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Conserve Willpower


Techniques Willpower > Conserve Willpower

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Do not exert your willpower when it is not needed. Keep it for when it is more important. Beware of lots of little choices wearing down your will and self-control such that when you need more of it, it has all been frittered away.

Ways to conserve willpower include

  • Avoiding temptations to eat a lot when food is available.
  • Avoiding long periods where you do not have any refreshments or rest.
  • Avoiding the endless back-to-back tasks that many face, putting breaks and refreshments in between. If you cannot avoid these take in sweets or a sweet drink and occasionally 'zone out' for 'micro-naps'.

Structure your life so you have plenty of willpower in reserve when you really need it and that there are periods of recuperation after exertion of will. This includes eating regularly and keeping a steady pattern of rest, exercise and sufficient sleep.


I ensure I get seven hours a night sleep and always go to bed at the same time. If I do need to stay up sometimes, I make sure I catch up on sleep soon after. I eat three moderate meals a day and small energy snacks in between. Wherever I can. I delegate decisions to others and work to trust them rather than checking up all the time. When I have a big decision to make I ensure I am rested, fed and fresh before I review the evidence and make the decision.


Willpower is like muscle in that continuous use leads to exhaustion. This is a cumulative effect and lots of small exertions of will all add up. This includes making choices, stopping yourself things that you know you should not do and doing the things that you do not really want to do.

Exhaustion of the will is pernicious in that it is not like being physically tired and hence it is easy to think you are still functioning well. The best indicator of this ego depletion is feeling greater emotional arousal.

The biggest risk of ego depletion is of poor decisions being made and the problems that result from these. To keep making the best decisions, you need to keep your will energy up. This means keeping up the glucose levels in the blood, which can be restored by rest (which fully refreshes the system) and consuming glucose (which gives a short-term boost).

You can also improve your total capacity and overall willpower through simple practice and doing specific exercises.

See also

Willpower as Muscle, Willpower Exercises


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