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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough

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How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough

Everyone has something they’d like to change, and the desire for self-improvement and progression is innate. Unfortunately, when it comes to change, learning how to increase willpower and break bad habits is tough, and it seems that we fail more often than we succeed. For those things that we struggle with, it seems that our willpower is never quite enough.

Are we doomed to live the same behavioral patterns of the past? Can we actually increase our willpower, have better self-control, and create lasting positive changes in our lives?

This is absolutely possible, as willpower is like a muscle, getting stronger with regular use.

Recent research, as detailed in such books as, Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, And What You Can Do About It by Kelly McGonigal, and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, suggests that we are not forever bound to our poor habits, and that we can actually change and increase our willpower in the process.

How can you learn how to increase willpower and direct powerful changes in your life?

To assist in this process, we’ve got 15 actionable steps that, if built into habits, will yield powerful results around willpower.

1. Feed Your Brain

Skipping meals is simply bad for your brain and even worse if you want to learn how to improve your willpower. The brain is our decision making muscle, and its ability to provide us with the necessary willpower to make correct decisions is influenced by whether it is sufficiently fed.

We should eat regular meals, ideally low-glycemic foods, healthy proteins, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates, so that we can avoid a glucose rush (associated with sweets and simple carbs) that immediately plummets.

You can check out some of the best brain foods here.

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2. Work on One Change at a Time

Willpower and motivation can be increased, but it is a slow and gradual process (just like increasing muscle mass). We are working with a fixed amount of it daily.

We can’t change everything all at one, and we can’t massively change our lives at stressful times. If we want to see real change, we should start small, and tackle one long-term goal at a time.

3. Use Dark Chocolate for an Energy Boost

Sometimes we are in a position where we need to make a quick decision, and it feels tough when we haven’t yet learned how to increase willpower. Taking a bite of dark chocolate offers a small energy boost that helps our brains with the decision.

Obviously, it is much better to eat healthy, slow-burning foods to provide a steady source of fuel to our brains, but in the event of a “willpower” emergency, indulging by eating chocolate isn’t a bad thing. It can actually help to increase our willpower and reduce stress levels.

4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Adequate rest improves our self-control and provides an optimal environment for the brain to function. Rest reduces the body’s need for glucose, and it allows the body to make better use of what we have. Adequate rest is generally 7-8 hours a night for an adult, and 10-12 hours a night for a child[1].

Self-control requires brain power and high energy levels, and when we are tired, our bodies generally don’t deliver enough glucose to our brains. Sleep is essentially as you’re working on how to have more willpower.

5. Steer Clear of Temptation

People who have lots of self-control don’t need to exercise their willpower as often. Therefore, when willpower is required, it is strong and in steady supply.

You can increase your willpower by not putting yourself in situations where willpower is required and steering clear of those “danger spots” where temptation is present and willpower is necessary.

6. Develop Small but Powerful Habits

Research confirms that good habits help us as we are learning how to increase willpower. Even if we start with something simple, like making our beds, this can have a powerful, positive effect on our willpower. This occurs because these small habits build self-discipline and self-control, and that spreads to other areas of our life.

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For more tips on creating good habits in life, check out this video:

7. Make a Manageable To-Do List

Everyone has some form of a to-do list, whether it’s on paper or not. We may not realize it, but this ubiquitous productivity tool may actually be increasing our stress and decreasing our willpower.

When we create endless lists and leave tasks perpetually undone, our subconscious nags us about it, and we end up worrying far more than acting. When we do this, we get in a bad mood, and our emotional state plays into our ability to resist temptation.

8. Take Frequent Breaks

It is impossible to exercise perfect self-control all the time. We simply run out of willpower and end up making poor decisions if we don’t supplement ourselves with rest and breaks.

Take a nap from time to time, grab a (healthy) bite to eat, watch a little TV for a minute or two, and then get back to your tasks and goals as you’re learning how to increase willpower.

