By Jodi Milner

Jodi Milner author/bio pic

When it comes to willpower, you only have a certain amount given to you each day. If you’re anything like me, there comes a point in any given day where you feel 100% done. Usually, this moment comes roughly mid to late afternoon, but it can come much earlier if you’ve been fighting battles with kids or heck, even other adults. That’s when your willpower literally runs out. 

Every decision, every action, every moment that requires brain power drains away a bit of that willpower until you hit a wall. Anything done after that moment is not only harder but requires more than you have to give. Whenever you push this limit, you drain away from the willpower you don’t have. You’re robbing your tomorrow for what you want to get done today. If you push too hard day after day, you’ll experience burnout where you start your day tired and unmotivated. You are more likely to get sick at this time.

willpower

Knowing this, it makes sense to do the things that are most important to you early in the day when you have plenty of willpower. This is especially true when what you are working to do is something new and difficult. A new task that hasn’t been ingrained into a habit requires far more willpower to do than something that you’ve been doing for a long time. After a time, that new task will become a habit and not require as much willpower to complete, allowing more space for your next new thing. 

Willpower is spent when you have to think about a decision. This is one of the reasons a long shopping trip is so exhausting – all the decisions you have to make. When you reduce the number of decisions you have to make, you free up the willpower to use on other things. Some think that you have different amounts of willpower for different things, this isn’t true. You start off the day with a single big pile. Should you spend a bunch of extra willpower searching for your seven-year-old’s shoes, you’ll have less of it for things you want to do later.

Need a bit more inspiration about how willpower works? This video was awesome.

Try this:

The best way to increase willpower is to take better care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, etc. But, you didn’t come here for that kind of advice. You came here to learn an instantly applicable hack to improve things now. 

The hack is this: reduce unnecessary decision-making and friction points during your day.  Remember, each decision you have to think about costs you so the more you can eliminate, the better. Tired of figuring out breakfast every day? Make a simple breakfast schedule. Hate the fight to find shoes each morning? Set a reminder the night before to look for them when you aren’t rushed. The more day-to-day work you can lock into a habit, the more energy you’ll have later.

Famous achievers go as far as wearing the same style of clothes every day so they don’t waste time and energy on deciding what to wear each morning. You don’t have to go that far, but if that sounds appealing, go for it. 

Storytime: 

I enjoy playing games on my phone and will often use a game as a reward for getting something done on my to-do list. However, the games I tend to like all require critical thinking and focus. Each minute I spend playing reduces the amount of thought power and ultimately willpower that I need later in the day when I’m working on my current book manuscript. 

After reading about the importance of rationing willpower and spending that energy on important decisions rather than trivial action, I changed my morning schedule. Before, there were a few weird gaps where the easy choice was to pick up my phone and play. Now, I use that time to knock off a few of the smaller items on my to-do list. With those out of the way earlier, I found I had time to insert a short manuscript editing session first thing in the morning when I have both brainpower and energy to really focus. The big benefit here is that the editing goes much faster and I have far fewer distractions. If I’m going to play games on my phone, I stick that later in the day when I’m more tired and have already done good work. 

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