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6 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

6 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

Some of the most rewarding and exhilarating times in life are when you achieve something you set out to do, right? You feel on top of the world! The opposite is also true: some of the most testing and depressing times in life are when you really want to have or do something, but you can’t muster up the willpower in that moment to do what you want.

What is willpower anyway, and what makes you have more or less of it? Willpower is, to put it simply, a combination of self-discipline and control over yourself and your behaviour. You especially need more willpower at those times when you exert yourself to do something that doesn’t come easily.

If you have ever thought that you don’t have willpower, the good news is that you were wrong. Willpower is not a gene, it works like a muscle. And the more you practice it, the more you will have. But like any muscle building, you also have to be careful not to overdo it and wear yourself out.

Here are the top six willpower hacks to help you achieve your goals.

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1. Boost your energy supply

Studies have shown that exerting your willpower reduces your energy and blood glucose levels. Replenishing glucose is key to having more willpower because willpower is a mental muscle that is directed by glucose levels. When your sugar levels in your blood are low, you will most likely find it more difficult to control your urges.

So, the better the food that you eat, the more willpower you will feel. Leading professors and health psychologists suggest the following for a quick boost. Eating any foods that are naturally high in sugar will give you the boost you need, so carrots, raisins, almonds, or apples, for example, will fuel your brain. Also, drinking lemonade will give you a quick glucose hit without the caffeine of other sodas.

2. Reduce the amount of decision making

You already know that willpower gets depleted the more you need to practice self-control. Did you also know that making decisions uses up your self-control? In other words, the more decisions you make in a day, the lower the self-control you will feel by the end of the day.

If you want to strengthen your willpower muscle, start planning ahead more often and try to decrease the number of decisions you make on a daily basis. If you are running around like a headless chicken all day making decisions, you are not going to have a lot of willpower left by the end of the day. An alternative is to start brain-dumping, taking your main thoughts and concerns out of your head and getting them onto paper. Those thoughts are taking up energy that can be better used elsewhere.

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3. Finding a connection in the moment

Think back to the last time you struggled to muster up the willpower to do something, whether it was avoiding the delicious donut in the bakery on your way to work, or finding the energy to go to the gym. What tends to happen in those moments is that you focus only on that moment and subconsciously disconnect the intention from the overall goal or value. The more disconnected you feel from what you are doing now and what you want in the future, the harder it will be to take action.

Always keep top of mind what is most important to you and connect what you are doing now to the future. Your ‘future-self’ will be so thankful for it. Keep focused on how this will benefit you in the future if you can keep pushing forward at the hardest times.

4. Inhibit the ‘pleasure seeking’ part of your brain

You have a very strong part of your brain that is constantly seeking pleasure and it never gets tired. This is actually why we procrastinate at a very ‘basic’ level: it is normal. However, this doesn’t always serve us, of course. As a result, it doesn’t make sense to go to a bakery and have a coffee when you are trying to avoid the pastries.

Don’t make things harder for yourself, make them easier! Your brain is using precious energy in that moment fighting those temptations, and it’s depleting your willpower. Don’t try to ignore or block out distractions, rather aim to eliminate them. Whether it’s at work when you need to focus more or in your personal life, make things easier for yourself if you can.

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5. Don’t be so hard on yourself (yes, it makes it worse)

Thing you can expect to face when you embark on any type of change are, of course, challenges and hard times. It doesn’t make sense to think that change is going to be an effortless and easy ride, or that if you struggle at times then there is something wrong with you.

Ironically, we expect things to be easy and when they aren’t, a lot of negative self-talk usually follows. When you feel bad about yourself and guilty because you didn’t follow through on your intention, research shows that you will almost certainly go back and do what you didn’t want to do.

On the other hand, when you are kinder to yourself and you show more self-compassion, you give yourself more motivation to keep going. This happens because you are talking to the part of you who wants to change, and not that part of you who feels like you can’t.

6. Strong habits means stronger willpower

Another great way to strengthen your willpower muscle is to start doing simple, challenging exercises more often by giving yourself small goals throughout the day. Let’s imagine you are at the gym and you have done 50 sit-ups. Push yourself to do one or two extra. It’s a small challenge, but it builds more discipline, not to mention confidence!

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Think about your daily life at home. How about putting away those clothes on the floor or doing the dishes before you go to bed? They are small actions, but ones which in due course make your willpower muscle stronger.

If you know that you could do with a little more willpower in your days, start by employing these six top willpower hacks today and you will achieve far more in a few months than you have in years.

 

More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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