Please raise your hand if your daily routine looks anything like mine:
Drink virtuous breakfast smoothie. Resist the urge to eat an entire package of fake bacon. Write an ambitious but doable to-do list. Dutifully wash my breakfast dishes. Make my bed. Resist the urge to crawl back into bed.
Make a sooooomewhat virtuous lunch while listening to podcasts. Check Instagram but for, like, a reasonable amount of time. Keep plugging away at big project. Resist urge to fall down a Facebook hole. Take the dog for a walk. Resist the desire to stop at the bakery and buy/eat 15 donut holes.
Eat a virtuous salad. Hate the stupid salad and then make a giant bowl of pasta. Open laptop to just “research something super quick” and fall down a social media hole for two hours. Stand in the kitchen, mindlessly eating peanut butter from the jar while looking at the yard and thinking about how fat the squirrels are. Try to go to bed at a reasonable time but stay up talking till 11:30.
But did you know there’s a reason why we do this? Why our self-control slowly crumbles as the day passes?
Psychologists have all sorts of names for it – ego depletion, decision fatigue – but it comes down to the fact that every day, we have a finite amount of self-control we can exert. We’re only capable of making so many ‘healthy,’ ‘good,’ self-denying decisions in a given day. Once those are exhausted, we’re a million times more likely to eat nachos for dinner, fall down an Instagram hole, and throw our clothes on the floor.
I don’t know about you, but it is alarmingly easy for me to abandon my good habits and best intentions. If my good habit is harder than, say, breathing, I’ll convince myself that it was not meant to be. “Welp, I have to open the closet and take down a box to get that medicine I should be taking GUESS IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.”
Sometimes, building the life you want is just making ‘good’ things easier + ‘bad’ things harder. Click To Tweet
Hanging another hook in my closet for workout gear so it’s visible and accessible = I’m (somewhat) more likely to workout.
Storing cleaning wipes under the bathroom sink = we’re all more likely to wipe the sink down.
Tucking a few postcard stamps in my wallet = I’m more likely to send postcards when I’m traveling.
Of course, none of these tiny changes increase my energy or my desire to actually, uh, engage in the good habit in question. But they do remove one or two of the tiny, annoying hurdles that prevent me from doing the thing I know I should be doing.
How can you make it easier to be awesome? How can you remove the tiny hurdles that stand between you and what you want?
How can you make ‘good’ things more accessible and ‘bad’ things less accessible?
If you want to be healthier
- buy pre-washed greens and pre-cut veggies
- set aside 30 minutes every Sunday to prep healthy snacks and display them in clear containers at the front of your fridge
- buy fruit and vegetables you can eat without any peeling or chopping – cherry tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries.
- lay your workout gear on the floor next to your bed, so you see it first thing in the morning
- sleep in your workout gear
- keep a pitcher of water and a glass on your desk
- buy a parking pass for the parking lot one mile from your office
If you want to keep your living space cleaner
- get a Roomba (and, no, I will never stop talking about how much I love my Roomba)
- use storage that’s easy to access and pleasant to use
- use more hooks, baskets, and open-topped storage
- store things near the place they’re used most often so it’s easier to put them away
- have an easy-to-make bed (re: not three blankets and five decorative pillows)
If you want to be more intentional about how you use technology
- move your most addictive apps off your home screen (or delete them all together!)
- put your phone on flight mode or do not disturb after 8 pm
- leave your phone in the glove compartment of your locked car when you’re having dinner out
- block yourself from sites you use too much
- stock up on books and magazines you truly enjoy so your space is filled with other things that capture your interest
You’re smart. You get the idea.
So if you, like me, occasionally struggle to pull your spoon out of the peanut butter jar at 9 pm or shutdown Netflix after a long day – you’re not alone! And there’s nothing wrong with you! You’re a lovely, normal human whose brain just needs a break from making decisions and exerting self-control.
Luckily for all of us, sometimes it’s as easy as putting the peanut butter behind the bag of quinoa.
But I want to hear from you! How do you navigate self-control and decision making? And do you ever find yourself making increasingly questionable decisions as the day progresses?