Now is the time for New Year resolutions. Most people will have an idea of a few things they want to try and do, most people will try willpower to do it, unfortunately most people will fail….

Willpower on its own is a terrible way of getting things done. Mainly because it just doesn’t work, look at everytime you have: tried to go on a diet, give up smoking or spend less time on Facebook. Your mind and body want to take the path of least resistance and if you try to do something else through willpower you will inevitably fail. If something is easy and does not require much effort it will be done no matter how much willpower you have to move things the other way.

Everything we do requires a bit of effort to get started, it might be driving to the gym or picking up the tv remote.

What you need to do is increase the effort it takes for procrastination and decrease it for productivity, you do this by manipulating your environment.

You can think of your Facebook app as something that lowers effort you need to get on Facebook. The TV remote reduces the effort it takes to watch TV and the personalised menu reduces the effort it takes you to find the programme you want. Imagine if you had to connect up and tune your tv everytime you wanted to use it, you would definitely watch less tv if that was the case!

If there are things you know you want to do less, you need to find a way to make it harder to do it.

By removing your Facebook app you have to go through your browser to get to it. You can still get on Facebook but the effort to do it is increased so your wandering mind is less likely to fall onto Facebook via the path of least resistance.

If you put the tv remote in a different room from the tv so that you have to get up to get it the same process happens.

The reverse is to find things that make what you want to do the path of least resistance.

Putting your gym stuff next to your bed when you wake up or even putting it on to sleep in, lowers the effort needed to get up and go to the gym. You need to make your body feel like it would be more effort to not go to the gym. Put that book you want to read on top of the tv remote. If you want to cook more, throw the takeaway menus.

This New Year don’t rely on willpower, make doing what you want the path of least resistance.

Dr Steve Young
@steveyoungmedic

See also:
Clarity of Mind, Creativity of Thought
10 Books to change your attitude and perspective