Adventures in code

Conserving willpower by deciding later

Sometimes we’re forced to do things we don’t want to. Most of the time though, we have a choice. A lot of the choices we make are between what we ought to do and what we want to do.

I don’t need to grab a chocolate bar while I’m out shopping, but I want to.

I don’t really want to go for a run, but I ought to.

I use this technique to make decisions I ought to, even when I don’t want to. What you do is, you set a fixed time and you promise yourself to make the decision, at that point in time. Until then you put it out of your mind.

Instead of using the entire trip to the grocery store debating whether you should get some sweets, you make a deal with yourself. You’ll make the decision when you’re actually in the store. You can’t buy the sweets before then anyways. There’s no reason to think about it. Once you’re in the store, you have a lot less time to be tempted. It’s easier to convince yourself to not buy chocolate in the ten minutes you’re actually in the store, than in the thirty minutes it takes you to get there.

The same technique can be used for getting out of the house to exercise, or other activities you don’t want to do. Sometimes I have plans to work out in the evening, but during the day, I really don’t feel like going. I can spend all day trying to find excuses why I can skip it just this once. Or I can decide to decide later, and make the decision right before I head out the door.

Getting out of the door only takes five minutes of willpower.