Finite Willpower

Every night before I go to sleep I put together a to-do list of things I need to get done the next day. I know that I am physically capable of getting everything done. In fact lots of times I’ve even blocked off a chunk of time on my calendar to complete the job.

Unfortunately, for a non-trivial number of these tasks, I don’t get a lot of these things done. A lot of times I just feel lazy. I’d rather spend my time sloth-like, on my bed, watching Netflix.

Knowing Your Limits

There have been lots of scientific studies conducted that show empirically how people have finite willpower. Therefore to optimize the willpower you have available, you should allocate the resource to bear on the most important and least predictable facets of your life.

For example, I came up with a list of all the big variables that have an influence on my day-to-day life. Relationships, my business, housing, car, academics etc. I try to control what I can and make the foundation as risk free and predictable as possible.

Example: housing. I don’t want to stress out over where I’m living, such as if my neighbors suck or if I might get robbed on my way home. After a long day of work where I’ve been very focused and productive, the extra stress of saving some money to live somewhere cheaper just isn’t worth it to me. So I make sure my building is nice and well maintained. That my neighbors aren’t noisy, or at least sound is well insulated. All the appliances in my apartment just work so I never have to THINK about any of this stuff. This frees up space in my brain to focus on other areas that I consider more important, such as my business and school.

Another example. I used to be really lazy about getting oil changes and routine maintenance for my car. But when my car inevitably had trouble and the battery died, it was really stressful. Even though this wasn’t a huge deal, I had to take time out of my schedule to call triple A, get my car jumped. Then find a nearby reputable mechanic. Figure what kind of battery I had. Buy a new one. Get it replaced. Then I was a little worried that I might have gotten scammed, so I did some background research on the type of battery I bought to make sure everything was ok before I left the shop. All these minor annoyances add up. By the time I got home, I was mentally exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to get anything else done. Now I don’t even mess with my car maintenance. If the car manual says its time to do something, I have it marked on my calendar and just go ahead and do it.

Relationships. I had an ex-gf that I used to fight with fairly regularly. Things were great when we weren’t fighting, but when shit hit the fan, I was always completely exhausted that could not get other things done. We eventually broke up, and I noticed a huge spike in productivity because I had more mental energy to just do other things.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Given that willpower is a finite resource. I now try to allocate it to only the most difficult, risky projects I have lined up for the day. Such as: learning new technically complex skills and solving challenging business problems. Everything else in my life I try to have follow the most stable, predictable pattern possible.