The New Habit Challenge: Wear The Same Clothes Every Day

Making a lot of small decisions all day wears out your brain for the big stuff. This week we're cutting out some inconsequential choices.

Ever notice how Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Kors, and countless other pioneers all seem to experience fashion deja vu on a daily basis? They must know something we don't.

Perhaps it's the fact that the more decisions we make, the more we're stressing our brains out and killing our productivity.

President Obama explained it best during a 2012 interview with Vanity Fair when he revealed why he only wears 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.

Experts explain that your pool of decision-making energy is limited, and eventually, as your willpower depletes with each new decision you make, you're more likely to either act impulsively or do nothing.

Steve Jobs seemed to have cottoned on to the beauty of simplicity--didn't he wear the same blue jeans and black polo neck daily?--and he was wildly successful. So maybe less variety isn't such a bad thing.

For the next week, I plan to put this theory to the test, and I hope you'll join me.

My outfit of choice, since I am fortunate enough to work in a creative field, will be a pair of blue jeans and a black T-shirt. Luckily I own more than one set of each item, so the smelly factor need not be a concern (also there's this thing called a washing machine).

There are other easy ways to pare down your decision making, so I'll also put things like meals on autopilot by deciding before the week begins what I'll bring for lunch and preplanning all of the week's dinners. And I'll streamline my smaller work tasks by putting my to-do list together the day before.

Challenge yourself to pare down your decisions every day next week and tell us what you loved and hated about it, if it worked or totally bombed, and we may feature your response in an upcoming Fast Company story. Responses must be submitted to habits@fastcompany.com by end of day Thursday, August 14, 2014.

Get The Best Stories In Leadership Every Day.

[Image: Bork via Shutterstock]

Add New Comment

21 Comments

  • petekoo

    Not a bad idea for those that it works for. I think it would be interesting to look at those who choose to standardize their wardrobe through the lens of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I bet there's a strong correlation to personality and the effectiveness of the approach (not to mention overall likelihood to be in a high level position like Obama, Zuckerberg, and Jobs).

  • freyja1898

    My process is that, on Sunday I line up what I'm going to wear for the week. My rule is simple, once the decision is made I must follow through; the only exception was one spring when the weather was getting warmer and I planned on spring clothes, but woke up one morning to a snow storm. I didn't wear my spring dress that day.

  • Mike Harrop

    Backpacker method is best. One on, one in the backpack or being washed. The space, the lightness, the freedom !

  • I already do this, especially in the summer. Three T shirts, two collared shirts. I can wash and rinse a shirt in a small tub I place in the sink and then hang it to dry. I "iron" them with my hand against my body, then when they hang to dry they end up looking ironed in the old-fashioned way. Five pair of pants, all black, machine washed. . Winter's trickier, everything is machine washed. So in the summer I always wear black pants and a charcoal, soft green, navy, khaki or red shirt, whichever is handy from the bedroom rack. If I were still working I'd have four suits, navy or gray; six shirts, white or blue, ten ties. But i got rid of all them except one outfit for formal funerals or weddings. I hate thinking about clothes. I also got rid of my car many years ago because I hated to to have thoughts about a car.

  • Suzanne Dreitlein

    Elle Magazine does a "day in the life of" feature about fashion designers and just about all of them wear a uniform. Specific examples like Coco Channel or Ralph Lauren come to mind. I often wonder if simplifying one's wardrobe means the creativity will escape in another, maybe more productive way. Of course, then you have the Gwen Stephani, Dita Von Teese, and Betsy Johnson types who are creative in their apparel as well as their work. As an ADHD adult, I know wearing a uniform would really be beneficial but I've tried to do it and because I don't have a particularly creative job, I actually get depressed if I can't be a little creative in my appearance. To compromise, I have a index card-based system. Not wearing the same thing every day but it's a streamlined way of picking things out. I wrote about my method here - http://stormunderstillwater.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/when-just-getting-ready-in-the-morning-is-a-challenge/

  • I already do this. I have 5 pair of pants and about 5 stripped shirts that all match (of varying color, but all the same style). So all I have to grab one of each and pull them on. Nothing fancy, but comfortable. Oh, and enough foundation garments to last me a week without needing to do laundry. Makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier.

  • Kathryn L. Walker

    Rachel, your challenge has been accepted, and I gladly will stick to my "uniform" of A-skirt, tank top, and jacket, with appropriate stockings and shoes to coordinate. I usually need to keep my mind free from these type of decisions, to allow for other pressing matters of the day running a transplant lab clinic; so I have basic mix n match stuff that just works well on the 4am wake up call times. Great idea, I take it seriously!

  • It's funny how people that don't agree with the article want their voice to be heard. This is an excellent suggestion. However it only applies to people that have more crucial decisions to make than they have time for. If you are a person looking to grow professionally and aren't concerned about (and this is the key differentiator) what other people think about you because you have self-confidence, try this! Dressing isn't the only way to express your creativity. Take the challenge and be creative about other ways to express your creativity. Emotional level problems! Lol-what's the connection? If you don't like the suggestion move on from the article and let those who want to give this idea a shot to share their results. This habit can change your life!

  • Walter Edvalson

    Or it is funny how people who do agree with the article want their voice to be heard; everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to be heard.

    OK, maybe not everyone - there, are you happy?

  • Bun Thomas

    This is a great way of thinking. I will be paring down decision making by not read silly articles like this one. I feel better already!

  • This is a great experiment and - as someone who pays attention to fashion and appearance although not obsessively - I think it's true.

  • Suzanne Dreitlein

    Just visited theproject333.com and it's really inspiring! I love the idea and the examples of how people have implemented the concept are awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  • rakiyt

    I'm Game! I did this before and my brain felt free...don't know why I didn't keep it up.

  • this is sad. how we dress is an expression of our creativity, our beauty and how we feel. if people are overwhelmed by picking out an outfit for the day, then maybe their problem is at the emotional level.

  • ekisolaf

    I respectfully disagree with this. Why not pick out your outfit and meals the night before? I prepare my weekly meals on Sundays to free my mind from thinking about it during the week. Why do you have to wear the same outfit when you can pick out multiple variations of things to help spark creativity in your mind? Our brains are designed to think critically and analyze situations so why not try to expand its reach. Remember we're only using less than 10% of our brain's capacity so thinking that being a robot allows our brain time to think of other things and make other critical decisions irrespective of mundane ones is flawed in my opinion. Our brain already psychologically put processes and things in an automatic state and adding to that might actually strain that process rather than free up our minds.

  • I've been doing this for longer than I care to remember. I find that conversely, when I get 'dressed up' for an event, it tend to make clearer decisions about what to ware.