According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of willpower is: “The ability to control yourself.” As well as: “Strong determination that allows you to do something difficult.”
Have you ever had to rely on willpower to accomplish something? I bet you have. I really don’t think a task has to be difficult to need willpower to push us to get things done from time to time or maybe even a lot of times. There are many reasons why we may need to lean into willpower to knock things off of our task lists. We may have work in front of us that’s boring, intimidating, rote, tedious or have work we just don’t happen to like.
I’m quite confident that we’ve all heard productivity tips like, “Never check email in the morning.” “Do your most important task first thing in the morning.”
I do agree with these concepts because they help us get vital tasks done and out of the way, hopefully before distractions and interruptions compete for our attention. But, recently, I learned that there’s actually another reason you should make it your goal to get important tasks done first thing in the morning. It’s because our willpower is usually strongest first thing in the day and tends to wane as the day progresses. Isn’t that a great thing to do — harness your willpower and start your day strong?
Will power loses steam the longer the day goes on and you have to replenish willpower, according to Gary Keller in his book, “The One Thing.”
Think of willpower like a solar light outside in your garden during the summer. All day long, the bright sun is replenishing the light so it can glow brightly all night. As the night turns into morning, the solar light has lost much of its brightness.
Well, our willpower starts out strong after a good night of sleep. We wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day after eating a good breakfast. As the day continues on, our willpower starts to diminish. There are many things that can cause our willpower to diminish. Let’s look at examples of each of these ‘chippers.’
Filter distractions: As you’re working you may be dealing with distractions such as social media updates, people walking by your office, people asking you questions or even a sunny day outside your window. These things can cause you to need to bring your focus back to the task at hand.
Resisting impulsive behavior: You may have work in front of you and have to continually resist impulsively looking at social media, texting and checking email.
Suppressing Emotions: Maybe you’re mad at someone you work with or your spouse without the opportunity to talk or hug it out. This can cause your willpower to wane as you suppress those emotions to keep them below the surface.
Doing tasks you don’t like to do: I imagine you’ve had something you couldn’t avoid doing that just sapped your energy because it didn’t employ your strongest skills. Maybe it was accounting, taxes, payroll, editing an article or preparing to give a talk. Doing something you don’t like to do can really be a willpower zapper.
These are only a few of the ways our willpower can be stressed. No matter how it can be diminished, I think it’s important to look at how we can replenish it. Allow the sunshine to reboot your solar light.
When we use our willpower, we actually experience a drop in glucose levels. So, it’s not only important to do a body good with proper nutrition, but also our minds.
When you feel tired and hungry, don’t reach for that candy bar for a quick pick-me-up, but instead refuel with foods that keep blood glucose levels on an even keel. Invest your time to consult with a nutritionist for ideas for healthy snacks and meals that will serve your body and brain well.
Make sure you take breaks. It’s so challenging to do this when you feel overwhelmed and under the gun with deadlines looming ahead.
But taking a break to stretch and take a few deep breaths will make you more productive in the long run. In addition to breaks, be sure to get the proper amount of sleep every day.
We don’t have full control of how our willpower is challenged during the day as our personal solar light fades with the passing hours, but we can be in charge of doing our best to foster good habits to improve our willpower and get important tasks done in the morning when our willpower is shining brightly.
Monika Kristofferson is a professional organizer and productivity consultant who owns Efficient Organization NW in Lake Stevens. Reach her at 425-220-8905 or email@example.com.