I think you’re doing too much. Maybe its more clear to say I think you’re trying to do too much. I think you’d get more results, better results, if you focused on doing less. I’m talking specifically about your attempts to lose weight. You’re trying to do too much and you’re setting yourself up for failure in the process.
If someone had told me this a couple years ago I’d have told them to jump off a cliff, so I get it if you’re not on board with me yet but please: keep reading. After all, if I’m right, you can do less and get faster/better results. If I’m wrong, you can go about your merry, frustrated way.
There are 2 primary arguments behind my assertion that you’re trying to do too much. First is the 80/20 rule which I wrote about several weeks ago. The bottom line is this: 80% (or more) of your results come from a mere 20% (or less) of your efforts. So you don’t have to identify EVERYTHING that could help you lose weight and do it all! You just have to identify the MOST impactful 1-2 elements and focus on mastering THOSE. Anything else is going to waste your time and energy while NOT delivering the results you’re hoping for.
But more importantly, willpower is not an unlimited resource. The more you try to draw on it, the less there is for you to access. If you’re expecting to leverage willpower dozens of times a day to achieve success, you’ll be sitting disappointed in front of an empty box of cookies in short order.
Think of willpower as a cell phone battery. The more you use it, the more you drain it. The less there is to draw upon. Your willpower battery might start out fully charged in the morning, but as the day goes on there is less and less available. Have you ever experienced this before? You wake up pumped for the day. You go to the gym and have a killer workout. You make your healthy breakfast and you’re feeling super proud of yourself – all before 8am! You know you’re going to crush the day. This is the beginning of something different. You’re on your way. But then around 2pm you start talking yourself into a little treat. I mean, you’re hungry, you need some energy, you did get a workout in so you kinda deserve it….you start that negotiating process and before you know it you’re eating a candy bar. And since you did that, you might as well save the healthy food you had planned for dinner and pick up a pizza on the way home. You’ll do better tomorrow.
What the heck happened? You were doing so well and your head was in the right place and all of a sudden all hell broke loose. Again. You were so sure you’d be stronger this time. You exhausted your willpower. The battery ran out.
So what can you do about it? Well, the first thing is to try to do less. When you decide that you need to drink more water, exercise daily, avoid sugar, get 10K steps each day, not eat out, avoid processed foods, and whatever else – you’ve taken on too much. You’re asking too much of your willpower. I’m not saying that those aren’t great things to eventually work up to, but in order for them to not draw on your willpower they’ll need to become habitual and that takes TIME.
That takes us back to my first point that you need to focus on the MOST IMPACTFUL elements for YOU. Identify for you 20% (or less). What are your big rocks? What are the 1-3 activities that set you up for success OR the 1-3 activities that set you up for failure?
For example, if you don’t pack your lunch do you inevitably end up going out with co-workers and being tempted by fries and cookies? Then maybe one of your big rocks is to always pack your lunch.
Maybe you know that if you don’t have healthy, easy to prepare options in the fridge you defer to carry out because you’re tired at the end of the day. Then perhaps a big rock for you is to stock up on groceries each week and cook a couple meals ahead of time for nights when you’re too tired to cook.
Everyone’s big rocks will be different but you need to identify yours and focus on that. Practice, practice, practice until it becomes a habit. THEN, and only then, add more.
The other important component for success is to tackle your big rocks as early in the day as possible. If working out is a big rock for you, get it done in the morning. If prepping food is yours, do it first thing. Since willpower is exhaustible and we draw on it during the day, you’ll have far more success if you knock out your big rocks as early as you can.
Finally, you want to automate everything that is NOT a big rock. Willpower isn’t just exhausted by activities that require willpower. Willpower is exhausted by activities that require our mental focus, attention and deciding. Decision making, planning, problem solving – all these things zap our willpower reserves. The fewer decisions you have to make, the less you draw on your willpower battery. Here are some examples of how you can automate to conserve willpower:
- Plan your day’s meals the night before. Don’t force yourself to make these decisions on the fly. Extra points if you plan your meals an entire week in advance
- Pick out your outfit before bed
- Establish a morning routine. When your mind follows a routine without decision making it will conserve your willpower.
Why waste your willpower battery on silly decisions like what to wear, what to have for breakfast or whether or not you should hit snooze. Don’t. Automate. Make it simple and stick to your choices. Don’t waste your energy second-guessing your good choices.
The other essential components of conserving your willpower for when you really need it are getting enough sleep and eating well. You need to be well rested and adequately fueled for your brain to function efficiently.
Do less. Automate more. Experience significantly more results!!