As working women we’re all looking for that magic bullet that will save us a few minutes here, or an hour there so that we can get more things done each day. You can’t change the number of hours in the day, but you can change how you spend them, which matters more to your productivity than you think. The busier we get the more we need to simplify those things within our control — like what we wear. Simplifying your wardrobe is the key to unlocking your productivity and here’s why:
1) Fewer choices leads to greater productivity by freeing up our mind to focus on the things that really matter.
We’ve all had one of those mornings where nothing seemed to fit or feel right. By the time you decided to wear the black dress that you always go back to anyway, you’re frazzled and haven’t even left the house. Even something as simple as deciding whether to wear a scarf or necklace, or a black skirt versus navy reduces our mental capacity and willpower to focus on other things. Scientists call this: decision fatigue.
There’s a reason why some of the most successful people from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg have a uniform. Two decades of research on willpower has shown that we use willpower to do everything and that our willpower is finite — in other words deciding what to wear reduces our ability to focus on decisions that actually matter and performance of those tasks.
I’m not advocating wearing the same black dress everyday or cutting your wardrobe down to 25 or 37 items. Even though most people only wear about 20% of what they own. A carefully edited closet comprised of two major categories, basics and accessories, will go a long way to streamlining getting dressed each morning. There’s no one size fits all formula when it comes to wardrobe basics, what you need depends on where you work and your lifestyle. In general, a good basic should be well-made, relatively seasonless, versatile, and comfortable. Comfort is more about the fit of a garment rather than how much Lycra is in it. Never forget that comfort equals confidence. Accessories aren’t just your shoes and jewelry, but blazers, scarves — anything that can be paired with your basics to personalize your look.
After working on Wall Street for over a decade, I spent two years living out of a suitcase traveling the world before launching my clothing line Senza Tempo. One December, I traveled from San Francisco to New York City then Australia in the space of four weeks. I had to pack for a sixty-degree temperature change in two suitcases. Every item had to work for an interview, afternoon on the beach or drinks in the city.
During this time I never had to think about what I wore and over this same period: I earned my MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, wrote a novel, and researched and wrote the business plan for Senza Tempo. This time living out of a suitcase would ultimately find its way into my brand’s philosophy on producing items that are seasonless, highly versatile yet elegant — these were the hardest items to find.
2) You’ll feel more confident, thus perform better.
There is truth to the adage of fashion as your armor. The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology writes that enclothed cognition “involves the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them.” In other words, when people dress the part they tend to feel more confident and have a heightened focus.
If you curate your closet, it’s like having a closet full of power suits.
During my travels I didn’t have the space to pack things that didn’t fit perfectly or feel good wearing. I couldn’t pack items that only worked when I was having “a skinny day.” There simply wasn’t space in my suitcase for this type of wishful item. I’m most comfortable in A-line dresses and skirts. Not being able to find a simple, well-made yet affordable black A-line skirt is what ultimately led me to launch my company. My brand consistently produces three core silhouettes that flatter a wide range of body shapes and personal styles.
Scientists have proven that your clothing influences how you feel and how others perceive you. When you eliminate the excess in your closet and pare it down to your most favorite and frequently worn items, what’s left are the items you love and fit the best. When your clothing fits well you tend feel more confident enabling you to perform at a higher level.
3) Because time spent on shopping and managing our clothing could be better spent elsewhere.
The BLS estimates that we spend nearly 45 minutes a week shopping or 168 hours (or entire week each year). The survey doesn’t break down how much is spent clothes shopping versus grocery shopping, but we know this: the average American buys just over one new piece of clothing per week and throws out over 80 pounds of clothing per year. Sure, buying a dress on your phone while sitting in a meeting that went on longer than it should doesn’t seem like a waste of time, but mindless purchases add up. Over time they ultimately cost more than what you’ve paid.
The survey doesn’t even account for all the time we spend reorganizing our clothing so it will fit in our overstuffed closets, and then later cleaning out all of those mindless purchases. Think about how many weekends or vacation days you’ve spent cleaning out clothing instead of doing something that rejuvenates you or time starting your side hustle.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or executive, we want to find more hours in the day and increase our productivity. Time is our only real luxury in life. We all complain that there is never enough of it, yet we rarely make meaningful changes in how we use it. Instead of looking for the latest and greatest app to enhance your productivity, take a closer look at how you are spending your time and where you are wasting it. Your closet full of nothing to wear is a good start.
This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.