How to maximize willpower.

Willpower is like a muscle. It refreshes itself as we rest, starts off strong in the morning, and then gets weak and fatigued later in the day. If we want to accomplish a task that takes willpower and self-discipline, like most of our personal goals do, the best time is when we first wake up, or shortly after. It will be easiest if we perform the task before the demands of the day kick in, and tire us out. Exercise is a very common example of a willpower-requiring task, also studying, nurturing relationships, or meditating. That is, anything that doesn’t need to get done urgently, but is important to our life to be done regularly, or as a steppingstone to a greater achievement. Beware though, there’s societal pressure to get up early to accomplish these things. Success will only be accomplished if the body and mind are rested, by managing to get enough sleep. So if we want to use time in the early morning, is it possible to go to bed earlier, or take naps? (Naps even give us a second chance in the same day to get motivated again.) But, if that’s not feasible, then we can consider pushing back the start of our workday to accommodate the time up front to take care of our personal goals. Or, we could think of a creative way to switch our routine to make room for the things that require self-discipline first. For example, using a form of exercise for transportation to get to work, or by having a sit down family breakfast instead of leaving that bonding to dinnertime, or switching a coffee routine every morning to accommodate studying.

Take action: Decide on one thing that you’d like to accomplish, either regularly such as writing a journal, or as a stepping stone to a larger goal, such as learning a new skill. Now figure out how you can make it happen before your workday starts, in a sustainable, non-torturous way. Adjust your schedule for it, make it happen, tweak it as needed.

Inspired by Laura Vanderkam’s book, What the Most Successful People Do before Breakfast. 

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