Limiting choices and increasing the speed at which you make those choices will increase your productivity.
I essentially have two choices when it comes to footwear:
A pair of black sneakers and a pair of black shoes.
When I’m deciding what to wear in the morning, my choice is simple. Unless I’m taking the stage or doing something slightly more formal, it’s almost always the sneakers.
Every three or four months, I replace those sneakers with an identical pair.
In reality, I own more than two pairs of shoes. I also have a pair of golfing shoes and a pair of basketball sneakers, which are kept in my car and only worn for those sports.
I rotate my most recently replaced sneakers into the garage for when I need to mow the lawn or rake leaves.
I have a pair of boots for hiking and a pair of boots for playing in the snow.
I have a pair of tuxedo shoes for times when I am wearing a tuxedo.
But when it comes to everyday footwear, I have two options, and the lack of options saves me time.
I know that most people will discount this minimalist approach to footwear as a marginal time saver at best (because it’s hard to see how seconds a day can add up if you’re not using the recovered time effectively), and many will think that having only two choices of everyday footwear is ridiculous. But before you call me a quack, consider this:
Einstein bought several of the same gray suit and wore one everyday of his life in order to eliminate clothing decisions from his life and free up his mind for more important thinking.
Steve Jobs had more than one hundred back turtlenecks made for him and wore them everyday of his life, for convenience, efficiency, and personal branding.
Barack Obama has only gray and blue suits for similar reasons:
“You need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. 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.”
Obama also mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.
Facebook CEO Marc Zuckerberg recently said that he owns “maybe about 20″ identical grey T-shirts. “I mean, I wear the same thing every day, right? I mean, it’s literally, if you could see my closet at home. It’s just easier that way.”
There are more examples. Many, many more.
I may be a quack, but I’m in damn good company. Productive company, too.
Maybe eliminating shoes is impossible for you. Perhaps the color palette of your feet is too important to abandon this daily decision. But are there other decisions that you could eliminate from your life instead?
I don’t carry an umbrella, wear sunglasses, a watch or jewelry of any kind for similar reasons. I opt for an uncomplicated, streamlined existence. I believe that eliminating these items from my life saves me time and frees my mind.
I own two baseball hats: Patriots and Yankees. I would own just the Yankees cap if I didn’t attend Patriots games so often and perform on stage in Boston on occasion.
Except for days when I was going to spend hours outdoors in the frigid weather, I wear the same coat. hat and gloves. The coat is admittedly only a sweatshirt, but it’s thick and warm, and I tend to be a person who doesn’t get cold easily. My students claim that they have never seen me wear a coat, but that’s because they don’t recognize the warmth of a well made sweatshirt.
Besides, I try to dress for where I am going to be and not the 1-3 minutes that I will spend between my car and that space.
If not the shoes, perhaps you could eliminate some of these choices and layers of accoutrement from your life instead.
When it comes to productivity, less is more. The fewer decisions that you have to make and the fewer items that you need to constantly inventory, the more time you will have and better decisions you will make.