An automation lesson from your wardrobe
What do Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama have in common?
For a start, all three enjoyed incredible success. But there’s something else: a distinctive daily outfit. Jobs had his turtlenecks, Zuckerberg his V-necks, and Obama his small selection of suits.
Does this mean that wearing the same outfit every day makes you successful? Not exactly. But there is a correlation — and it’s all down to something called ‘mental effort’.
As it turns out, your wardrobe could hold an automation lesson for you.
Mental effort: a limited resource
The automation lesson from your wardrobe revolves around how you spend your mental effort. It’s already clear that effort is valuable — but it turns out, it’s also a finite resource in day-to-day life.
Mental effort is like an energy store. Every decision and task you take throughout the day takes from this energy resource. So, the more of these actions and decisions you make, the more tired you get, and the harder it is to make good decisions.
The idea of mental effort comes from studies conducted in the 1990s. Researchers observed that conscious mental actions appear to draw from the same ‘energy source’. That is, the decisions you make about what to eat, or where to save a file, drink from the same energy as the big decisions. (Such as which house to buy, or which product your business focuses on.)
Your wardrobe and the mundane
So, go back to the wardrobe, and the automation lesson starts to take shape. By having the same outfit every day, Jobs, Zuckerberg and Obama reduced the mental effort spent on choosing an outfit.
In life, this looks like spending less effort on unimportant tasks. (Whether it’s what you eat for lunch, or your workload at the office.)
In the office, it means spending less time on the repetitive and tedious tasks that take up your time and concentration. They’re tasks that need doing but are ultimately unimportant to your growth.
The automation lesson, then, is to stop focusing on the unimportant. Instead, dedicate your effort quota to the important tasks. And your wardrobe is ready to show you how.
Routinisation and automation
It’s all well and good only focusing on the important decisions, but those little tasks still need doing. Like Zuckerberg, Jobs and Obama, you need to ‘routinise’ those tasks. That is, you need to put them on autopilot, and take away the effort-consuming choice.
But autopilot isn’t going to work for your office processes in the same way as wearing the same outfit every day. This is where the ‘automation’ part of the automation lesson comes in. Automation acts as an autopilot for your office processes.
It works by having you identify the processes that are wasting your mental effort, and turning them into rules. That is, removing the unnecessary decision-making they hold so that you’re left with conditions and outcomes. Then, you feed the rules into the automation software. From then on, it automates those tasks for you.
So, the mundane won’t be drinking your valuable mental effort. Instead, you can focus on the important — just like Jobs, Zuckerberg and Obama.
An automation lesson
Don’t waste your mental effort on the tasks and processes that are unimportant to your goals. Instead, routinise and automate them. Then, spend the effort you’ve saved on decisions, activities and people that matter most to the future of your business.
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