The Limits of Will Power
Posted 25 April 2008on:
Photo by rastafabi.
According to Cal Newport, will power is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. At the same time, the more you use it within a short period, the more worn out it gets. At the moment, I’m feeling more worn out than strong from the self control needed on my Kaizen Challenge.
This week my Kaizen Challenge was to take time out every evening to write down the five most important things that I would like to accomplish the next day. On the days that I wrote down five things to accomplish, I achieved my goals. However, I found it difficult to remember to take the time to write down the goals.
I’d like to share you with you what I found helpful in this challenge, what I found less helpful, and suggest some improvements that I think make it work better.
The benefits of daily goal making
Time and space to reflect
I enjoyed taking out time from my schedule to reflect on what is important to me – even if it is just at a day to day level. I am beginning to see the importance of developing a habit of reflection. My favourite way of doing this is to have fifteen minutes with my notebook.
Clear goals and accomplishments
Writing down clear goals for the day allowed me to get things done that I might otherwise have put off or tried to avoid. There was also a great sense of achievement in completing everyday tasks because I had set them as a goal.
I recommend including every day tasks onto your goal list that you don’t enjoy doing to give an extra sense of accomplishment once you have completed them. It may also be helpful to use goals to set time-limits for tasks that encourage procrastination – e.g. only spending ten minutes checking and replying to email.
Improving the system
I had a number of difficulties with this task. The biggest difficulty was remembering to write a to-do list in the evening, especially as I tend to set aside the evenings as relaxing time, and try not to think about work.
I think it would have been helpful for me to set aside a specific time in the day to write my goals list. The best time for me would is it at the end of my working day, before I have started relaxing. Another tip is to make your fifth task writing down your five goals for the next day.
Another difficulty was finding five tasks. Yesterday I had a job interview, and that dominated the whole day – the morning I spent preparing for it, and the afternoon and evening I spent winding down.
A better approach than always having five tasks is to be flexible with the number of tasks you write down. Many more than five would be stretching yourself, but it’s definitely okay to have less than five somedays.
If you tried this task too, let me know how you got on. What do you think of my suggested improvements?