Willpower or self-control is the ability to delay short-term gratification for long-term gain. It is what separates those who are ‘successful’ from those who are not. Research has shown that willpower is like a muscle – if you overwork it fatigues. This leaves you susceptible to poor decision-making.
So how might one suffer willpower-fatigue?
1) Making too many decisions. There’s a clear reason why Zuck and Barack Obama always wear the same outfit. The process of selecting the right suit, tie, shirt etc, requires effort and willpower. When you are making multi-billion dollar deals – the last thing you need is to waste mental capacity on such insignificant activities. You should adopt this mindset for your daily ritual.
2) Doing repetitive tasks. Our brain is not wired for repetition. After a certain threshold, tasks become boring and require willpower to continue doing. We are not machines, and our bodies are telling us that this is not a good use of our time.
3) Working with difficult colleagues. Ever have a run-in with a colleague who just doesn’t fit your team’s culture, or to put bluntly, is a bit of an asshole? It takes substantial willpower and restraint to bite your tongue. Dealing with these people leaves you feeling drained at the end of the day. You will not be as productive after-hours to spend on your side hustle.
So, what is the solution to preventing willpower-fatigue?
You are not a machine. If you do work that machines could be doing you will get frustrated. You will be unhappy. You will not live up to your potential. You will procrastinate.
If you spend too long making decisions about insignificant events (e.g. clothes/food/chores/partners anniversary… 😉 ) you will deplete the willpower tank. So when faced with big decisions, such as business strategy or investment, you won’t be operating at full capacity. You could make the wrong decision that has lasting effects.
Doing loads of repetitive administrative work has a similar drain on your willpower.
“But Allan – we can’t automate X because BLAHBLAHBLAH”
There are countless platforms such as Zapier and IFTTT that integrate different systems to enable automation. If you’re doing work with spreadsheets, CRMs, email-clients and even social media (used sparingly) there’s likely a way to automate some aspects of you’re doing. But, if your business is particularly conservative – the next option is to outsource.
Go through your day, work and personal life and look for ways you can optimise and automate what you’re doing. Use that willpower tank on what matters.