Have you ever wondered why Barack Obama only wears blue or gray suits? Or why Steve Jobs wore the same black turtleneck every day? Why did San Francisco 49ers football coach Steve Walsh set the first 20+ offensive plays of the game regardless of the situation? The answer is capacity.
Capacity is closely related to willpower. We have a finite amount of it. Once it is used up, we fail to function in ways that are best for our long term development. By making choices like these before they are needed, you are able to free up more mental capacity to use during the times when you need it most.
Every person has the same 24 hours in a day. We all know this is true, yet some people are significantly more productive with their 24 hours than others. Why is that? Capacity.
Capacity is the problem and the solution.
Everyone has the same amount of time in a day, but we do not all have the same amount of capacity. Capacity is the result of systems, processes, and delegation. Either these are working for you or against you. Good systems, processes, and delegation allow for more capacity, while the opposite erodes capacity.
This is true at work and in other aspects of your life. In a business setting, we use the word systems or process to categorize the flow of materials or ideas. It may relate to the flow of materials on a manufacturing floor, or it could be the way ideas are turned into new products.
In our personal life, we call these same things habits. They are the way we go about getting ready in the morning, or the way we decide how to spend our evenings. These habits are either creating capacity or depleting capacity. There is not a middle ground.
You can waste capacity. Every minute you spend doing something that is not the highest priority is a slow deterioration of capacity. Just like time, once capacity has left, it will never come back again.
For many people, the default way to think about their life is a chunk of time. Minutes, hours, days, months, or years. For others, they think of work they can do now to increase their capacity for the future. If I make a decision today that removes the need to a make a decision for the next year, how much capacity did that free up?
This where many leaders and entrepreneurs struggle. They are constantly in need of capacity to create or make important decisions. The problem is they are maxed out. Their tanks are on empty. Often they will respond by saying they need more time, but time is not what they need. They need more capacity.
So how can you increase your capacity? Start small. Look for areas where you can make a permanent decision that eliminates the need to make future decisions. One example that has worked for is I log every task regardless of size in my task management app Todoist. This is straight from David Allen's best selling book Getting Things Done. It takes a matter of seconds, and it frees my mind to think creatively instead of trying to keep a running list of what needs to be done. It seems small, but you would be amazed how freeing it is to know that decision has already been made. It is one small way I've increase my capacity.
Remember, it is impossible to act on a new idea unless you have capacity. Make sure you always have extra capacity so you can act on your next great idea.