Substituting Willpower with systems will make things effortless.

In This Essay

Here, I’m going to discuss systems and willpower. Because it’s difficult to pin down exactly what willpower is, I’ll use the phrase “that which is spent when I persuade myself to do everything that isn’t the natural action”.  Because I believe I have an abnormally low level of willpower, looking at my life through the prism of willpower helps me make sense of it all (at least, relative to my social circle of bullshit high-achievers). Because willpower is the obvious tool for doing the acts I want to take to attain my goals, this is negative. As a result of this, I’ve come up with a list of the numerous methods I use to get around this and still do the things I care about most.

What is willpower? 

Willpower is a finite resource, and this is the basic assumption here. Willpower is something I have to use every time I have to perform an unpleasant task or make a decision. Also, when I lose my resolve, I become exhausted, everything seems like it would require too much effort, and procrastination becomes a habitual occurrence. These spirals of procrastination are especially harmful because they aren’t entertaining. Going for a stroll, meditating, or reading a good book are all “unproductive” activities that invigorate me. When I’m lacking willpower, however, I’m more likely to engage in less revitalising activities, such as continually browsing through Reddit. The problem isn’t that production and relaxation are mutually exclusive; it’s easy to fall into this trap. Consequently, resolving this problem is one of my top priorities right now. And if you can identify with the descriptions so far, I hope these tools can be of assistance to you as well!

Weaknesses like these can easily lead to feelings of shame and self-loathing. However, this is certainly a mistake. Guilt is a mental mechanism that encourages me to take action by requiring me to expend my willpower. Guilt is a terrible way to deal with a lack of motivation. If guilt doesn’t help me reach my goals, it’s a waste of time and energy. As a result, I like to think of willpower as a limited resource. Instead of feeling guilty about not having enough time to accomplish all of my goals, I should focus on improving my time management skills or reducing the number of goals I have. Willpower follows the same reasoning – it’s more abstract and less objective, but it’s still a finite resource.

Systems are my primary instrument in this endeavour. Any method that allows me to take action in the future while using less willpower is considered a system. Assuming that my willpower is unlimited, I can simply hit the “Try Harder” button and hope for the best the next time around. As a result of this failure mode, systems allow me to zoom out and ensure that I am purposeful and focused on the targeted behaviours rather than the mental state underlying them.

Seeing the World through the Lens of a System

For me, “systems” and “routines” are two different concepts. Here are a few key classifications:


Morning, afternoon, and night shifts

What to do when you get to work, a lecture tailored to the environment


Checklists Organizational rules – for example, having a clear strategy for what to do if I’m too exhausted to focus while working


Calendars, alerts, and spreadsheets are some examples.


 Leaving, and effectively managing obligations are all part of the triage process. Even if this appears to be a central example of a system, it is typically the easiest approach to free up time and energy to stop doing something needlessly. Systemization is a mentality, not a collection of rules or formulas. It’s a way of looking at your life and noting the bits that are inefficient or take a lot of effort, or simply never get done.

The following are some guidelines for getting started:

Willpower independent Resources.

Think about the non-physical resources in your life. Willpower is, in my opinion, the most vital resource, although this is a very personal matter. There are a variety of things that may be important to you in this situation: time, money, energy, and so on. Look for the largest bottleneck, find the locations where you spend the most resources, and consider how you might systematise them.

Making Things Effortless.

Take note of any instances of waste or inefficiency. Try to live thoughtfully over the next 24 hours. Inspect your work for anomalies and areas where “there must be a better method,” and then devise a technique to address these issues better. [*]


In the end, it’s the little things in life that build-up, and it’s easy to overlook them. Over the course of a year, a single minute of lost time adds up to six hours of wasted time. Get rid of any little inconveniences as soon as possible, especially if they can be fixed easily.

Look for items you often forget or have difficulty recalling while practising attention management. Keeping something in the back of your mind drains your attention and willpower. And try if you can discover methods to get the most critical things done without absorbing as much attention.

Establishing routines and to-do lists may help. 

As an example, I’ve built up a long list of little, tedious jobs over the course of a few years. As a result, there are a number of non-urgent tasks that must be completed. They all take up some of my mental space. Keeping a list of projects in Trello and prioritising them on Saturday afternoons has helped me keep track of everything that needs to be done, while also allowing me to focus on other things.

When it comes to systems, keep the following in mind at all times:

Eat Your Sh*t sandwich.

As Ravikant Naval Says” Figure out what Sh*t sandwich you like to eat or manage better than eat it”. In order to keep your willpower strong, it’s best to minimise the number of choice points you must go through before you can complete a job. That said, my objective isn’t just “to get sh*t done,” but rather “to choose to get sh*t done.”

Reduce Choice points. 

Switching costs should be reduced to the greatest extent possible. Organize comparable jobs into a single project. This is done very effectively by automation.

Create an environment where the appropriate action seems like a natural part of your daily routine without the need for self-control.

Routines and habits are based on this fundamental principle. For instance, a tap is just a walk from my room. Because getting more water is such a hassle, I’m constantly dehydrated. This was easily remedied by purchasing a big water bottle for home use.

Relation to self. 

Changing one’s self-image may be part of this process. Think about choices in terms of activation energy, which is the perceived effort necessary to perform it. Beware of trifling hassles. Why do I exert so much self-control over this? Consequently, little inconveniences are a huge concern since they seem large and require a great lot of effort to overcome. My goal is to reduce the amount of willpower I need, not the amount of effort I need. This may also be effective by causing little hassles. To get over blocking software is a tiny hassle, but it’s a minor annoyance, therefore I don’t bother.

The following is an ideal system:

Robust and dependable – something that will operate when I want it to, with a minimum level of active maintenance. Decision points should be kept to a minimum. E.g. instead of going to the gym once a week, go every Sunday at the morning. The reliability of certain systems cannot be guaranteed. The following is a very general rule of thumb to follow: A strong system is preferable to a shaky one, and the latter is preferable to none at all. How much work is necessary to accomplish a task is known as efficiency.

Automation to make things effortless 

A zero willpower life.

If people find it difficult with managing willpower “your objective should be to live a life with zero willpower” It is an excellent motto to keep in mind. This is unrealistic, impractical, and not a desirable practice in reality. In system development, though, I’ve found that setting this as a goal helps to steer my efforts in the proper direction. The design of a system should not need a lot of work on my part. I’m an idiot if I have to do an all-nighter every time I receive a new project, and I’m also wasting my willpower and sleep.

Then, put your systems into action! To make a solution to an issue in your life seem like the default, you need to put in some effort, which I (and everyone else) constantly forget. This isn’t as gratifying, but it’s essential.”

Finally, conduct a system evaluation and refinement cycle. It’s difficult and time consuming to put up a solid system. No matter how hard you try, it’s unlikely to function correctly the first time. Spend some time reviewing the system after a week or two of use to identify any flaws and decide whether or not to improve them.

Both of these may be conveniently organised! As a part of my routine, every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, I go over my list of system ideas I’d want to “apply” and “evaluate” (respectively).


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