I have no willpower, and this lack of willpower just gets worse when I’m sleep deprived or hungry. (Don’t tell my mom, but the only reason I didn’t get pregnant in high school is because DH was seriously responsible.)
I am naturally disorganized (with the exception of being vaguely OCD about alphabetizing spices and bookshelves). If I were living alone, my stuff would be organized by having the newest stuff on top and the oldest stuff in the layer closest to the carpet.
My ability to remember all the things I need to do or need to carry or need to have is pretty weak. I have failed to bring my laptop cable to work two days in a row at this point and am out of battery juice tomorrow unless I go over and put that cord in my bag right now. Despite my best efforts, I still occasionally have to buy lunch because I left my made lunch on the counter.
I am, however, pretty good at putting together a system of kludges that allows me to function and even succeed– aligning my current actions with my long-term goals. Reading the Willpower book I was astonished with how much of, “I do that” I actually do. If there’s a tip or trick for not allowing myself to descend into my basest wants (which are many), I use it.
It’s pointless and way too much effort trying to fix myself. However, I can change circumstances so that I can still get ahead. I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well over the past few decades and I’m pretty good at figuring out what makes me tick.
In college, I was forever losing my keys. So… each time I got a new keychain or key, I would just add it to the one I carried around with me. Eventually it got so massive that it has become very difficult for me to lose. People often make fun of me for it, and they often question whether or not I’m hurting the ignition on my car, but the massive structure is easy to find and it’s noticeable when I don’t have it. Additionally, when I get home, I try to put it in the same place next to the door. This doesn’t always work, but I’d say a majority of the time it’s there in the morning.
I keep clutter down by not buying things in the first place and by putting unwanted gifts in the gift/donate closet right away.
I am very bad about forgetting things. My world is full of lists and lists of lists. I carry a day planner and enter things in as soon as I get them and check the planner every morning.
I have habits and rituals. Back in college I had a boyfriend who would always say, “wallet watch glasses keys” before he left the room and it often goes through my head as well, though I keep my glasses in the car and never take them out so that I always have them for driving. Similarly, after opening Stata, I always change the directory, set more off, and OPEN A LOG FILE. Because the log file will rescue me from many of my other bad Stata habits and mistakes.
Mistakes aren’t limited to coding– part of the reason we have such a big slush fund is to make it so mistakes aren’t so painful. Last weekend, for example, we got a parking ticket because we were 10 min late getting back to our car. For want of 50 cents, we owe $43. But that’s an annoyance more than a catastrophe (and DH has said he’ll pay it out of his allowance since he feels responsible and doesn’t want me to feel bad about it– that’s what the allowance is for, he says).
Mental accounts also help with money concerns. Retirement savings come straight off the top so I don’t even see that money so it can’t make me feel rich. I reconcile the checkbook as soon as I get a bill even if I delay the actual payment. That emergency/slush fund stays in savings and checking is what is supposed to take care of regular expenses. (And when either the checking or emergency fund number gets too low, it is time to cut back.)
I also have a huge problem with willpower. That means I do not buy things I shouldn’t eat, unless it’s something I can totally resist (like licorice– yuck). I have not played video games since my first year of graduate school because once I start I can’t stop. So I don’t start. Cold turkey. A hard line in the sand.
I could try to make myself remember things better. I could work on myself to try to give myself stronger ability to resist temptation when it comes calling. Yes, it would be great if I were calmer, more productive, had a better memory. But, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Do you have problems with willpower? How do you solve problems structurally? Have you been successful at changing your base self, and if so, how?