Willpower is a muscle – it’s energy – and it gets used up FAST. What’s worse, it’s not easy to replenish. Other than through rest, there’s no place you can go to or crank you can turn to fill it up.
This means that from the moment you wake up in the morning it starts to reduce. Every decision you make takes it down another notch. Like a battery, it fades throughout the day.
It’s a stored resource that depletes at every decision point, from deciding what to wear to what to have for lunch to what project to work on next. All that thrashing around costs you energy that should be going towards things you want to get done – the things that move you towards you goals.
We end up forcing ourselves to either reduce our goals or put them off to a later time – or both!
But understanding this limitation is an opportunity.
Understanding the limitation of one’s ability to focus and give their all can be leveraged to one’s advantage. Our brains are telling us what to do. It’s telling telling us adjust our days around its limitations. Schedule your day to account for the fact that you have only so many hours that can go towards deep, hard work.
Adjust your day correctly – by eliminating friction – and you will achieve things you never thought were possible. In fact, you will start having to 10X your goals just to keep up.
But the first step in taking advantage of this opportunity is to develop a clear picture in your head of who you want to be and where you want to go.
What do you want to achieve?
In order to achieve the results you want you MUST have a clear picture in your head of where you are going. What is the outcome you want? The result? What is your vision of your future self?
Are you wanting personal transformation or possibly acquiring a new skill? No matter what it is that you want to achieve you need to be hyper-specific about the outcome. The more visual you make it, the better.
When you know where you’re going and who you want to be the path to getting there reveals itself. You know exactly what it is you need to do.
For example, say you want to learn how to play the guitar. Start at the end. Picture the kind of music you want to be playing with ease and confidence. Picture yourself playing music for your friends and family or recording songs and sharing them online.
The point is, you need to have a strong vision in your head of what success looks like to you.
Once you’ve done that, you can start thinking about friction
What is friction?
Friction are the things that give you resistance. They are the things that make it difficult to accomplish your goals. They’re not obstacles. Obstacles are things that stand in the way of your progress.
Here are some examples of friction:
- Lack of motivation.
- Loss of focus.
- Time crunch.
And here are examples of thoughts that often trigger friction:
- “It’s too early and I’m tired.”
- “There’s too much to do just to get rolling.”
- “It’s late, I do it tomorrow.”
Here’s a fantastic example of friction in action from Tim Ferriss [link to his homepage]. I don’t recall which episode it was (it was at least five years ago) so I am recalling this from memory. But here’s what he had to say about hardcore cyclists and motivation:
Someone who is an avid cyclist does not think of all the steps they have to take in order to ride their bike. When they tell aspiring cyclists what steps to take, they just say “hop on your bike and go.” There’s no mention of gear or the best time to ride or routes.
So, hardcore cyclists have built the habit of riding everyday. They just “hop on their bike and go.” Their mind does not get in the way.
Here’s what goes through the mind of someone who has yet to build the habit of cycling everyday.
Someone who wants to transform into become a cyclist can’t help but lying in bed, unmotivated, thinking through all of the “painstakingly difficult” steps they need to take. They have to get up from the comfort of their bed, pick out their riding apparel, put it on, brew some coffee, slurp it down, put on their socks and shoes, check their bike, fill the tires, and on and on.
This is friction at play and it’s all built up in their head. It’s exhausting. When this happens, you’re handing control over. You’re putting your goals on hold.
So, what do you do about it? (Assuming you truly want to achieve your desired outcome.)
You eliminate the friction.
The simplest way of eliminating friction is by eliminating its triggers.
“I’m too tired.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow.”
“There are too many steps.”
- Outsourcing decisions, and then
- eliminating steps.
Here’s an example
Say, you’re working on a new SaaS product that you want to release. The longer it takes you to get to the point you’re making progress, the greater the likelihood that you will be derailed. Too much of your energy will go towards ramping up and getting ready to work – and less time dedicated to the work.
So, you need to know what the top priorities are and make sure everything is ready to go so you can dive right in and start working.
Every night, spend no more than fifteen minutes prioritizing the 1 to 3 things that you need to get done the next day. Here you’re outsourcing the decisions to your present self to the benefit of your future self. Do not prioritize urgent tasks. Keep the focus on the big, hard problems. Sticking with the SaaS example, with could be something like “design core feature specification.” It’s not something like “delete old files.”
Once you have your 1 to 3 priorities, you then want to physically set up your environment so that nothing depletes your willpower – energy – or slows you down from getting rolling.
For SaaS development, this could mean leaving your computer on and opening up the tools you’re going to need. Agile project software, text editor, browser window, development environment fired up, et al. Your mind is now free to focus on the work. Coding.
For an aspiring cyclist, this could mean picking out your attire the night before, placing your bike by the front door, etc. When you eliminate steps then your mind is free to focus on the one thing you want to get done. Riding.
For this to work…
Achieving unimaginable results cannot happen with only eliminating the friction. You MUST have a clear picture of what your goal or outcome AND know why you want to achieve it. These are crucial elements. The formula is:
Vision + Goal + System = Unimaginable Result