M2M Day 135: What to do when you’re too tired…

This post is part of Month to Master, a 12-month accelerated learning project. For March, my goal is to play a 5-minute blues guitar solo.

For the past two weeks, my evenings have been pretty full…

I get home from work, workout, shower, make dinner, practice guitar for 45 minutes, setup my camera, plug my guitar into my computer, start recording on Garage Band, play for the camera, stop filming, download the video, export the audio from Garage Band, sync up the audio and video in Adobe Premiere, add basic overlays to the video if necessary, export the video, upload the video to YouTube, write my Medium post, publish my Medium post, go to bed.

More simply, there are five main tasks: 1. Workout, 2. Dinner, 3. Practice guitar, 4. Make video, 5. Write Medium post.

My challenge every night is to muster up enough willpower to get started on each task. Once I start, I’m usually able to finish without a problem. (If I don’t start, it’s probably because “watching YouTube videos” is more enticing).

Most nights, I usually have enough energy to happily work my way through the list. But, tonight, wasn’t one of those nights.

Due to a combination of a long day at work, a bad night sleep last night, and some other stuff on my mind, I was pretty low on energy when I got home today. Some nights are just like that, and that’s okay.

Sometimes, it’s okay to outsource the willpower, make tradeoffs, and just relax. Here’s what I did…

I got home. I was pretty warm from my walk home from the train, so I changed into my gym clothes to cool off. I was not prepared to go work out, so instead, I texted my friend to come over in 30 minutes, and spent the meantime, on the couch, watching YouTube videos.

30 minutes later, I was still pretty low in energy, but I was already wearing my gym clothes and my friend was here to workout, so it wasn’t too hard to get to the gym. Once I was there, I had enough energy to do a decent job.

My friend left, I made dinner, and then again, had no energy. So, I hopped in the shower and let my mind wander for a while.

After the shower, I still had three things left on my list: 1) Practice, 2) Make a video, 3) Write a Medium post.

I definitely didn’t have enough energy to do all three.

The Medium post is non-negotiable, so that stayed. The big question then is… Do I spend my remaining energy doing a good job practicing or a good job making a video?

If it was fully up to me in the moment, I would have chosen to make the video. It’s much less intensive than 45 minutes of deliberate guitar practice.

But, at the beginning of this project, I made a rule with myself: If I ever have to sacrifice either the quality of my internal progress or the quality of my external progress, I should always sacrifice the external progress first.

So, that’s what I chose to do tonight: I spent 45 minutes practicing the guitar (specifically using vibrato at the peak of bends), and skipped out on the video.


Summary of “Low-Willpower” tactics

  1. Get into your gym clothes, even when you don’t plan on going to the gym.
  2. Don’t force it. Relax if necessary.
  3. Invite a friend (who can provide willpower on your behalf).
  4. Make tradeoff decisions beforehand, so you don’t have to decide in the moment.
  5. Bonus: Sometimes, it’s cool to just completely take the day off. (I’ve had a handful of those since starting this project).
Read the next post. Read the previous post.

Max Deutsch is a product manager at Intuit, the creator of Somebody.io and Rightspeed, and the guinea pig for Month to Master.

If you want to follow along with Max’s year-long accelerated learning project, make sure to follow this Medium account.