• Miss E

Why your willpower runs out.


Monday: I WILL RULE THE WORLD. Tuesday: Woo getting shit done! Wednesday: Making pretty good progress. Thursday: Meh I might just have a break. Friday: Noop. Nope. Not happening. Why is it that we often start the week out so strong, and gradually progress into a state of utter unproductivity? Or even just start the day out with good intentions... and just lose the will to live after lunch?

Sometimes I find that by 3 o'clock in the arvo, I have no shits left to give about anything. That painting I'm working on? Can't be bothered. Those changes I needed to make for a client? They can wait til tomorrow. It's weird, because I'll jump out of bed and plough through the first half of the day. Like some sort of person who ploughs fields enthusiastically. But then I just run out of steam... like some sort of steam powered ploughing machine. Which really sucks! Why can't I be at full steam ahead all the time!?


I heard a podcast recently that struck a cord with me - and I suddenly realised why I ran out of steam. It's because willpower is finite. We just don't have unlimited reserves of it. When we wake up, we're at full capacity. And slowly over the course of the day, and even the week, it dribbles out. But - where does it go?

Decisions. Every time we make a decision, we use willpower.

Every single decision we make uses a precious morsel of our willpower. But what are all these decisions I'm making before the afternoon rolls around? Shockingly - it can be a lot. What should I have for breakfast? Should I exercise? Which project should I work on first? What colour should I use for this? How much should I charge for this? Which brand of tuna should I buy? Will I be able to get away with wearing a burgundy dress and red tights? No. No you can not.

Thus, willpower depleted. The epic weight of life's tiny decisions crushes your chance at prolonged productivity. So, what can we do about this? It's stupidly simple - stop making decisions. Or at least, stop making decisions on the fly. I have the same thing for breakfast every day. It ain't glamourous, but that's one less decision sapping my willpower. Same goes for clothes, I put on the same outfit every day when I get up (unless I'm going out, but I don't need to be productive then). Same goes for habits - once something is a habit, it doesn't take willpower anymore. I've incorporated exercise and a schedule into my every day habits, which has saved me so much willpower. Small changes - but effective. So there's some small decisions taken care of. Somehow, I figured out how to stop using willpower on the unimportant things. Because I'm a genius.

But some big decisions need to be made. So, I sit down at the start of every week, and then at the start of each day - and make all the important decisions first. Every Sunday night I write out what I have to get done this week, and then I prioritise them. And every morning, based on what I've already done, I reassess. Possibly a slight reshuffle or adding in new tasks. But for the most part - I'm not thinking too much about what to do next. I just check my list - and do the next thing on there.

Which. Has. Helped. A LOT. I find that I'm able to be maintain a higher level of focus and be more productive into the evening. And I can do this for about 4 days in a row - 5 if I'm having a good week. Which probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who works full time for somebody else. But when you're your own boss, sitting at home with a magnitude of distractions at your disposal - staying productive is hard work.

So I hope this was helpful, holler at me if you've been able to implement some willpower saving techniques. It's one of those things that I have to stay on top of - or I lose it!


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