Willpower is for losers

A prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.


I know better, but I can’t help myself.

I sleep better when I put my phone to bed before I put myself to bed. I sleep even better when I read a book before bed. Yet, every night, I somehow find my phone in hand as I get in bed, and glance at the book I have been meaning to read. I tell myself, tomorrow, I will surely have the willpower to choose the book instead. Tomorrow never comes. Bad habits win over good intentions. Bluebeard’s Egg remains unread, and it’s due at the library in three days.

I lose.

Willpower is for losers.

A wise man once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Over the past few years, I have worked diligently to create the right environment to disconnect from the digital space and spend more time doing offline activities I value. The most important lesson I have learned from my effort to unplug is that it is better to modify my environment than to try and fight bad habits with sheer willpower. It’s far easier to block Safari on my phone, let’s say, than to force myself to simply not mindlessly scroll. In other words, “to know thyself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Good intentions are just that, good. It’s important to create the right environment so that good intentions can come to fruition.

My bedtime routine can use some unplugging.

Being on devices before bed is one of the worst things we can do to our sleep quality. Electronic back-lit devices like cell phones, tablets, readers, and computers emit short-wavelength enriched light, also known as blue light, which has been shown to reduce or delay the natural production of melatonin in the evening and decrease feelings of sleepiness. Blue light can also reduce the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning.

Despite knowing this, it’s hard to make the right decision when it’s 11:43PM, exhausted from the day, and it would be nice to shut your brain off and watch funny cat videos. And where is the book anyway? I will just go on my phone until 12:00— Oops it’s 12:03, okay until 12:10… Tomorrow.

One popular advice is to put our phone outside the bedroom, but— and I know this is mostly an excuse— I need my phone for alarm. I’ve tried different alarm clocks throughout the years and they’ve all sucked. Setting multiple alarms is a pain. Turning them off while half-asleep is a pain. The smartphone alarm works.

Here’s a better idea: Put your phone to bed before putting yourself to bed.

Each night, simply commit to putting your phone to “bed” before you put yourself to bed. It’s only one thing to commit to, and it will take care of all the other issues associated with bringing your phone to bed. How about actually creating a ‘bedroom’ for your phone? Silly, but to my delight, someone has already figured it out: I Made a ‘Bed’ for My Phone, and I’ve Never Slept Better. Even better, have a bed time for your phone; how about two hours before you go to bed?

*Sigh.* It’s not an easy task to put up a fight against the attention economy.

And, cultivate better bedtime hobbies.

Reading before bed is a popular, and enjoyable activity, but don’t be discouraged if reading isn’t your thing, or not something you want to do before bed. There are at least 10 more activities you can do before bed that aren’t checking your phone.

I’m committing to putting my phone to bed an hour before my bed time, and dedicating 30 minute to reading. It’s a good start, and maybe I will finally finish Bluebeard’s Egg. Tomorrow.

Until next time,

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2 responses to “Willpower is for losers”

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