Why Do We Lose Willpower with Time?

We’ve all experienced the loss of willpower throughout the day. We start early in the morning with all the enthusiasm and drive we can muster. We have no problem avoiding temptations and aren’t tempted to give in to our impulses.

Then as the day goes by it’s getting harder and harder to resist. By the time evening rolls around, it’s not uncommon to see willpower fail. We give in to the urge for a late night snack or buy something we don’t need.

There’s a reason infomercials run late at night, and it isn’t just because the airtime is inexpensive. It’s also because that’s when we’re most likely to make those impulse purchases. There’s a reason why the most difficult time to stick to a healthy diet or a weight loss plan is in the evening. It’s because we don’t have an unlimited supply of willpower.

That’s right. We lose willpower throughout the day as it is used up in various little decisions that we are required to make. The loss of willpower is closely related to decision fatigue.

Think of it as a bucket of choices and willpower that we have each day. Each time we make a decision, it drains the bucket a little until it’s empty. Once that happens, we start to give in to our impulses and our choices are no longer smart or necessarily right. That’s when we go for the late night snack or watch a movie instead of finishing homework.

This limited willpower supply may sound discouraging, but once you are aware of it, there’s a lot you can do to make this work. The good news is that you get a new “bucket” of willpower every morning. It’s simply a matter of using it wisely throughout the day.

Start by not trying to do too much at once. Instead of working on getting your degree, losing weight, and paying off your credit cards all at the same time, focus on one big change at a time.

Cutting out decisions where you can is another great tip. For example, if you sit down and plan your meals on Sunday, you don’t have to make all those decisions throughout the week.

Last but not least, work on creating habits and routines. If you struggle with late night snacking, get in the habit of not eating anything after 6 pm. Go and brush your teeth and stick to water or herbal tea for the rest of the night.

At first, it takes willpower to create these new habits and routines. But once you have them established as part of your day, you no longer need the willpower to stick with them. That allows you to shift gears and start to focus on something that will bring you closer to your next goal.

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