Dressing for productivity


GRACE FRYE is shown wearing the outfit she chose to test the theory that you can become more productive by wearing the same outfit everyday. photo by STEPHEN SUMRALL-ORSAK

What’s for breakfast? Should I walk to school or ride my bike? Is today a makeup day or not? Should I get up right now and work out or sleep for another hour? These questions, plus at least a hundred more tiny decisions, dominate my morning routine every day. But no question is bigger or more time consuming than “What should I wear today?” What does this shirt say about me? Will this resonate with my peers? Is this over the top for my meeting? Is this in line with my Personal Brandâ„¢?

Most mornings I dread the act of having to root around in my closet, looking at the same exact clothes I tore through yesterday. I know they haven’t changed, but I always find myself hoping a new piece that says everything I’ve ever wanted will appear unexpectedly, unceremoniously, and in my exact size.

Enter my challenge this week: stop making decisions. For the first time in my life I chose to take on the act of wearing a uniform. I was inspired by a 2015 article in Harper’s Bazaar by Matilda Kahl, the former creative director of a top advertising agency. Kahl faced many of the same stresses I do “” plus more, as she is a functioning adult with a demanding executive role “” and chose to eliminate at least one by creating a work uniform: black slacks, a white silk blouse and a simple leather cord necklace.

As noted by many publications before me, the concept of a work uniform is not new. Mashable published an article in 2014 that discussed why successful men wear the same thing everyday. A few years ago a Fast Company reporter embarks on a similar challenge, citing public figures such as Barack Obama as inspiration. But what does this all boil down to? The answer: making fewer decisions. Focusing brain power, decision making efforts and general productivity on the things that matter each day.

It was with all of this in mind that I started my week. Rather than taking the time to fully coordinate and plan my outfit, I did exactly the opposite. On Monday I woke up late, hustled my way through my morning routine and selected the first few pieces of black cloth I could find in my closet. Thus, my decisionless week was started accidentally with almost the same philosophy. I decided all black would be my best bet. It meant I’d have fewer visible stains, it didn’t stand out so much as to call attention to the experiment and, in my mind, it made total sense to wear all black in the Texas summer heat.

The first thing I noticed was my tendency to sleep in a few extra minutes (read: 30″“45 minutes), minutes that I honestly did not have. Every morning I found myself rushing around cursing myself for snoozing just one more time and cursing my voice-command alarm clock for listening to me.

One thing I did not curse was the need to find a new outfit. Surprisingly, my decisionless morning was working. I applied it to my breakfast as well by stocking up on yogurt and grabbing the first one on the shelf each morning.

I’m not say that not making these decisions left me more alert in my classes, but it did leave me less stressed. I wasn’t concerned about my outfit. I didn’t even think about it; it was a given. It wasn’t up for debate and I loved it.

Not a single person asked about the shift in wardrobe; I wonder if anyone even noticed. Where I originally worried that eliminating this element of personal expression would bore my peers and mark me as unoriginal, it actually gave me the opportunity to focus on my many other decisions, most importantly what’s for lunch. And while I don’t plan to implement this every week moving forward, I think I’ll reserve my uniform for those hellish weeks college students are so well acquainted with.