Photo Credit: Kalen Emsley at PixaBay

How to Resist Temptations And Overcome Procrastination — A Willpower Hack That Works Almost 100% Times

The intelligent want self-control; children want candy. — Rumy

Are you frustrated with giving in to temptations or failing with your resolutions?

Do you keep procrastinating on a goal or a task you have set for yourself?

Well, the good news is …

If you lapse, the problem is not you or your willpower. The problem is the way you are using your willpower.

In this article, I’m going to share with you a willpower technique — called pre-commitment — which helps me crush my temptations and pierce through procrastination almost 100% times.


What is Pre-Commitment?

Willpower is not about resisting, forcing, or controlling — it’s about choosing. — Penney Peirce

Pre-Commitment is when you decide in advance what you are going to do in a particular situation.

Or,

Pre-commitment is when you actually make the decisions in advance so that when you face a tempting or boring situation, you are only left with the virtuous path.

But the best part?

Pre-commitment actually relieves you from having to rely on willpower in the first place.

There’s a serious problem with relying on willpower:

Every act of yours that might require willpower — whether you want to stick to your resolution, or rejecting a temptation — involves decision making.

Making decisions is metabolically VERY EXPENSIVE. Namely, it consumes lots of energy from your brain.

Therefore, your brain naturally tries to dissuade you from having to make such decisions by creating some feelings of discomfort or as Steven Pressfield calls it: resistance.

When you pre-commit, you make all the decisions in advance. Thus, when the occasion calls, you no longer have to rely on your willpower to make the decision that scares off your brain.

That is the power of pre-commitment, it frees you from the bounds of willpower.

The following are the three variations of pre-commitment I’ve experimented with on which you can actually rely.


3 Simple Ways to Use Pre-commitment

“Motivation is what gets you started. Commitment is what keeps you going.” — Jim Rohn

1. Write down your resolution with a specific date and time.

This simple technique almost never fails me.

If it is something that I keep procrastinating on such as the desire to start a new online course, going to the gym etc, guaranteeing the execution is as simple as writing down my decision and specifying an exact date and time.

So, if the task is a chronic victim of procrastination, you can ensure its execution by simply writing your task down and designating it a specific date and time.

How effective this technique is?

So much so that I went a step further and adopted the bullet journaling system which is now an extension of my brain and since then, I am experiencing massive productivity.

My Bullet Journal — Blurred Due to Privacy

But that’s not all there’s to this technique.

If what you are striving to start or accomplish needs to be done on a regular basis and for a long stretch of time, you can do the following:

Write down your decision in form of creed and sanctify it.

For instance, since I was ashamed of hitting the snooze button 10 times in the morning, I eliminated it from my life by this simple line:

I, Amir, hereby make a solemn oath not to use the snooze button ever again!

There’s a subtle catch to this sanctification process.

Don’t go for some form of banal writing like: I promise to go to the gym every day.

You must sanctify it with an attribute or quality that genuinely and deeply matters to you.

whether it is your pride or your sense of morality or, etc., it has to trigger you.

For me, when I write that I make a solemn oath to … it both engages my sense of pride and morality which guarantees its effectiveness.

It is now my conviction that:

writing down elicits commitment and commitment crystalizes into action.

2. Pre-commit the Odysseus way.

Pre-commitment by Odysseus

Pre-commitment is what Odysseus did to get passed the luring and deadly songs of the Sirens.

He had himself lashed to the mast with orders not to untie him regardless of how hard he pleaded to go to the sirens.

His men pre-committed differently, by plugging their ears that would make them oblivious to the enchanting songs of the Sirens.

What Odysseus did was to eliminate the possibility of indulgement in the first place.

Even if he wanted, he wouldn’t be able to give in to temptations!

Do you want to prevent yourself from compulsively using social networks and instead focus on your projects?

Then, pre-commit by blocking your access to them. Or if you want to be a bit more extreme, abandon them altogether.

So, how do I use the Odysseus way?

I have removed all the social media apps from my mobile and when using my computer, I use the StayFocusd extension which blocks the access to the irrelevant websites.

That’s not all there’s to this technique.

Oddyseuss way, too, has the added value of preserving your precious willpower and psychic energy since it relieves you from having to rely on it.

In fact, studies show that people with the most self-control spend less time resisting temptations than others. This was puzzling to the researchers until the explanation emerged:

People with the most self-control have less need to use willpower because they’re beset by fewer temptations and inner conflicts. They’re better at arranging their lives so that they avoid problematic situations.

Finally, I reserved the best for last.

3. Pre-commit publicly or pre-commit to an accountability partner.

I am so tempted to say that the technique works 100% of the times. Let me suffice to say it is perhaps the most bulletproof of all.

This technique actually saved me from my severe depression.

Back when I was terribly depressed and overwhelmed by anxiety. I knew that exercise would dramatically help me with my situation.

But there was a serious problem.

I didn’t have the courage nor the will to go for running. The comfort of my bedroom felt much better actually.

So, I forced myself out of comfort zone by simply promising my father to join him on his morning running ritual.

Did you notice the tremendous effect of this technique here?

When you are experiencing depression, sometimes you don’t have the will and the mood to even eat food let alone going for a run on 6 AM. But this technique helped me bypass my dead willpower.

But that’s not my biggest feat using this technique.

In another occasion, I decided to go on three-day fasting (water only) and I made it easy to stick to it by simply letting EVERYONE around me to know that I’m gonna do this.

Final Thoughts

I have been studying technique to increase willpower and discipline for almost 5 years now.

In my lapses, I kept thinking I haven’t cultivated my discipline enough.

Until I learned that you cannot just brute-force your way to achievement through the sheer use of willpower.

You must know that willpower is a limited resource and it gets depleted as you use it throughout a day.

I also learned that to have bulletproof willpower I must have a crystal clear goal and approach it with my whole focus.

So, if you lapse, don’t burn yourself out — as I once did — thinking to yourself that you’re lazy. You just have to know how willpower works and then use it smartly.

In Summary

  • Pre-commitment is the most powerful technique that helps you with your willpower and discipline.
  • Willpower is a limited resource and unless you have strengthened it through rigorous practice you cannot rely on it.
  • The hard thing about willpower is that it requires decision making which is metabolically a very expensive act.
  • Pre-commitment relieves you from having to rely on willpower by making decisions in advance.
  • There are three ways you can use pre-commitment:
  1. Write down the things you want to start doing by designating a precise date and time. If it is something you want to on a regular basis, write it down in form of a creed or oath.
  2. You can pre-commit by eliminating the sources of temptations e.g. blocking your access to social media.
  3. You can pre-commit publicly or to an accountability partner.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +427,678 people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.