Saturday, February 15, 2014

"Always the Same," Suits Obama: And Other POTUS Secrets

President Obama always wears the same thing. Which is part of his secret to getting so much done.
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH COMPLEXITY, KEEPING A PACK OF NICORETTE HANDY, AND MAKING NO NEW FRIENDS. THIS IS HOW A COMMANDER IN CHIEF GETS THINGS DONE.

BY DRAKE BAER - Fast Company

As he told Vanity Fair:

"You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits," [Obama] said. "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."

This is because, the Commander in Chief explained, the act of making a decision erodes your ability to make later decisions. Psychologists call it decision fatigue: it’s why shopping for groceries can be so exhausting and judges give harsher rulings later in the day.

Managing decision fatigue calls for the high-value, low-effort systemization that entrepreneurs swear by. Whether or not our offices are oval, we need to find ways to reduce friction in our days. As Obama says: "You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can't be going through the day distracted by trivia."

In 2012, Ryan Lizza had a big scoop for the New Yorker: hundreds of pages of White House memos. Woven together, the memos paint a picture of what the presidential workflow looks like--especially since this president prefers written advice to spoken. What's most illuminating is how "decision memos" get delivered to his desk with three checkboxes at the bottom:
  • agree
  • disagree
  • let's discuss
This is effective because, like always wearing the same suit, the checkboxes impose simplicity. While the decisions are obviously complex--how else do they end up at the desk of the president--creating three choices speeds up the feedback loop. Rather than submitting an essay test for each problem, the president can opt for multiple choice.