When you do this, you come back refreshed, and you’ll have more willpower to produce better work.

9. Meditate for 5 Minutes a Day

Take 5 minutes and just focus on your breath. Detach for only five minutes from the chaos around you as you work on how to strengthen willpower.

Every time your mind wanders, you have to expend energy to get it back on track, tapping into your reservoir of willpower. The simple act of building self-awareness through mediation will help you in your impulse tendency.

When we become mindful, we are also engaging that part of our brain that we need for willpower, rather than just letting our impulses take over.

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Here’s a 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

10. Avoid Alcohol

This one should be glaringly obvious. Alcohol impairs our judgment, reduces our self-awareness, and impedes our willpower.

Be mindful of how much you’ve had to drink when making decisions, and try to avoid an excess amount if you’re in a situation where you have to exercise willpower.

11. Make a Plan for Temptation

It’s impossible to avoid all temptation as you’re working on how to increase willpower. For the cases when you run into it, you need to have a plan in place to help you resist it and avoid making poor decisions. For example, if you know your co-worker always brings in doughnuts on Fridays, and you’re on a diet, what plan can you put in place to avoid caving to temptation and grabbing two or three?

Having a predetermined plan can significantly increase our willpower when presented with the temptation.

If you need help in this area, check out Lifehack’s Free Guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen.

12. Remember Your “Why”

What is the purpose of changing our behavior and learning how to gain willpower in the first place? What are we trying to accomplish, and what will we lose if we give in to our bad habits?

When we consistently remind ourselves of the answers to these questions, our willpower is increased to stick to our plans.

13. Do the Opposite of What You Normally Do

Every time we modify our routines, we are exercising self-control. The more that we can exercise self-control, the stronger our willpower will be.

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When we succeed in making small changes, we develop the ability to take on much larger ones. You can start small with this by consciously trying to brush your teeth, eat, or open the door, with your non-dominant hand.

It may feel very strange at first, but it actually goes a long way to increasing our willpower.

14. Choose a Reward in Advance

For a given change, if we first determine a reward in advance, our willpower to follow through on our change will be increased.

Our brain is hardwired to pursue positive rewards when learning how to increase willpower. This can be as small as a piece of chocolate or as big as a vacation. Match the task to a reward in order to make the most of your willpower.

15. Anticipate Roadblocks

Before we start down the path of a new goal, we should consider the roadblocks that may arise in our path. There is always resistance in the path of a positive pursuit.

When we anticipate them in advance, we have stronger willpower to deal with them when they actually arise.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to increase willpower requires time. You can’t build a muscle overnight; it will take weeks, months, or even years of digging deep and adding to your willpower reserves. However, once you’ve done this, making decisions and resisting short-term temptations will be easier than ever before.

More on How to Increase Willpower

Featured photo credit: Ev via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Sleep Foundation: How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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Last Updated on September 9, 2021

10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

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10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

Productivity planners and journals are tools of a trade. There’s an art to productivity. Just like art is very personal to the artist, productivity is very personal to the person. What works for you may not work for me. This is an important distinction if you really want get more done in less time.

Too many of us dabble in productivity hacks only to move on to the next tool or trend when it didn’t workout for us, missing the lesson of what worked and didn’t work about that tool or trend.

We put the tool on a pedestal and miss the art. It’s worshipping the paint brush rather than the process and act of painting. We miss the art of our own productivity when the tool overshadows the treasure.

As an artist, you have many brushes to choose from. You’re looking for a brush that feels best in your hand. You want a brush that doesn’t distract you from your art but partners with you to create the many things you see in your mind to create. Finding a brush like this may take some experimenting, but when you understand that the role of the brush is to bring life to your vision, it’s easier to find the right brush.

Planners are the same way. You want a productivity journal that supports you in the creation of your vision, not one that bogs you down or steals your energy.

Let’s dive into the 10 best productivity planners and journals to help you get more done in less time.

