Jeff Bezos only expects himself to make three good decisions a day

The world’s richest man, and maybe also the world’s best-rested CEO.
The world’s richest man, and maybe also the world’s best-rested CEO.
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In a global culture of overwork, the world’s richest man has a surprisingly chill daily routine.

During an extensive interview at the Economic Club of Washington DC on Thursday (Sept. 13), Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said he prioritizes getting eight hours of sleep each night, then builds “puttering time” into his mornings for things like enjoying his coffee, reading the newspaper, and having breakfast with his kids. Bezos also likes to schedule his first meeting for 10am, and aims to have all his tough thinking done by lunchtime.

In theory, cutting a few hours of sleep or kicking off the day’s first meeting at 8am could make Bezos more productive. Some leaders, including Donald Trump and Marissa Mayer, reportedly sleep just four hours a night. Bezos concedes that being up and at ’em earlier might help him power through more decisions, but questions whether that’s the right approach.

“As a senior executive, you get paid to make a small number of high quality decisions,” he told Economic Club president David Rubenstein. Being tired and grouchy doesn’t lay the groundwork for that. “If I make, like, three good decisions a day, that’s enough. And they should be as high quality as I can make them. Warren Buffett says he’s good if he makes three good decisions a year.”

Bezos’s thinking is backed up by two decades of research on decision-making. Our ability to decide falters over the course of the day, a phenomenon scientists call decision fatigue. (One 2011 study found that decision fatigue made judges less likely to grant parole later in the day.) Humans make hundreds of tiny decisions every day—what to wear, eat, read, say, etc.—which is why people like Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama eliminate one choice by wearing the same outfit every day. If every decision eats into your brainpower, making fewer of them is a smart move—especially when the ones you do make impact a $1 trillion company.