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March 9

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How to Prevent Decision Fatigue by Simplifying Your Appearance

By Nate McCallister

Last Updated March 9, 2019


Why in the heck is an article about clothing and your physical appearance featured on a blog for entrepreneurs? I'll be honest, I didn't expect to ever be writing about this sort of thing here (or anywhere) myself either. But, it's too important for me to not cover it.

Our clothing and grooming habits have a ripple effect on the rest of our day. 

This goes well beyond the typical "dress for success," concept that states you should "dress for the job you want." It goes beyond the idea that we perform better when we feel we look good. 

This article covers the actual wardrobe you look at every morning and aims to reduce the time spent on getting dressed every day WITHOUT sacrificing comfort or appearance. It covers the daily grooming routines we perform and aims to streamline them. 

I want you to feel comfortable and confident but most importantly, save time every day!

Why This Matters: Decision Fatigue

Every minute of our lives is equal. There are certain things that require a "sunk" amount of time every day. Getting dressed and grooming ourselves is one of them. 

However, we make the process require more time and thought than it needs to requires. This has a ripple effect on the rest of our days. 

Is it going to derail you and send you spiraling into debt and sorrow? No, of course not. But optimizing our appearance and rituals can have a big positive impact on everything else we do every single day. 

That is where my authority comes in to play. I'm not a fashion icon but I am very productive and know where to find opportunities for lasting improvement. 

There's something called "decision fatigue" that can really put a damper on our productivity if we let it get out of control. 

The term was coined by Dr. Roy Baumeister but the concept was originally hypothesized by Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that the self (ego) depended on energy to make decisions of any type. Bauemeister revived this Freudian hypothesis and performed compelling experiments at Case Western and then at Florida State University showing the connection between decisions and energy.

More choices = More fatigue

More fatigue = Worse decisions

One way that we can reduce decision fatigue is by simplifying things we repeat daily and reducing the number of cognitive decisions we need to make.

Each morning we are forced to make dozens of small decisions that we don't need to. 

  • Which of my 8 pairs of pants do I want to wear?
  • Which of my 10 dress shirts look best with these pants?
  • Wait...I want to wear this shirt, but it needs different pants...let's start over...
  • Where are my brown dress socks?!?!
  • Should I just wear black ones?

You get the idea.These small decisions aren't a huge deal on their own, but they are avoidable and add unnecessary decision fatigue first thing in the morning.Therefore, simplifying our appearance can make us more effective. Even if you don't buy into the decision fatigue concept, less time wasted getting dressed is a good thing.

In this article, I'm going to share a few very simple ways you can simplify your wardrobe and reduce your daily decision fatigue. 

I'm going to break this down into two distinct parts: Wardrobe and Personal Care.

Wardrobe Optimization

1. Purge Your Closet

Even if you're like me and don't consider yourself to be super fashion-minded, you most likely have too many clothes. 

By really choosing to be mindful of what I was keeping in my closet, I realized something....

I only wore a small % of the clothes I owned. 

Furthermore, the clothes I wasn't wearing but kept were things that I knew would look bad if I did have to wear them. 

The solution is simple: ​

  • Keep what you love, regularly wear and what looks good
  • Donate or discard what you don't like and won't wear
  • Put into storage what you like but don't wear often

If you realize that you just own a lot of clothes you don't like, replace them with things you do. You can do this on any budget. Clothing is an expense that you should never beat yourself up about when done within reason. 

2. Buy a Lots of the Same Socks

I say the same for a reason. Matching socks is such a time waste. You don’t need a more than one brand of sock in each color.

  • Dress (tan, navy, brown, black) 
  • Casual/sport (Black or Gray, I feel like white socks are for nerds AND show dirt…I don’t get why people wear them.)

Another option is to just say f*#k it and go mismatching.

Here is a cool site for mismatched socks that donates a portion of the proceeds to fight preventable blindness. That is a bit too trendy for me, but I think it’s cool. Good marketing at least!

3. Buy High Quality Clothes and Take Care of Them

According to a 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the average American household spent $1,700 on apparel that year. That equates to about 3.5% of the average annual income for a typical family.

Buying quality over quantity when it comes to clothing has several key benefits.

  • They last longer, which should mean less spent in the long run. 
  • They look better, which can improve your professionalism and general confidence. 
  • You won’t have so many clothes to filter through when choosing what to wear.

4. Keep It Basic

We simply do not have enough time in our day to waste any of it on frivolous details. So, limit your choices.

If you are the type of person who likes to look kinda fancy and wears a lot of different types of things, go for it! I’d recommend considering laying out your clothes in advance for the week in order to save time.

The front-runner for the “keep-it-basic” movement is Mark Zuckerberg, who is typically found wearing plain, neutral colored tee shirts and jeans.

President Obama typically wears the same gray or blue suit each day, here is his explanation why:​

"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." -Barack Obama

What Obama is getting at is something psychologists call “decision fatigue.”

