The willpower battery

Did you know that the more decisions you make in a day the more you drain your willpower? According to new research our willpower apparently operates pretty much like a battery. When we have used up a certain amount our willpower battery needs re-charging. If our battery is running low we generally will either go for the easiest option or stop making decisions altogether.

Isn’t this fascinating? I find it hugely so. It explains some of my more erratic or irrational decisions. (Some but not all, I’m sure!) And it goes some way to explain why I so easily give in to temptation – especially at the end of the day. Knowing this allows me to acknowledge that I am not simply someone with very little willpower. It means that when I find myself especially reluctant to decide or just purely go for the easy way out, my battery may be in need of re-charging.  I am not simply of a weak nature. (Deep sighs of relief.)

How can this knowledge be useful going forward?

  1. If you are planning to make changes in your life, consider the amount of willpower will be required. Make sure to break your plans into manageable “chunks”, so your battery doesn’t run flat.
  2. Create habits. If something is a habit for you, you eliminate having to make decisions and therefore consume less of your willpower energy.
  3. Plan your time. Don’t schedule “important decision making sessions” at work, at home or with yourself at the end of a long day.

Much more information about how these findings came about and how it impacts on dieters, poor people, whether you make parole and how you may end up paying extra for features you don’t really care about  can be found in this very interesting article in the: New York Times

Thanks to Ian McDermott from ITS and professor of Neuroscience Patricia Riddell for a very inspiring seminar introducing this fascinating topic.


8 thoughts on “The willpower battery

  1. Really fascinating – after reading this today I have realised how many questions I create in my head every day for myself which require a decision to be made! Exhausting. No wonder that biscuit tin is so alluring. Thank you for helping me challenge the way I think and consequentlt behave!

    • It has definitely made me think about what simple habits or routines may be worth creating in order to preserve willpower for more important things. Did you read the newspaper article and the part about the brain wanting sugar to re-charge the battery? That, I guess, is one of the reasons why the biscuit tin becomes so alluring.

      Ps. Thank you for commenting. It is really nice to hear what readers make of the wheelbarrows blog posts.

  2. This really struck a chord with me too Bonnie. I guess it explains for me why I consider myself a morning person – that’s the time of day I find it easiest to have the willpower to get things done. If it doesn’t happen first thing, then my willpower reserves have run out for the day and that’s that!

  3. I haven’t had a chance to read the article yet – but I will do this week. I am trying to find little bits of time in the day to sit down and think about all of the things I need to do and decisions I need to make about when/how/where etc. I then put them down in a good old fashioned list! 5 minutes of focussed decision making like this once or twice a day seems to help. The importance of just making time to think – even for a few minutes, really makes a difference.

    • Little pockets of time to focus and dotting things down on a list also helps me a lot – especially if I have a lot on my mind. The tricky bit for me is to remember to do this on busy days – and to remember where I left my last list ;o)

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