Getting Stuff Done by NOT making Decisions

obama1obama3 obama2

I read that, while he was President, Barack Obama had a habit of never wearing anything but blue and grey suits. It got me thinking about how important habits are in our lives and how I might be able to use the power of habit to get my book written and achieve world domination.

I’m working on the second part of Ghost Road at the moment and am trying to establish good habits to get it done. Habits play a role in most people’s lives even the rich and famous. Bill Gates, for example, apparently has a habit of reading biographies, books on philosophy, and periodicals before getting exactly seven hours of sleep each night.

gates2   cowell   king (2)

Simon Cowell has a ritual of climbing trees every day (don’t ask!) and Stephen King has said that he habitually sits down to a single slice of cheesecake every day before he starts writing (that’s one I’m definitely incorporating into my own routine). But it was this thing about Obama’s grey and blue suits that caught my interest. He was reportedly trying to ‘pare down’ his decisions; not wanting to have to decide, for instance, about what to eat or wear because he already had so many other more crucial decisions to make. And it turns out that Obama’s approach is supported by research.


Associate Business Professor at the University of Minnesota and Social Psychology Researcher Kathleen Vohs (above) and colleagues’ study on self-control found that making repeated choices used up the mental energy of their subjects, even if those choices were the run-of-the-mill, everyday decisions about ordinary life. Vohs has a Ph.D in Psychological and Brain Sciences and a shed-load of academic prizes and awards so it seems like she’s got a few things figured out.

Someone else who has one or two things figured out is Robert C. Pozen, Senior Lecturer of Business Administration at Harvard Business School who says; ‘The point is that you should decide what you don’t care about and that you should learn how to run those parts of your life ‘on autopilot.’ Instead of wasting your mental energy on things that you consider unimportant, save it for those decisions, activities, and people that matter most to you.’

For me, this means that the best way to get something done like finish writing my book is to stop moaning about how much of my time is taken up with boring stuff like shopping, eating, washing up, painting the fence etc. and instead turn those mundane tasks into  quick, sleek, decision-free processes which take up as little time as possible. These will then drain very little of your mental energy and free you up to work on your project of… well… taking over the world.

In other words… wear blue and grey suits. You know it makes sense.





Published by Jon Kenna

Author of two novels; 'Ghost Road' and 'Mr. Mad' plus 'Susan Shocks' a book of stories for children. All available from

4 thoughts on “Getting Stuff Done by NOT making Decisions

  1. Seems like there was some manufactured “outrage” when he wore a light brown suit. It didn’t seem Presidential enuf (or something). I dress based on whatever the next shirt is in the closet rotation. Now if I could only get more regimented about my writing.

  2. Good point. I have been thinking for a long time that I need a better system for meal planning, so that I don’t waste time every night thinking about what to make. Meal ideas on Friday, shopping on Saturday, cooking on Sunday. Your post is inspiring me to actually try to get this streamlined routine started. That would mean more time for art and work I actually care about, right?

    1. Yes I reckon if you have a good timetable you no longer have to make a thousand decisions a day, you only have to make one decision ( whether to stick to the timetable or not).

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