4 Ways to Put Your Life on Automatic
While Steve Jobs is perhaps the most famous uniform wearer of recent times, he is/was not the only tech billionaire with such a predictable wardrobe. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is also fond of wearing the same thing day in, day out. In Zuck’s case, it’s a grey t-shirt and blue-grey hoodie matched to a pair of jeans. In a short talk he explains why:
I’m in this really lucky position where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life, so that way I can dedicate all of my energy towards just building the best products and services.
Leaving aside whether you believe Zuckerberg is trying to help a billion plus people and whether you agree that the clothes we wear are “silly or frivolous,” the gist of his logic remains: we have a finite amount of time and attention for the things we find important. Any reduction in decisions surrounding unimportant things frees our time and attention for important ones. For him, the decisions he makes at work are more important than deciding what shirt to wear for the day.
While we have been known to over express our advocacy of uniforms, they are far from only way to streamline decision making. Our lives are filled with staple decisions and other attention-grabbing activities, ones that can be standardized without compromising the quality of our lives. Here are a few:
- Standardize food choices. Many of us eat food every day and some even eat three meals a day, which is three, sometimes agonizing, decisions. Aside from skipping meals (something this author frequently does), we can standardize our daily meal plans, either eating the same thing for several consecutive days or, if you want a bit more variety, choosing between a set amount of dishes, e.g. lunch is either pasta salad, turkey sandwich or avocado wrap. Even standardizing two of the meals (breakfast and lunch are the easy targets) helps to make our lives a lot smoother.
- Autopay bills. Welcome to the 21st Century, a time when we no longer have to remember to pay our bills. Sure, it’s good to be aware of how much money we’re spending, but really, how often do we contest the gas or phone bill? Most bills can be both sent electronically (i.e. no snail mail) and put on autopay, automatically charging your credit card or withdrawing funds from your bank account at a set time. If it makes you feel better, glance at your account online to make sure everything is on the up and up. Imagine a world where you never have to think about overdue bills. What would that freedom permit you to do?
- Refine your daily routine. For better or worse, the vast majority of our days are filled with repetitive tasks: getting ready for the day, set tasks at work, cooking dinner, going to bed. Given the repetitive nature of our lives, why not get really good at our routines? Find the swiftest path to making coffee, working out, knocking out email at work, cleaning dishes at night, etc. If it can be done, it can probably be done better, faster and with less effort.
- Make standing appointments. Similar to the point about routine, most of our lives are filled with things we regularly want to and must do: go to the gym, go grocery shopping, do laundry, spend time with friends and family, get haircuts, etc. Rather than doing these things “when we have time”–a tack that often results in not doing the things we want to do and squeezing the things we must do in last minute–we might try scheduling our lives. What happens when we commit to doing something at a set time is we: A. stop wondering when we’ll do it, thereby freeing up mental space; and B. build our lives around the standing appointments, thereby greatly increasing the odds of not running out of time and accomplishing both our want to’s and have to’s. Ironically, having those free spaces between the fixed appointments actually allows more time for spontaneity.
What activities do you standardize or automate to make your life simpler? Let us know in our comments section.