1. The One Thing Planner

The NY Times best selling book, The One Thing, just released their new planner. If you loved this book, you’ll love this planner.

As the founder of the world’s largest real estate company Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller, has mastered the art of focus. The One Thing planner has its roots in industry changing productivity. If you’re out to put a dent in the universe, this may be the planner for you.

Get the planner here!

2. The Full Life Planner

The Full Life Planner is Lifehacks’ ultimate planning system to get results across all your core life aspects including work, health and relationships. This smart planner is 15 years of Lifehack’s best practices and proven success formulas by top performers.

With the Full Life Planner, you can align your actions to long term milestones every day, week, and month consistently. This will help you to get more done and achieve your goals.

Get the planner here!

3. The Freedom Journal

Creator of one of the most prolific podcasts ever, Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas released his productivity journal in 2016. This hard-cover journal focuses on accomplishing SMART goals in 100 days.

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From their site:

“The Freedom Journal is an accountability partner that won’t let you fail. John Lee Dumas has interviewed over 2000 successful Entrepreneurs and has created a unique step-by-step process that will guide you in SETTING and ACCOMPLISHING your #1 goal in 100 days.”

Get the planner here!

4. Full Focus Planner

Michael Hyatt, author of Platform and host of the podcast “This is Your Life”, also has his own planner called the Full Focus Planner.

From the site:

“Built for a 90-day achievement cycle, the Full Focus Planner® gives you a quarter of a year’s content so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning (and tracking) 12 months at a time.”

This productivity planner includes a place for annual goals, a monthly calendar, quarterly planning, the ideal week, daily pages, a place for rituals, weekly preview and quarterly previews. It also comes with a Quickstart lessons to help you master the use of the planner.

Get the planner here!

5. Passion Planner

They call themselves the #pashfam and think of their planner as a “paper life coach”. Their formats include dated, academic and undated in hardbound journals with assorted colors. With over 600,000 users they have a track record for effective planners.

From the site:

“An appointment calendar, goal setting guide, journal, sketchbook, gratitude log & personal and work to-do lists all in one notebook.”

They have a get-one give-one program. For every Passion Planner that is bought they will donate one to a student or someone in need.

They also provide free PDF downloads of their planners. This is a great way to test drive if their planner is right for you.

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Get the planner here!

6. Desire Map Planners

If you’re looking for a more spiritually oriented planner, Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, created the Desire Map Planners. With Daily planners, Weekly planners and Undated planners you can find the right fit for you.

Behind this planner is the Desire Map Planner Program including 3 workbooks that not only support you in using the planners but guide you in your thought process about your life and intentions you’re using the planner to help you fulfill.

Get the planner here!

7. Franklin Covey Planners

The grandfather of all planners, Franklin Covey, has the most options when it comes to layouts, binders, and accessories. With over 30 years in the productivity planner business, they not only provide a ton of planner layouts, they also have been teaching productivity and planning from the beginning.

From the site:

“Achieve what matters most with innovative, high quality planners and binders tailored to your personal style. Our paper planning system guides you to identify values, create successful habits, and track and achieve your goals.”

Get the planner here!

8. Productivity Planner

From the makers of the best selling journal backed by Tim Ferriss, “The Five Minute Journal”, comes the Productivity Planner.

Combining the Ivy Lee method which made Charles Schwab millions with the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused in the moment, the Productivity Planner is both intelligent and effective.

It allows for six months of planning, 5-day daily pages, weekly planning and weekly review, a prioritized task list, Pomodoro time tracking, and extra space for notes.

From the site:

“Do you often find yourself busy, while more important tasks get procrastinated on? The Productivity Planner helps you prioritize and accomplish the vital few tasks that make your day satisfying. Quality over quantity. Combined with the Pomodoro Technique to help you avoid distractions, the Productivity Planner assists you to get better work done in less time.”

Get the planner here!

