Why Willpower Alone Isn’t Enough to Change Your Behavior

“You have to build systems to protect against your lesser self.” – Tim Ferriss

I’m a big fan of the new Tim Ferriss podcast. He interviews successful people from a wide range of backgrounds and shares interesting productivity and process improvements.

His latest with author Neil Strauss is the best one I’ve listened to yet. Strauss is a seven-time New York Times Best-Selling author who is probably most well-known for his book on Motley Crue called The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band. He also writes for Rolling Stone magazine.

The podcast discussion mostly touches on the creative process Strauss goes through when writing a book or conducting an interview for a magazine piece, but there are solid lessons for non-writers as well.

Ferriss asked Strauss how he is able to avoid writer’s block and stay on track with his writing on a daily basis. One of the productivity hacks Strauss shared is that he actually has software installed on his computer that’s a family protector on his Internet access.  He literally can’t get on the Internet because his wife has the access password.

Strauss only allows himself to do research or check email for two hours a day at the same time every day.  This completely takes away the temptation to waste time on the web when he should be writing instead.  Strauss claimed this increased the efficiency of his research process because as he was writing he would make a list of everything he needed to look-up and do it all at the same time.

I think for some of us there a mystique about very successful people and an assumption that they are perfect or have everything figured out. Yet human nature is human nature.  Everyone has their own issues to deal with. Most successful people are just better at developing systems and processes to deal with their deficiencies.

This is why Charlie Munger says that, “Investing and business success is about ignorance removal.”

Strauss obviously realized that getting sucked into the Internet vortex is far too difficult to avoid and could be a huge distraction to his writing process so he just completely removes that possibility.

This may seem extreme to some.  But how many people do you know that have changed their behavior by trying harder?  It sounds great in theory but rarely works in practice.

Listen to the entire podcast for more:
The Tim Ferriss Podcast: Neil Strauss


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  1. Martin commented on Jul 06

    I like that idea and yes I agree, internet can be addictive and can ruin your work effort.
    Nice way to avoid it, give the password to your wife and you will stay away 🙂

    • Ben commented on Jul 06

      Would be really hard for me to do this. Someone else suggested making constraints like this on your portfolio to keep you from making bad decisions on the future.