…..or why I wear the same trousers on 80% of my shoots! There’s a psychological phenomenon that I’ve read about a few times called “Decision Fatigue“. I’ve come across it in books like Scarcity, as well as stuff by Daniel Kahneman, Malcolm Gladwell, and I recently heard a Tim Ferris podcast on the subject. In a nutshell, the condition is that we all have a finite amount of attention in any given time period – let’s say the average waking day of 16 hours or so – and we deplete that attention by having to make more and more decisions.
The downside is that if we spend most of our waking hours making decisions about not very important stuff (what TV show to watch, which pair of shoes to put on in the morning) we’ll have much less attention left to devote to the important things – in our case coming up with ideas for shoots, solving technical and logistical problems, or managing people on a shoot.
Irrespective of any scientific studies on the matter (and there appear to have been several) I’m sure we can all think of times when we’ve made bad/lazy decisions due to being exhausted, or simply felt bewildered when confronted by a range of options.
So how do you manage this finite resource? With trousers. Obviously.
Me and my beige combat trousers in a variety of situations. I took them to meet, amongst others, Paula Radcliffe, Jeremy Piven, and Dean Macey. I think they were impressed. The celebs, that is, not my trousers. That would be weird.
More than one of my clients has remarked, in a gently mocking way, that I seem to own only one pair of trousers, due to what appears to be a very limited wardrobe when they meet me on shoots. The truth is that several years ago I found the perfect pair of “work” trousers (you can buy them here, and if they’d like to chuck me a free pair or two in return for all the custom, I won’t say no) and I simply buy more pairs when my existing ones wear out. They’re such suitable work trousers because:
- They’re smart enough to allow me to work in places like posh golf courses without getting thrown out, but tough enough to put up with all the location work I do.
- They’ve got stacks of pockets on, which I frequently make use of.
- They’re very hard wearing – I don’t know how many pairs I’ve owned in total, but I’ve never actually destroyed a pair yet, although I’ve had a good go.
- They’ve got a good practical fit – something that can’t be said for jeans, which are awful at flexing with you when you move about, squat, climb up things, and generally do all the running about that I do on the job.
- They dry out very quickly, which is essential for the amount of times I get soaked out on location. Again, something jeans are awful at – once wet, they’re staying wet.
- And last but not least, they’re about £20 a pop. Not to sound tight-fisted, but knowing they only cost this much means I’m much less likely to worry about damaging them – not something I should be thinking about on a shoot when my prime concern should be to get the best shot.
But above all, and the reason for this post in the first place, is that wearing one pair of trousers for work helps me avoid decision fatigue, and allows me to spend more of my limited mental energy on stuff that actually matters, like solving problems and being creative. It’s why I always pack my camera bags the same way, and tend to have the same thing for breakfast, though there are other good reasons for these 2 habits as well.
So if you want to be more creative, just change your wardrobe.