There are 2 important things about willpower that not everyone knows:
- We have only a finite amount of willpower.
- We tap into the same source of willpower every day to do everything we need to do.
Why is this important?
- Willpower affects your decision-making and directly impacts your chance of success at whatever you do.
- Every time you have to make a decision on something, you start tapping into your single source of willpower, therefore draining it with each decision you’re forced to make: which food to have for breakfast, which clothes to wear, when to buy food at the grocery store, how long to study, what to have for lunch, which restaurant to choose to have dinner with friends, even which tea or type of coffee you want to drink during your break.
- As a result, the more decisions you have to make, the more exhausted you get, and the less energy you have left for doing everything on your “to do” list (which probably includes a few items important for achieving your personal goals).
What should you not do?
Don’t waste your willpower early in the day by focusing on making decisions related to things that are irrelevant to your personal goals, such as:
- being indecisive about what to eat for breakfast
- checking your social media feed
- checking all of your emails
- making phone calls
- watching TV
- listening to the news
- browsing the Internet
- doing household tasks
What can you do instead?
Tap into your willpower the smart way by focusing on what’s important FIRST. For example:
- Ask yourself this question first thing in the morning: What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today? There are many benefits to this technique: it keeps things simple, helps your brain focus better, makes you prioritize your goals, and streamlines the work you need to do on that particular day so you don’t feel overwhelmed with making too many choices. Here’s how:
- Put it in writing; write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall.
- Read it out loud as you start each day, and come up with an answer on the spot.
- Then, devote your time to completing what’s most important to you for that day.
- Do your deep work EARLY in the day.
- What is deep work? It is the work your brain does that is mainly focused on analytical thinking and that that requires the most concentration. For example, deep work can be reading, writing, coding, analyzing, critical thinking, or problem solving.
- How early is “early”? Many scientists say that the brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after we wake up. If, for example, you wake up at 6, your peak times are between 8 and 10 a.m. You can extend this time to the rest of the morning to maximize your peak time.
- What are the benefits? Doing your deep work early in the day allows your brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from your environment, and with a lot of energy that you’ve gained from a restful night. It’s the exact opposite of what can happen if you leave your hardest work for nighttime, when you are exhausted from the day.
- How can you get into this habit?
- For one week, keep a log of what you do during your peak times. Are you focusing on your important mental tasks? Are you learning new material, solving complex problems, reading, or writing? For most people, this time is usually spent commuting to work, checking email, making phone calls, watching or listening to the news.
- Re-prioritize your peak brain performance time. Think of ways you could rearrange the things you do early that are less important to your personal and professional development. Like to stay on top of the latest news? Save this activity for your lunch break or right after lunch. Emails are waiting in your inbox? Be careful of how much time checking email takes; it can seriously impact your day. Choose 2 blocks of time to go over your emails, one mid-afternoon and one closer to the end of your workday.
- Create a morning routine so you can work out early. A morning routine is a simple life hack that makes you feel super productive at the start of the day, gives you focus, and provides you with a sense of achievement early, so that you already feel you’ve made progress. By developing your personal morning rituals you will always know how to start your day, what you need to focus on first, and what will get you closer to achieving your goals.
- Plan your breakfast. Come up with a few options ahead of time so you don’t waste time debating what to eat. Your goal is to pick something that will be your fuel for starting the day and that will help you feel alert, energized, and motivated. For example:
- Overnight oats (no cooking needed): mix a few spoonfuls of oats, 1 teaspoon each of chia seeds and flax seeds, some walnuts, almonds, raisins; add a bit of almond milk or water to blend; leave in fridge overnight and top it off in the morning with some fresh fruit.
- A parfait: Layer 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1 tablespoon granola, 1 cup fresh fruit (sliced or diced), and a spoonful of nuts such as walnuts and almonds.
- Oatmeal with chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds, dates, shredded coconut, raisins or cranberries; blend with a spoon of peanut butter and add fresh fruit on top.