As with most self-help texts (that’s another term for a book, not a short message you type out on your phone and send to your friends without fixing the mistakes autocorrect caused) out there, the meat of Benjamin Hardy’s book Willpower Doesn’t Work could probably be condensed to about 20 pages without impacting the message one bit. In fact, I think 20 pages is being generous.
The thrust of the book is that rather than trying to will yourself to do what needs to be done, you must customize and control your environment so you’re predisposed to accomplish your goals.
There’s nothing new in the book that anyone who’s researched productivity in the least doesn’t know. Get off your computer, turn off your phone and give yourself a deadline are some of the tired but useful pieces of advice found in the book’s pages.
There are also the obligatory nods to the evolution theory that are found in most how-to, self-help, cooking, travel and car repair books. Usually something along the line of your ancient ancestors needed to process “danger” when a sabertooth attacked so that’s why your brain’s the way it is and this book taps into that. Nonsense, of course, but it seems to sell.
So why am I reading a book that I don’t seem to think much of? Maybe I’m a sucker for book titles. I like the fairy tale idea that a book has some nugget of knowledge that all the other books (and internet sites) don’t. I know willpower doesn’t work because I’ve experienced it’s failure time and again. So maybe this book has a just as simplistic method that does work but with minimal effort on my part.
It doesn’t. But any book that attempts to nullify one paradigm of productivity probably has a recommedation for another one. And in reading about that different paradigm, you might find a point of view you hadn’t thought of (or had at least forgotten about) before.
Sometimes you just need a gentle reminder to turn off your computer because you’ve fallen back into the habit of staring at it for twelve hours a day. And it’s not bad advice to turn off your phone and set deadlines.
Most books (including this one) carry a bit of advice and then fill in the remaining pages with stories and anecdotes. If you want inspiration, read through them. Otherwise, scanning the headlines and speed reading through it gets you just as much out of it.