How to Increase Your Willpower: Part Two

In the first installment of this three-part series, we discussed practices you can incorporate into your daily routine to increase your willpower reserves, so that you can accomplish your goals in a more efficient manner. Today, we’re looking at specific tools that are at your disposal and can be used to give your willpower a boost when you need it most.

To successfully increase your willpower, you’ll need tools that fall into two distinct categories: those that keep you focused and those that help you build new habits. This is because much of building willpower involves staying focused and creating habits that move you closer to your goals.

Tools that Keep you Focused

Of course it’s important for surgeons to be focused in surgery, to ensure that your patients receive safe surgical care. On the October 2016 SurgeonMasters Group Call, Dr. David Hanscom shared his program Awake at the Wound, where they have integrated their Spine fellowship training with sports performance coaching. Basically, Performance = Skill - Interference! Staying focused is about managing and minimizing the different types of interference.

The Boundary Ritual, which I first learned from my friend Dr. Dike Drummond in his book Stop Physician Burnout: What to Do When Working Harder Isn’t Working, is a great tool to keep focus. You can use this tool as part of my 8 PRACTICEs Methodology to focus on each of your roles, but specifically so you can control your attention when you are seeing patients on rounds or in clinic in your doctor-patient role.

When it comes time to perform non-patient related tasks, like doing business or administrative work, writing papers, or working on projects, our willpower is often most vulnerable. To accomplish these tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible, you can use apps or tools to create a less-distracting environment. For example, an application like Freedom or Forest: Stay Focused can block websites that distract you – including your email – so that you can get your work done.  

You can also use a “Do Not Disturb” sign customized to you on your door to limit non-urgent distractions. Doing so will keep you in control of your day and can go a long way towards preventing burnout.

Tools that Build New Habits

Building habits is key to achieving your goals and increasing your willpower. The longer you stick with a new routine in pursuit of a specific objective, the stronger your willpower muscle becomes.

Fortunately, there are numerous tools available to help you build new habits, no matter what your goal is. For example, if you want to lose weight and improve your health, you can track your fitness goals, nutrition, and calories using MyFitnessPal. If you want to build a meditation practice to help manage the stress of your career, try HeadSpace or other popular apps.

Remember, the 8 PRACTICEs Methodology would remind you to:

  • Take one step at a time (Passion for Performance Improvement)

  • Seek your balance in the give and take (Reciprocity of Roles and Relationships)

  • Keep a positive attitude even if these tools don’t seem to work (Attitude Resilience)

  • Comment below to agree/disagree/share your tools (Communication with Mutual Understanding)

  • Get into YOUR rhythm and build momentum (Time/Life Management using Rhythm)

  • Inspire yourself by knowing your goals (Inspire Others to Shared Goals)

  • Keep it simple and practice, practice, practice (Complex Problem Solving through Simplicity)

  • Use energy gained to increase your willpower (Energy for Personal and Practice Wellness)

On next week’s blog, we’ll be talking about key strategies for exercising your willpower muscle to increase your chances of success. In the meantime, try incorporating a few tools into your daily routine to see the effect they have on your willpower.