Building Willpower

Building Willpower

The theory of finite willpower has recently been called into question. Newer research suggests that willpower may be more variable, and based on context and culture. But although willpower is malleable, it’s important not to overdo work at the expense of leisure and relaxation.

Developing small habits, or rituals helps build willpower over time.

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Time Management

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Visualizing your goal

Visualization doesn’t inspire us to jump higher, but rather causes us to become complacent. People also become more easily deterred by setbacks because, in our fantasy version, nothing went wrong.

Use your imagination, but realistically. For example, use your imagination for possible challenges and setbacks.

“For a few people who are successful by developing productive habits, many are unsuccessful in spite of using the same habits.”

Having a harsh regimen
An uncompromising regimen will not necessarily keep you productive.

Rather than being hard on yourself when you don’t meet your expectations, be more supportive of yourself and understanding of your challenges.

Try changing the way you talk to yourself when you’re trying to build up the motivation to do something. Positive self-talk and self-support will help. 

Copying successful people

Putting highly successful people on a pedestal can unknowingly hinder our own efforts. We get caught in comparisons and it’s easy to forget that they’ve had and still have their own set of struggles and challenges on their path.

Use highly successful people as inspiration, not idols.

Being Busy

Many people stay busy because that's the norm for them, and they cannot imagine themselves sitting idly. To avoid the busyness trap:

  • Focus on just doing three important things each day
  • Have a one-hour electronic blackout period
  • Recognize your “bias for action.”
  • Say no to things that do not advance your goals.
  • Have a morning routine where you take time to reflect on how you will organize the day.
Using Rewards

Rewards may work in the short term, but real mastery and success are due to genuine interest, not the lure of rewards.

Cultivate intrinsic motivation. You should be able to enjoy the process with or without any reward.

Maximize every moment

Working well is not about maximizing every waking moment of the day, in order to get more done. And the focus on maximizing time may actually diminish our creativity.

Instead, try identifying and focusing on the few hours of the day you are most productive.

Setting Big Goals

To achieve sustainable productivity habits, it’s best to build up with easily achievable tasks.

Small chunks of accomplishment will amount to something big eventually.

Optimizing your Systems

Be selective about the apps and systems you use.

Updating and optimizing our productivity apps and systems makes us feel like we’re accomplishing something. But there's a  catch in this: that “something” is managing our productivity apps and systems, not actually working toward our goals.

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