Productivity down the drain? Maximize your willpower for complete success!

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Do you know what you’re most valuable resource is?

It’s willpower.

Willpower is our vitality, it’s our inner energy, and it’s what enables us to do anything and everything in our lives.

It’s what pushes us to do the hard things we don’t feel like doing, even when there’s nobody to tell us.

And since it’s our fuel, once we run out of it our day is shot. We’ll spend the rest of that day working robotically until we can plop our butt’s back down on the couch at home. All our work becomes subpar, and any decisions we make will be determined by the easiest choice, not the best.

That’s what happens when we run out of willpower. As such, understanding, maintaining, and strengthening our willpower is essential to having a happy and productive day.

And here’s how you do that.

Strengthening Willpower

Willpower is a lot like a muscle, you can make it stronger by challenging it. Yup, that means sometimes you need to run out of willpower in order to improve it.

But you don’t want to do too much all at once, you want to ease into it. You need to start with small, manageable changes first.

If you wanted to start weightlifting, you wouldn’t throw 200 pounds on the bar and get under it. No, you’d start with the bar and see how you do. Then you’d add 10 pounds on each side, maybe even just 5.

That’s how you train your willpower also, and you do it through good ol fashioned decision making and focus training.  

(I’ve only listed two willpower strengthening methods below, so if you can think of some other ways to do it then please leave a comment with what it is, I’d love to know!).  

Make tiny changes. Doing the same thing day in and day out is good for maintaining willpower, but not strengthening it. You need to challenge yourself a little bit, just enough to make you uncomfortable. Eventually a tiny change stops feeling uncomfortable, which means you’ve improved your willpower.

Over time, this leads to stronger, more resilient willpower.  

Meditate. Meditation is more than just a calming exercise. In fact, it’s specifically designed to improve willpower. Think about it, you’re supposed to sit there and DO NOTHING for a predetermined amount of time. That requires willpower.

Luckily it’s balanced out with a sense of calm and comfort, which makes it easier and more rewarding.

Maintaining Willpower

Unlike strengthening willpower, there are several ways to maintain it. Ultimately it boils down to doing less, thinking less, and being less challenged throughout the day. There are several ways to do this, here are some good ones.

Limit the amount of decisions you need to make daily. Since we only have so much willpower to work with, limiting the amount of decisions you have to make is a necessity. See what you can do to minimize them.  

Focus on 1-3 super important things a day. Instead of spreading your mind thin and focusing on 5-10 tasks, emphasize 1-3 absolutely essential things you need done that day. Less tasks equals less wasted willpower.  

Follow a routine. Having a routine helps minimize the decision making about what you have to do that day. If you don’t have to think about what you have to do, you preserve willpower, simple.  

Do the most important things in the morning. Willpower is at it’s highest in the morning (assuming you had a goodnight’s sleep) since you haven’t thought or done anything yet. This makes it the ideal time to do something important.

If you want to exercise, do it in the morning. Same with reading, or cleaning something. Whatever it is, do it early. It’ll cost you willpower to wake up earlier, but if you can make that a habit then you’ll open up a giant window of productivity.  

Think small. If you’ve ever been intimidated by a large goal, you know that it can cause you to shrink down by just the thought of it. Seeing all the steps, the long path before you… It’s draining.

Focus on small/individual steps instead, this will conserve your willpower.

Have an “accountabilibuddy.” When somebody has your back, you’re no longer relying on willpower. Instead, you’re using motivation. This is a great method to use if you can, there’s nothing like having somebody push you to achieve your goals.  

Be with like-minded people. This is like the above tip, but possibly better. When you surround yourself with other goal and growth oriented people, success and action become the default mindset. You don’t even think about backing out when you have other people doing the same thing supporting each other – you just do it.  

Out of sight, out of mind. Refusing temptation has a drastic effect on our willpower. If you see cookies and are hungry AND are on a diet, that day’s productivity levels are down the drain. Don’t let cookies ruin your day, do what you can to avoid tempting situations at all costs.  

Use the “If this, then that” rule. Unexpected problems are really, really annoying. Even if it’s not really a big deal, it can still be a big drain on your willpower simply by being intrusive and unexpected.

You can avoid this by having a backup plan for what you need to do.

For example, “if I can’t get get to the gym, I’ll go for a run around the block.” Or “if I don’t write a little before work, I’ll just do it at lunch/after work.” This reduces the guesswork in your day and conserves willpower.

Basically, the less problem solving you do the more willpower you have left over.  

Realize that 95% of the time, you’re not as tired as you think you are. For some reason people are incredibly bad at determining how tired they really are.

Our problem is that we think too much about how tired we are instead of just doing the thing we need to do. But if you can remember that you’re not actually as tired as you think you are, then you’ll maximize the usage of your remaining willpower.

Over to you

Do you know any other tricks to improving willpower? How do you maintain your willpower throughout the day? Please leave a comment and let me know, I’m sure the readers of DumbLittleMan can teach me a thing or two about it!

Written on 11/16/2013 by Ericson Ay Mires. Ericson Ay Mires is a featured writer here at Dumb Little man. He’s also a freelance writer, and he’s ready for hire! Check out his ultimate guide on beating procrastination, I think you might like it.

Photo Credit: WILLPOWER STUDIOS

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