Motivation: Changing Your Personality for Increased Willpower

In this article, I will be gathering anecdotes on improving your productivity by changing your behavior- or changing your personality for a better workflow in terms of your productivity.

So one person found a limitation on his entertainment as something that reeled him into a better work ethic. Here it is:

I have. In my experience, my lack of motivation derived not from an unwillingness to work, but from a greater desire to do other things. In particular, the thing I wanted to do was play video games. If video games weren’t an option, I was perfectly happy to do large quantities of work. But as long as video games were an option, I virtually always preferred to be playing them.

My lifestyle change came, sadly, from injuring myself. I injured my wrist, and lost the ability to play video games for long durations of time. I can still play a little (for an hour or two a day), but I can’t play any more, or my wrist starts to hurt. This worked wonders for my productivity, because without video games as a viable time sink, I just naturally started doing more productive things.

I’m not fully sure how to turn this little bit of wisdom into something that will work for you, but I’d at least recommend the following: ascertain why you aren’t working. Is it because you don’t enjoy the work, or is it because you would rather do other things? If it’s the latter, find some way of limiting your ability to do those other things (off the top of my head: perhaps an accountability system with your partner? She doesn’t have to make you work, but she should stop you from e.g. wasting time on Netflix if you haven’t done a certain work quota.) If it’s the former, I’m afraid I have no advice.

Incidentally, this also corresponded with me starting to hit the gym. But I think hitting the gym is to a significant extent a product of more motivation, not just a cause of it. [Source]

Exercise seems to be a key to productivity:

I used to do nothing. I would dawdle to work, be the least productive there, come home, get high and watch Netflix. In the last year I started ritually hitting the gym, which seemed like a waste of time if I wasn’t eating right, so I did both. This led to other good choices; I quit smoking cigarettes and I’m now an honors Engineering student, started a new job last week I’m already excelling at, reading more and trying to learn new things. I’m not sure it was anything beside me being tired of not doing anything, though I did try noots. I think it was exercise – one good decision led to a cascade of good decisions, which led to good feelings, and vice versa. [Source]

One anecdote teaches the power of habit:

The biggest piece here is discipline. Having discipline leads to greater control of willpower and the ability to build habits and sustained habits will lead to productivity. You will often hear people attribute getting shit done to working out or waking up earlier or (as noted in this thread) joining the Marines. These are all likely true, but the root here is discipline. You build discipline by getting off your ass multiple times per week and going to the gym or not hitting the snooze button every morning. So these are all just different forms of building discipline. Research has shown (e.g., the Stanford marshmallow experiment) that higher levels of discipline translate to more of getting shit done.

As mentioned, I feel that productivity is a habit (sure, you can have spurts of productivity, but the kind you mention is sustained, long-term productivity which is by definition a habit), but I also feel that habit-building is highly dependent on one’s level of discipline, as you have to be disciplined to build new habits. I suggest checking out the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I just finished it a couple months ago, and it’s certainly changed my outlook on habits, addiction, and discipline.

Finally, (and I have no scientific proof of this, but hopefully it’s intuitive to understand), I feel that building discipline should be done slowly and steadily. Don’t try to add 5 new habits all in one day. Choose one (working out, writing 1000 words per day, reading 25 pages of a book everyday) and really commit to that. Once it’s a habit, it’s hard not to do. Then at that point, add another thing. But when you attempt to commit to a handful of new things all at once, you usually give up on all of them when one thing goes wrong (e.g., you missed a day or three).

Edit: Oh! Also, in response to your wife making lists to get things done: do that! What’s really happening there is that she’s visualizing what needs to get done in a list view. This is more of a “productivity hack” than something related to discipline, but that’s a great technique for de-fogging your brain of the things that need to get done and making them bite-size. That technique is almost like a short-term “What are your 10 year goals, and why can’t they be accomplished in 6 months?” thought exercise that you may have heard of. [Source]

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