Written by  //  July 29, 2013  //  Daily Juice  //  No comments

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Here’s some super interesting info about willpower and how we can use the science behind it to make getting stuff done easier.


I’m reading a book called “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal. It’s quite a tome with masses of interesting stuff in it. The big theme to the book is this:

 Willpower is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you use it. But like a muscle, it also tires.

 When you go for a run, you work your leg muscles until they are tired. If you then give them a break of a day or so the muscle fibres rebuild and you’ll be ready to go and run again.

 Willpower is the same. You wake up in the morning with lots of willpower. As the day wears on your willpower gets tired. Eventually it needs to take a break so it can rebuild. When it rebuilds it grows back stronger.

 So I’ve been thinking about what ‘willpower as a muscle’ means to the way we work and I’ve put together this little collection of thoughts and tips:

1. It makes total sense to do the tough work first thing in the morning. Tough work requires a lot of willpower. Best to do the thing that requires a full tank of willpower first thing in the morning.

2. Running a business is tough because it takes a lot of willpower. When you’ve got a boss who gives you work to do and a deadline you don’t need much willpower. You kinda just got to get it done. When you don’t have a boss it takes willpower to do stuff.

 3. Stuff you don’t like doing is draining ‘cos it uses your willpower. You might love making cakes but hate marketing. Because you don’t like marketing you use up a lot of willpower doing it. That’s why it feels draining. You might feel physically tired doing the cake making, but when you’re drained you’re emotionally tired.

4. It’s hard to get tough stuff done when your willpower is being used in other places. I’m a Mum. Mornings can be tough on willpower. I reckon I use a lot up trying to get kids to school without getting ratty. I think that’s why I need a decent tune in time before I start work. You might also find running your business feels tougher if you’re on a diet. If you’re using your willpower to fend off chocolate there might not be much willpower left for the business.

 5. Deadlines work because they replace willpower. Making a cake for a customer that needs to be ready by tomorrow doesn’t take willpower. You do it on autopilot. It just has to get done. Sewing a Santa Sack today for delivery in four months time, well that takes willpower.

6. Actively using your willpower every day helps make it stronger. If you’d like a little more willpower (and who – except my two year old daughter doesn’t?!) it pays to use your willpower consistently every day. That way it builds up. Starting a new way of working, like doing the 15 mile march would be enough to build it up

 7. Pick one thing at a time to build your willpower. This is the side note to point 6. Pick just one thing at a time to exert your willpower on. If you do too much in one day you’ll totally exhaust your willpower and it will probably need a few days off to recover.

 8. Know when you are switching your willpower on. I can’t tell you why this works. It just does. For me anyway. I’ve been telling myself when I’m about to start a task that requires willpower. Somehow it’s made it easier to switch my willpower on!

9. Plan your day’s tasks around the willpower tank. Before you start work for the day have a look at what you’ve planned. Is it willpower heavy?! If it is, try changing your work around a bit. It’s much better to spread the willpower stuff over a few days than it is to have one intense one.

 10. Enjoy not using your willpower. Once you’ve done enough willpower tasks for the day give yourself a big pat on the back, a cream bun and make sure you notice you’re not doing willpower work anymore!

How do YOU manage your willpower? What takes you a lot of willpower to do?!




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