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How to Upgrade your To-Do List with Willpower Paradox

Haikal Kushahrin
Haikal Kushahrin
1 min read
How to Upgrade your To-Do List with Willpower Paradox

Want to upgrade your to-do list?

Try telling yourself that "you might" do the task instead of "you will".

This is called the Willpower Paradox, the phenomenon where we benefit by being speculative on our goals. Research shows that people using interrogative self-talk such as "Will I?" and "I might" performs better than those using declarative self-talk "I Will".

In one study, researchers found that “participants were more likely to solve anagrams if they prepared for the task by asking themselves whether they would work on anagrams as opposed to declaring that they would.”

Why does this simple shift work?

Asking yourself "Will I" allows you to explore your underlying reason behind why you do something. By constantly asking yourself "Will I?" you reaffirm your intrinsic motivations to complete the task. Do this often enough, and the motivation to complete your work might be as strong as your motivation to play games and watch Netflix.

Asking yourself "Will I?" also acts as a filter and helps you prioritise. Not all tasks are equal and will pass the "Will I?" test, and the ones that do are the only ones worth doing. If you said yes, you'd be more likely to succeed because you are driven by intrinsic motivation.

You can do this with your habits and to-do list. After listing down your to-do's, ask yourself: "Will I do this?"


Haikal Kushahrin

3rd-year medical student. buy me a coffee :)

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