The Limits of Will Power and the Power of Front-Loading

I’ve come to dread the setting of the sun.

The later in the day it gets, the more I worry about my day.

No, I’m not afraid of the dark … or vampires … or Jimmy Kimmel.  It is something more insidious, disheartening and frustrating than any of those.  (Well, okay … maybe not more frustrating than Jimmy Kimmel.  But it is a close second.)

What is it?  Will Power.

Or rather,

The lack of will power

You see, I learned several years ago that will power is a finite resource.  When you wake up your will power is at it’s peak for the day.  And every time you have to control your behavior against your impulses it drains a little bit of will power from the battery pack.

By the time the sun sets my will power is pretty much the equivalent of a wet noodle on Valium trying to swim upstream to lay it’s eggs.  Lately I’ve been paying more attention to this and paying attention to what I eat at the end of the day vs. the beginning of the day.

Not pretty.

Last night I ate 2 scones and a plate of Tostino’s pizza rolls before heading to bed.  I woke up feeling like someone had filled my abdomen with bubble wrap and seltzer water.

Charging the Battery

So, here’s the thing: if you have a cell phone that dies by 5pm every day what are your options?

Option 1: Carry around a charger with you to keep it topped off.

The equivalent charger for will power is sleep.  This might be why a siesta is par for the course in so many cultures and countries around the world.  It helps you reset your will power battery.  I might do this at some point, but right now it isn’t an option (more on that some other time).

Option 2: Stop using your phone in the evening.

For some of you the idea of not using your phone is like not using your lungs.  The challenge is that often times, by the time you get to the evening, you still have things left in your day that require will power.  Imagine having a recurring phone call every evening at 8PM but you stop using your phone at 5PM.  You’re kind of screwed, right?  So, unlike my phone, I can’t really turn off my will power.

However, there is a way to lower your need for will power later in the day.  And that brings us to Option 3:

Front-load your day for success

If will power runs out during the day, and it is something you still need in the evening, then why not push all of your will power needs to earlier in the day and set up your day so that you don’t need it in the evening?

Using the cell phone analogy, make all your day’s phone calls before noon and then you don’t have to worry if your phone dies at 5 PM.

This is in line with a lot of the personal development gurus out there.  From Brian Tracy’s frog eating contest, to Hal Elrod’s morning of miracles — it has become clear that the better your morning goes, the better your day goes.

In fact, just this morning I read James Clear‘s email (unfortunately not available to view on his website) where he talks about how the first 10 minutes of your day often sets the tone for the next 10 hours of your day.  When you start off doing something productive, giving yourself the confidence necessary to slay the day’s dragons, then you will end up having a much more effective day.

And, on the other side of the coin, if you spend your morning playing Candy Crush Saga or catching up on the previous night’s videos from Stephen Colbert or The Daily Show, then the next thing you know it’s 11 AM and all you’ve managed to do in the last 5 hours is poop, brush your teeth and eat a stale pop tart.

I recorded a short video this morning on my way to the airport on this whole topic too.  You can see it below.

Relating to fitness and health

So, related to my “one thing” that I’m working on right now (physical vitality, if you didn’t read the post) what does this look like?

Well, my issues in the evening are usually two fold:

First, I am typically too weak willed to go exercise, and second, I am often not prepared for the situation where I have to choose between making a salad or nuking cold pizza.

Simple exercise in the morning

For the first issue, the obvious answer is to exercise in the morning.

Again, taking a cue from my previous blog, this doesn’t have to be a 5 mile run followed by 200 burpies and full wushu sets.  It can be something as simple as reviewing the 24 Yang Taiji Quan set, or doing 10 pushups and 10 squats.

It boils down to a simple process:

  1. Start easy
  2. Be consistent
  3. Build slowly
  4. Track progress

I’m going to talk about my exercise plan in a later post.

Simple food prep in the morning

For the second issue I can move the will power activities to the morning as well.  Instead of trying to decide what to eat, I can just prepare my day’s meals in the morning.  Or better yet, prepare several day’s worth of meals a couple mornings a week, say, Wednesday and Sunday mornings.

I wrote about my Keto-Green protocol before, which is actually a super simple eating plan (that I have yet to implement fully … or at all).  But since there is just 2 or 2.5 meals a day, is is pretty easy to prepare them.

So, here is my plan:

1) Have eggs and kale on hand to make my breakfasts.  Maybe some bacon too.

2) Get a big bag of organic spinach and kale at the store, as well as other salad fixings (olives, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, shredded chicken breast, onions, almonds, etc.), and in the morning fill up a big plastic container with all of that plus some healthy dressing and let it toss until the afternoon.

3) Also prepare some healthy snacks such as celery sticks and almond butter to eat if I get peckish.

Doing all of that should only take about 30 minutes in the morning, tops.

And this week, since I’m on Molokai from Tuesday until Sunday, its a great opportunity to take this plan for a test drive.  At the end of the week I can report on how it went.

A final note

There are other things I could do to front-load my day and alleviate evening losses of will power, especially related to work and school and service.  But, as I said before, right now I want to really focus on just one thing that will have an impact.  I want to successfully (once and for all) build a habit that I can maintain for the long term.

So, here we go.  Day 1, week 1.  The start of a new (morandom) act of courage and commitment.

As they say in China, 加油! (look it up.)

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