9. Self Journal

Endorsed by Daymond John of Shark Tank, the Self Journal takes a 13 week approach and combines Monthly, Weekly and Daily planning to help you stay focused on the things that really matter.

Self Journal includes additional tools to help you produce with their Weekly Action Pad, Project Action Pad, the Sidekick pocket journal to capture your ideas on the go and their SmartMarks bookmarks that act as a notepad while you’re reading.

Get the planner here!

10. Google Calendar

You may already use Google Calendar for appointments, but with a couple tweaks you can use it as a productivity planner.

Productivity assumes we have time to do the work we intend to do. So blocking time on your Google Calendar and designating it as “busy” will prevent others from filling up those spaces on your calendar. Actually using those blocks of time as you intended is up to you.

If you use a booking tool like Schedule Once or Calendly, you can integrate it with your Google Calendar. For maximum productivity and rhythm, I recommend creating a consistent “available” block of time each day for these kinds of appointments.

Google Calendar is free, web based and to the point. If you’re a bottom line person and easily hold your priorities in your head, this may be a good solution for you.

Get the planner here!

Bonus Advice: Integrate the 4 Building Blocks of Productivity

Just as important to productivity planners as the tool are the principles that we create inside of. There are 4 building blocks of productivity, that when embraced, accelerate your energy and results.

The four building blocks of productivity are desire, strategy, focus and rhythm. When you get these right, having a productivity planner or journal provides the structure to keep you on track.

Block #1: Desire

Somehow in the pursuit of all our goals, we accumulate ideas and To-Do’s we’re not actually passionate about and don’t really want to pursue. They sneak their way in and steal our focus from the things that really matter.

Underneath powerful productivity is desire. Not many little desires, but the overarching mother of desires. The desire you feel in your gut, the desire that comes from your soul, not your logic, is what you need to tap into if you want to level up your productivity.

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A productivity planner is just a distraction if you’re not clear on what it’s all for. With desire, however, your productivity planner provides the guide rails to accomplish your intentions.

Block #2: Strategy

Once you’re clear on your overarching desire, you need to organize your steps to get there. Let’s call this “strategy”. Strategy is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. You must first turn over all the pieces to see patterns, colors, connections and find borders.

In business and life, we often start trying to put our “puzzle” together without turning over all the pieces. We put many items on our To-Do lists and clog our planners with things that aren’t important to the bigger picture of our puzzle.

Strategy is about taking the time to brain dump all the things in your head related to your goal and then looking for patterns and priorities. As you turn over these puzzle pieces, you’ll begin to see the more important tasks that take care of the less important tasks or make the less important tasks irrelevant.

In the best selling book, The One Thing, the focusing question they teach is:

“What’s the One thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary?”

This is the heart of strategy and organizing what hits your planner and what doesn’t.

Block #3: Focus

With your priorities identified, now you can focus on the One Thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary. This is where your productivity planners and journals help you hold the line.

Because you’ve already turned over the puzzle pieces, you aren’t distracted by new shiny objects. If new ideas come along, and they will, you will better see how and where they fit in the big picture of your desire and strategy, allowing you to go back and focus on your One Thing.

Block #4: Rhythm

The final building block of productivity is rhythm. There is a rhythm in life and work that works best for you. When you find this rhythm, time stands still, productivity is easy and your experience of work is joyful.

Some call this flow. As you hone your self-awareness about your ideal rhythm you will find yourself riding flow more often and owning your productivity.

Without these four building blocks of productivity, you’re like a painter with a paintbrush and no idea how to use it to create what’s in your heart to create. But harness these four building blocks and find yourself getting more done in less time.

The Bottom Line

Your life is your art. Everyday you have a chance to create something amazing. By understanding and using the four building blocks of productivity, you will set yourself up for success no matter which planner, or “paintbrush”, you choose to use.

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As you experiment with different planners you will narrow which one is best for you and accelerate your path to putting a dent in the universe.

More Tools to Boost Your Productivity

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

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