have a few white+blue shirts. I use these like the tape on those supermarket checkout registers: the color is a signal that the tape is about to run out. So, if I ever find myself wearing a non-white shirt, I know I need to go to the store and buy 12 white shirts.

  • by GrantRobertson (973370) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @12:07PM (#41549975) Homepage Journal

    For all those people who think this is silly... Who think that people who do this don't have the mental capacity to simply choose their clothes for the day....

    You aren't thinking enough. It is not a matter of not having the TOTAL mental capacity to choose clothing. It is a matter of not having the EXTRA mental capacity because we are spending so much of our capacity on other things. Some of us spend every waking minute (and many of our non-waking minutes) constantly thinking about a dozen different things. Interrupting that chain of thought for the mundane things is more trouble than it is worth. And it is not just picking the clothes. It is a hundred different things throughout the day, for which wasting even one minute's thought each adds up to about two hours of wasted thinking time per day, especially when you consider the time it takes to get back into what you were thinking about before.

    Read 'Your Brain at Work.' It is an excellent book about how your brain actually functions and how to maximize how much "work" you can get out of it per day. More and more research is showing that the more we can automatize in our daily lives, the more capacity we have left for what really matters.

  • by ffflala (793437) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @06:38PM (#41553787)
    Think of it like packing your bags for to catch a morning flight out for a two weeks' vacation. What they're describing is the difference between packing your luggage the night before (or earlier) and packing it the morning of your flight.

    For a lot of daily, repetitive actions it makes sense to think about them en masse. Planning your breakfast meals for a week, a month, or indefinitely allows you to think carefully --and once-- about the caloric content, nutrient balance, budget, time to prepare, time to eat, etc. Planning your outfits allows you the same luxury: it's easier to budget a the time spent dressing, laundering, and purchasing your clothes when you're not doing it over and over again every day.

    I heard a radio interview of an efficiency expert who was asked --snidely, as if a positive answer would mean he was incredibly anal-- if he carefully planned out his morning bathroom routine. He said, without reservation, that indeed he did: he'd thought through his morning routine, and on his bathroom counter he lined the various products up he would use in the order he would use them.

    Having these sorts of things set up for you just just step through without having to search for them is just like having your properly workstation configured: it saves you time and effort, and allows you to get started more quickly.

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