The Willpower Instinct: Why Willpower Is Contagious

I recently finished The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal. Like the title says, the book covers how willpower works and provides some ideas for strengthening it. (Got to love it when your weekend reading gives you homework assignments.)

There were a few books on willpower and habit that came out last year; I chose this one because I wanted to see if it had tips that would help me procrastinate less on writing. Time management and efficiency have been big efforts for me in the past couple years. It’s interesting to see where the things I’ve learned from common sense and trial and error coincided with results from the studies she cites.

Take the chapter on the effects of your social network, which is on my mind right now since I’m posting this on my writing group’s blog.

One of the most helpful things for my writing has been the people I’ve met, both offline and online. Not just because while I pretend to be a robot, I actually do like interacting with people, but from a writing perspective. Meeting so many people who share similar goals means we can share tips on reaching those goals.

Even if we’re not overtly helping one another, or posting word counts, just knowing other people out there are working hard makes writing every day and trying to improve seem normal. If one of my friends tweets that they’ve had a productive afternoon on their book, and I’ve spent hours hacking at weeds in the backyard instead of plot holes in my outline, I’m reminded that there are more important things than yardwork and will make an effort to get some writing done (after a long shower).

Not everything in this book works for me–it’s about 50-50, depending on the chapter. Some of her ideas are things I’ve tried in the past and already knew they didn’t work, or, like the social chapter, that they do work. Some things I wouldn’t have considered before. But every chapter made me think about the way I work.

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