The Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

In a recent Vanity Fair article, Barack Obama explains why he only ever wears grey or blue suits. It’s about conserving decision-making energy.

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. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.

I was very interested to read on Quora that Mark Zuckerberg also uses a very limited wardrobe – although in his case, it’s usually a brown or grey Facebook T-shirt. According to a Facebook intern on the site, Zuckerberg explained that “it makes for one less thing to think about in the morning.”

It’s safe to assume most of us aren’t faced with decisions of the same magnitude as the POTUS or the founder of the world’s largest social network. However, we do all face a multitude of daily decisions, each of which consumes our time and energy.

What can we learn here?

Clearly, we should all start dressing in monotone (well, maybe). Perhaps more importantly, we should take steps to reduce the haze of decisions we’re confronted with every day. Do this, and we’ll free ourselves to focus on the things that really matter.

Snap out of the sleepwalk.

The daily commute is something many of us could do in our sleep; we’ve stopped noticing that it is full of energy-consuming decisions. Walk to the station or take the bus? Does our public transit card need to be renewed? Do we take this passenger car or the next one? And so on. Sidestepping the commute altogether would enable us to save not just time but also valuable decision-making energy.

Be ready to go.

So, what do you need to work effectively from home or a remote location? Preparing could be as simple as having the right equipment (laptop and smartphone, for example, along with respective chargers), trusted flexible working solutions such as GoToMeeting and knowledge of a good local working space or two. If you know beforehand what you need to maintain productivity and stay in touch, all the small decisions you’d usually make before escaping the office (how, where, when?) are reduced to just one: is it feasible to work flexibly today?

Stay focused and keep shipping.

Before you dive deep into the day’s work or transition from one project to another, make it a habit to pause and review your to-dos. It’s easy to drift from key tasks – and the key decisions they hinge on. This is your chance to stay focused and keep shipping.

Don’t micromanage. Trust your people.

Legendary entrepreneur Richard Branson has written persuasively about why micromanagement is counterproductive. He attributes Virgin’s success to giving his staff autonomy and encouraging them to take calculated risks.

Giving my employees room to work has often meant my moving out of the business’s headquarters. In the early days I used a houseboat as my office, and later my home in Holland Park, to give my managers the space and authority to make their own decisions.

There you have it. What will your decision be?

Photo credit: sixsensesslowlifesymposium