Advice On Discipline, Will Power, and Tenacity

I have this strange pattern when it comes to work.

To begin with I have a pretty good clarity of what I want to do in terms of my goals. I have a clear schedule of my day and of my weekends.

The problem is as follows- I work and stick to my time table for some period of time say 4-5 days or even 7-10 days where I work for 10-12 hours a day (I take a break on Sunday and exercise 6 days a week).

Then something happens. I lose the will to continue. This stays for some period of time ranging from 3-5 days where I just can not do any intellectual work. I waste my time honestly in remorse, guilt, feeling like a loser and just waiting to get back to that energy to work again. Then it becomes normal and I work again. This is the loop I am stuck in.

I lose the benifits of what one might get when he/she puts efforts into something on a daily basis.

Does this resonate with some of you?

Is that time when I feel low the time where I must push myself hard and stick to my schedule and just keep going no matter what? Is that where my discipline is being tested? Is that what is called as do it no matter how you feel?

I read some literature on how will power is sort of like a muscle and it gets used everytime we make decisions, like resisting a burger, or doing another set in the gym, etc. Maybe those low phases are the ones where my will power is dead :sweat_smile:.

Burnout is different. I have had it earlier. That is a total mess. I take a sufficient recovery time when that happens.

Damn this turned out big.

Thanks in advance.

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You are not alone in this. I also battle this demon at times. It is important not to beat yourself up for stepping back for a while, non-directed thinking time is also important.

Here are few things that may help.

  • Barbara Oakley’s learning how to learn - free course
  • Reduce your study hours, many people only have about 4-5 hours of solid productive thinking/learning time per day. give your brain/body time to recharge/absorb, less chance it builds up into sleep debt that your body demands you steer clear of the ‘chore’ of study.
  • When working on something and it is really close to finishing at the end of the day, leave the last bit for the next morning, so you have an early ‘win’ to look forward to. It may improve the motivation to start the next day.
  • Join a study group. There are many fastai ones that meet online once a week. This means that even in a week that you feel you haven’t been productive, you still continue to refresh and learn on regular basis. A good study group can also recharge your ideas, understanding and curiosity.
    2022 Study Groups

Fastai Discord - Active Study Groups

  • Don’t get disheartened by comparing to other people’s progress, instead compare to yourself a year ago. Look at how far you’ve come in the last year. I bet there is a lot you know now that didn’t know then.
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This is far too much - try 4 hours per day, and see if that lets you stick to it for longer. Generally most of the top thinkers in history have done 4 hours/day of deep work.

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Agree with this. And if 2020-2022 has taught me anything - it’s that everyone’s brain is wired slightly differently. I know several people with ADHD/ASD and the cycle above is close enough to where it makes me wonder if some further exploration is warranted. It’s a good thing we have diversity of thought, and so if there’s a causal mechanism underlying here that could be uncovered with some discovery, you may end up with a better understanding of how to learn the most effectively with your brain vs. comparing your work habits to others.

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Actually this happens to me too! I try to get at least 9+ hrs of work done a day (3-4 sessions of 3 hrs a day), and I’ll work out 2 hrs a day too. It’s a combination of my actual job, side startup, real estate investments, and continuous learning. But then after working that schedule for a few weeks, I’ll lose focus and have 2-3 days where I can’t do any work. And I’m definitely not burnt out, it’s just a loss of motivation.

What I’ve found is that this is actually my natural cycle of work, and it happens to me because I feel too much pressure to perform after a period of doing great productive work… So during my down time, I try to rebuild motivation and alleviate the sense of pressure. I’ll take a day to just ask myself what stuff am I curious about and what am I excited to try out, and write all of my thoughts down… and then after compiling a list, I start again slowly with a curious mindset instead of I need to get “X amount of work done a day” mindset and then naturally I’ll end up being productive with my normal work routine-- (because I am the type of person who will naturally work 9+ hrs/day when I’m motivated).

Not sure if that will help, but it’s how I operate!

3 Likes