Lessons in Willpower

My consumer behavior professor said something the other week in class that made me think (and inspired me to write something for the first time in a while). She said, "You only have so much willpower. Once it's gone, it's gone. You can do things to build it up and build stamina, but you have a limited amount." She went on to talk about how you lose willpower every time you check your texts, refresh your email, etc. Which makes perfect sense. You only have so much energy to do everything every day, and when you spend ~5 hours on your phone and clicking refresh every 30 seconds, you no longer have that energy to do what you actually need to do. She also said something about research she found that people refresh their email ~750 times a day, which sounds crazy but I know when I am waiting on a certain email that I am constantly refreshing, so maybe that's not so crazy?

I hope this doesn't sound too much like technology is bad and millennials spend too much time on their phones because I don't love that rhetoric. However, I do believe that there is so much information out there that it's easy to lose focus on the tasks at hand. I know for me what should probably only take me roughly 30 minutes, sometimes takes me an hour (or two...) because I get distracted by checking my phone and responding to Snapchats or texts. And then I wonder why I never get anything done.

I think most people know that checking your phone and social media decreases your productivity, but when it was put into the context of your willpower and how you only have so much, everything clicked for me. I know that working on being less distracted and not depleting my willpower through social media will take actual effort, but there are ways to help train yourself to be better.

There are three apps/features that I regularly use to help me work on not checking my phone/notifications as much.

1. Do Not Disturb The Do Not Disturb feature on my phone is an actual godsend. First, because I am paranoid that my phone will go off during a test, and second because I am not bombarded with notifications whenever my phone is next to me. I can check to see if I got something, but my phone isn't lighting up/buzzing every time someone Snapchats me. I recently learned that my computer has a Do Not Disturb feature, too, which is GREAT for classes where I use my laptop because I am always tempted to answer texts when they pop up in the corner.

2. Self-Control 99% of my school work is on my computer, and I am almost always using the internet to do research or check Blackboard or use an online textbook. Sometimes it's real easy to just hop on over to twitter.com and scroll through tweets for two hours. I downloaded the Self-Control app right when I got my computer my senior year of high school, and it forces me to focus on work. You can create a Blacklist that blocks certain websites for a period of time, and there's no way to get around the block. You have to wait it out, so you might as well do work. I typically block Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube aka my biggest distractions, and I usually only do it for 30-45 minutes and then take a break and then reset the clock when I want to start working again. I haven't been using this a ton recently, but I think I am going to start using it again to help monitor my refreshing habit.

3. Screen Time I think this came with the latest iPhone iOS update (or maybe I am just super late to the game), but your phone now tells you on average how much you use it. And it's scary. I looked at how much time I spent on Instagram and felt a little dead on the inside. With the update, though, you can set limits for how long you use certain apps or types of apps. For social networking, I set a three-hour limit. Right now I am kind of messing around with it and seeing what my limits are, but I definitely need to set hard limits for myself because there's no way I could keep track of that by myself.

Here's hoping I can learn to stop checking my phone and to start finishing discussion posts in 15 minutes rather than an hour.

xx, jKm

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