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Willpower and Time Management - I

On Friday I re-blogged Daniel Reeves article Ego Depletion Depletion from the Beeminder blog

My view about willpower has always been that it is a struggle between one’s short-term and long-term wishes, and that all else being equal the short-term wishes will win out. One can put up a struggle against this for a while but sooner or later (usually sooner) the struggle will be too much for us.

Consistent action to follow one’s long-term goals can only be carried out by constructing a scenario in which it’s easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing.

My contention is that no-list systems are better at doing this than catch-all systems. Over the next few days I want to explore the reasons why this is so.

Reader Comments (12)

We must find a way to see that our short term wishes/possible actions actually create our future.
When we hold long term wishes but act in a manner contrary to that future we envision, then we are decieving ourselves.
Our present reality (situation) has been largely determined by our past short term choices.
To put it another way: You current habits/actions/choices are perfectly designed to create your current self.
Want a different self in the future? Figure out what habits/actions/choices are perfectly designed to produce the self you want.
Easy to say, hard to do. But really realizing that this is true is the first step!
March 13, 2016 at 0:48 | Unregistered CommenterTommy

<< You current habits/actions/choices are perfectly designed to create your current self. >>

That's absolutely correct. In other words if we are not producing the results we want to produce it's a systems failure.

But as with all systems we have to build on what we've got.
March 13, 2016 at 10:12 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Paul Dolan has another take on this.

In Happiness by Design, he argues that happiness is a mix of pleasure and purpose, and that both are required. He is very much aligned with the idea of designing your environment to make it easier to achieve purpose as well as pleasure.
March 14, 2016 at 9:56 | Registered CommenterWill

Another take?

That seems to me to be exactly what we are saying.
March 14, 2016 at 13:56 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

He doesn't see it as "a struggle between one’s short-term and long-term wishes", but as a struggle between one's short term wishes for pleasure and purpose.
March 14, 2016 at 18:48 | Registered CommenterWill

<< a struggle between one's short term wishes for pleasure and purpose >>

To quote his introduction to the book (from the preview on Amazon):

"happiness is experiences of pleasure and purpose over time".

Does he explain how one can have an experience of purpose over time without having long-term wishes?
March 14, 2016 at 19:23 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Perhaps asking the question "How do I increase my willpower to do x?" would be a useful question to ask when confronted with resistance to a task.
March 14, 2016 at 21:02 | Unregistered CommenterPaul B

It's been a while since I read it. As I recall, the purposeful things tend to be longer term in nature.

His key point, though, is that you get a happiness payoff immediately you start feeling purposeful. You enjoy the journey before you reach the destination.
March 15, 2016 at 10:48 | Registered CommenterWill

<< You enjoy the journey before you reach the destination. >>

I agree with that, but how does that alter the fact that faced with a choice between staying in your warm bed on a cold rainy day and getting up and going for a 3-mile run, the bed is going to win unless you've got more than just willpower on your side?
March 15, 2016 at 11:00 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

He's a body builder, so I suspect his experience is more indoor than outdoor. However, I'm sure there is plenty of discipline, pain and discomfort involved.

And yes, more than will power is required. Whether the choice is between pleasure and purpose or between present and future happiness, there is a choice and we need to arrange things to make it easier to make a good choice than a bad.

Even when you are out in the cold rain, you have the satisfaction of purpose. Looking forward to that can help get you out of bed.

In the end, though, the thing that gets me out of bed is routine.
March 15, 2016 at 12:45 | Registered CommenterWill
Lately, the thing that's getting me out of bed is the challenge to finish my day's goals. Success for two days, then a day with good reasons not to. Today, no predicted reason I won't finish them.

(Two years ago, my day's goals would be intentionally optimistic. Now I make them pessimistic. Except I don't like pessimism. I say I'm leaving generous time for the unexpected and to work on things I enjoy that aren't today's priorities. Things that gives me joy, and/or things that, although I have to do them eventually, I'd rather do when I want to than when I want to than when I have to. Like taxes. Much better on a sunny day when in good spirits and the house is quiet than close to the deadline, after a week of rain and sniffles with cabin-fever making the rounds.)

(I actually timed my daughter cleaning the hamster cage. Sunday late evening. 2 hours. Saturday after lunch, 15 minutes, plus plenty of time to actually play with the hamster. Convinced my husband, but not my daughter.)
March 15, 2016 at 12:59 | Registered CommenterCricket

That two hours rings a bell. It's the time I consistently took over my homework at primary school. This consisted of a handful of spellings to learn, a sample sentence for each and possibly some other minor tasks. How I crafted those sentences!

Even though the teacher had asked how long the first session had taken. It was 20 minutes.

I guess I was doomed from the start.

March 16, 2016 at 17:30 | Registered CommenterWill

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