This is a recognized psychological condition in which the decision making process is hindered as a result of too many prior decisions without rest.

Removing the frivolous decisions could (logically) mean less decision fatigue later in our days.

I am not 100% sure if I believe in this concept of decision fatigue but I try and practice simplicity and repetition in my basic decisions if not just for the extra time it saves me each day.

5. Stop Washing Your Clothes So Much

My wife will laugh/roll her eyes a tad when she reads this (I am not great at this myself), but it is truly a solid tip. If your clothes aren’t dirty, don’t wash them.

  • It wears them out
  • It takes more time
  • It wastes energy

Ok, so how often should you be washing your jeans?

Well, Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh never (yes, never!) washes his jeans. If you ask me, that is just nasty. I get shit on my jeans all the time and am not gonna just never wash them. I imagine this is some conspiracy to keep you from wearing out your Levis?

A rule of thumb according to Dennis Green of Business Insider, “when they smell when they smell — no sooner and no longer. Depending on how much you sweat, how often you wear them in a week, and how dirty the area you live in is, that could be once every two to six months.”

In 2019 (a couple of years after originally writing this article) I discovered my new favorite jeans. They're from a company called Mugsy and they fit like sweatpants but look like high quality denim. I'm not affiliated with them but they are great.

How often should I wash my jeans?
Mugsy Jeans

6. Use Hangers to Prevent Additional Ironing

Wrinkly clothes make you look bad. Ironing takes time. Hangers prevent wrinkles. Hangers prevent ironing.

7. Never Underestimate the Power of Sweatpants

If you are working from home and not wearing sweatpants, you’re missing out.

My favorite sweatpants are the All Day Every Day Pants from a company called Public Rec (not affiliated). They are pricy ($95 a pop) but they double as regular pants and can be worn in the gym without looking crazy. Great for long flights too. 

Personal Hygiene Optimization

1. Buy Toiletries in Bulk.

Do you plan on breaking the habit of brushing your teeth soon? Wearing deodorant? Ok, then you’re probably fine buying your toiletries in multipacks.

  • Better per unit price.
  • Fewer trips to the store.
  • You will buy them anyway!

2. Spend Less Time in the Shower

The average American showers once a day. There are a couple of things that we can do to make sure that we aren't spending as much time as the average (most likely underachieving) joe though. 

First, science has proven now that showering every day is actually bad for us (something about the balance of bacteria and other microbes in our skin). So, when possible, consider showering every other day

Longer than that is gross to me, but your call. We do work online after all.

Secondly, There is a difference between a shower and a relaxation session. Both are fine, but don’t start each day 30 minutes in the hole because you stood idle in the shower for too long getting pruney.

If you work out in the morning, that is a fantastic time to get your shower in and I love to take mine at the gym when I can. Saves time, money and let’s me hit the ground running on my day.


3. Keep Your Hair Short if Possible

Women, you can pretty much ignore this if you’d like, but dudes, short hair looks professional and requires little effort.

Now, if you have been blessed with flowing, Garnia Fructise-esque locks, far be it from me to tell you to defy God and cut it.

Personally, my hair is only a few shades away from being red and it is being held on with Rogaine and Propecia (yes, I do want to keep my hair believe it or not, but it is a battle against time and nature I don’t expect to win!)


4. BEARDS RULE (MAN TIP)

Beard

If your beard looks like your armpits when you were 13, skip the beard and keep it shaved. There’s a difference between having a beard and just not shaving.

Stacking the Habit of Dressing and Personal Hygiene

Habit stacking is a fantastic way to get multiple, small tasks done at the same time. It makes it easier to get a lot done in small, easy to develop “habit chunks.”

For example, prepare your wardrobe for the next day in the same time frame you brush your teeth and prepare for bed.

About the author

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his four kids Sawyer, Brooks, Van and Lua with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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  1. Thanks Nate..i think a lot depends on so many different factors, like your age, your desire to impress people, and especially what part of the country you live in.
    I went to the Naval Academy where we had to take 1 minute showers as a plebe. It’s amazing how much you can get done in even 30 seconds. That’s all it really takes.
    As for when to wash clothes, thank you! Some people sweat more than others, but i can wear a t shirt for at least 2 days and depending on the weather, 3 plus. I go with the smell factor, unless i’m digging in the garden or there’s a stain on something.
    The decision fatigue you mention also exists for habits and will power. I’m glad you mentioned it. This is a huge piece of information we never understood before. So going on a diet during Q4 is probably not a good idea. last year in ACE Sam started a weight loss contest. Not a good idea in my mind.
    Keep those ideas rolling.

  2. I appreciate that you talked about the importance of taking care of the clothes you purchase to make them last as long as possible. We are purchasing my daughter some new school clothes soon and I will help her take care of them so they will last until next year. While we shop for her clothes I will certainly remember these tips.

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