Why Routines Make You A Better Person

The Harvard Business Review has an article which points out that many busy, important people like Steve Jobs and President Obama wear basically the same clothes and eat the same meals every day. Why? Because they intuitively know what psychological studies have recently shown us: that we have a limited amount of mental energy; we can only spin our brains’ wheels so much per day.

Think of mental energy like a battery: if you spend it on making decisions about what to wear and where to eat, you have less to spend on designing the iPhone. If you spend it on trying to avoid eating the cheesecake in the fridge or on talking yourself into going for a run, you’ll have less to spend on beating Romney in a televised debate. If you spend it trying to stay awake longer than you’re supposed to, you won’t have enough to spend on keeping your temper in check when your airheaded BFF asks you what you did this weekend for the 52nd time.

 

Steve Jobs' outfits at keynote speeches, 1998-2010

 

Faced with limited mental resources, productive people came up with a simple plan: use the battery only for important things. If you make everything a routine, you don’t have to spend any mental energy on your clothes, your diet, your fitness or any number of daily activities. Regular people already do this to a degree: imagine if every day you had to decide whether or not to brush your teeth, whether or not to go to work, whether or not to put shoes on. You’d have no faculty left to even hold a conversation, much less do anything productive, like show up at work and look alive.

The most successful people take this to a more extreme level: they eliminate every choice possible. When you wake, how you dress, what you eat, when (not if) you exercise all become a foregone conclusion. If and/or when they happen is not up for debate, just like brushing your teeth in the morning isn’t. And since they’re routine, they’re one less thing you have to worry about. Which means you now have more mental power to spend worrying about things that matter — like becoming a better person.

From Harvard Business Review, via Slashdot

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