Internet Self Improvement

4 Ways to Make Smart Use of Technology and Power Up Your Willpower

Joel Lee 11-02-2014

Digital willpower is an idea that crops up from time to time and it describes our current tech-saturated culture rather well. We all have enough motivation to want to do things but not enough motivation to actually do them. As a result, we turn to technology to bridge the gap of that motivational purgatory.


In the past, we’ve covered inspirational YouTube videos 8 Inspirational Videos That Will Instantly Pump Up Your Motivation How do you feel about motivational videos? You may think that they’re nothing more than glorified, digital pep rallies where overly optimistic people preach empty words of success, victory, and ultimately happiness. And to some... Read More , motivational TED Talks 10 Motivational TED Talks To Help You Chip Away At Your Mental Blocks The valuable lesson from the lives of achievers is that they chip away at their mental blocks more consistently than others. Ten TED Talks underscore one simple thing – it’s all in the mind. Read More , and encouraging websites Change Your Mind: 8 Really Inspirational Websites For Your Days & Life Inspiration is not so simple. It is a higher calling. If motivation is the push, inspiration is the pull. On a gloomy day, we need big doses of both. Even little slivers of either go... Read More to give you that much-needed kick in the butt. How else can technology help you to sharpen your resolve? Where can you get some of this digital willpower for yourself? Keep reading to find out.

Distraction Blockers


If you want to build up your willpower, the first thing you need to do is get rid of everything that steals your attention and drains your energy. Yes, it’s not always possible to rid every distraction, but don’t let that be an excuse. Cut out as much as you can.

Ironically, technology can help our willpower but it is also one of the biggest distractions out there: video games, the Internet, smartphones, television, etc. Indeed, many distractions fall under the greater issue of novelty addiction, which can manifest as Internet addiction Take A Break From the Internet - You’ll Thank Yourself Later [Opinion] Oh, the Internet. One of the most world-changing inventions of the past century, perhaps even in all of human history. Never before has everything been so available in so little effort for so low a... Read More , smartphone addiction Are You Addicted To Your Smartphone? At one time, landlines and payphones were all we had--and we survived just fine, thank you very much. But now, it’s almost laughable if you don’t own an iPhone or Android, and for some of... Read More , video game addiction Video Game Addiction In Teens - What Is Too Much and How to Curb the Problem Video game addiction is a serious issue. I know this because I am an ex-video game addict. Read More , and more.

To beat smartphone addiction, you can try the smartphone detox How To Cure Smartphone Addiction (A Smartphone Detox) Smartphone addiction is real, and you could be affected. Read More . But if you’re like me, most of your time is sucked away by websites that entice you to click just one more link, then before you know it three hours have gone by. To curb this, I recommend StayFocusd for Chrome (our review Stay Focused With StayFocusd For Google Chrome And Say Goodbye To Distractions The Internet is a vast place, with loads of information that can often be overwhelming. It would be an understatement to say that it’s the primary resource for research and getting work done. But don’t... Read More ) and LeechBlock [No Longer Available] for Firefox (our review Distracted By Time-Wasting Websites? LeechBlock For Firefox Will Take Care of That Read More ).


For non-browser-based solutions, check out these methods to block time-wasting websites How to Really Block Time-Wasting Websites: 3 Tips That Work Finding yourself unproductive because of distracting sites? Block time-wasting sites with the help of these tips and tools. Read More .



One important aspect of cultivating willpower is to make sure you have enough time and energy for it. For those of us with rampantly busy schedules, it’s easy to compromise willpower for temporary comfort, leisure, and pleasure. It’s vital that you address the root of this issue if digital willpower is going to do anything for you.

Budget your time with a digital calendar. Google Calendar is a standard choice, especially if you use these IFTTT tricks to improve  it 9 IFTTT Hacks To Superpower Your Life With Google Calendar Your calendar is a big part of your productivity, and managing it right can make a real difference. The right IFTTT recipes can help you take charge of your Google Calendar, and make it perform... Read More . The iOS built-in calendar is pretty good but there are some great calendar app alternatives too. Choose whichever calendar you like the best, but make sure you use it to budget your time well.


Prioritize everything that you need to do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Sort it all out in your calendar to see where all of your time is being focused, then decide which ones are the least important. Cut them out if you can. You’re human and your energy is limited — if you spread yourself out too thin, you won’t have much willpower left.

Timers and Techniques


For some of us, our biggest problem is actually remembering the things we want to do. One reason for this is that our schedules are wound so tight that things just slip our minds. Then again, some of us are just forgetful, period. Either way, if you need periodic reminders, there are plenty of tools that will get the job done.

Along similar lines, my favorite digital willpower tool is the Pomodoro Technique Cut Through Procrastination With These Pomodoro Technique Apps & Software Procrastination is a malady that pervades students and workers in all corners of the world and it infects amateurs and professionals alike. As a writer, I suffer from procrastination on a daily basis. Some people... Read More , a time-based productivity technique that we’ve covered a great deal here at MakeUseOf. By splitting up your day into alternating chunks of work and rest, you preserve motivation and mental energy. If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should. It works.


Keep in mind that reminder tools work best when coupled with internal motivation. If you don’t want to do something, a reminder to do it probably won’t give you a significant boost in motivation. But if you want to do something but keep forgetting to do it, these tools will be just what you need.

Habit Gamification


What if you need to develop willpower to complete the tasks that you have little or no motivation to complete? Good examples are taking out the trash, cleaning your house, writing a paper, or even going out to pick up job applications. Is there something that can help you out?



One of the most helpful tools for this is HabitRPG (our review HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive Change your habits for the better by tying them into challenges in a role playing game. Level up for doing things you know you should and lose hit points for indulging in habits you know... Read More ), which transforms all of your tasks into an RPG-like game. You earn experience and gold for completing tasks, which levels you up and unlocks more features. The entire concept hinges on positive reinforcement: you are rewarded for your task, which provides instant gratification, feels good and makes you more likely to keep working.

But habit gamification doesn’t have to be that complicated. Using an app that tracks streaks can be useful for generating internal motivation. Habit Streak is great for Android (our review Trouble Reaching Your Goals? Form A Habit Streak [Android] Picking up new habits can be a difficult task, which is why numerous popular methods exist to help you manage it. If you regularly find yourself realising that your plan to take a daily morning... Read More ) and ChainsCC is good if you prefer a web-based tracker.

Technology is both bane and boon. Technology is a distraction yet technology provides ways for us to combat those distractions. Using the numerous tools listed above, you should now be well-equipped to generate and cultivate your willpower.

What do you think? What other apps and tools do you use when you need a boost to your motivation? Share them with us in the comments!

Image Credits: No Distractions Via Shutterstock, Pinned Calendar Via Shutterstock, Timers Via Shutterstock, Gamification Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Calendar, Time Management, Timer Software.

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  1. Robert O
    February 13, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Thanks to Justin Pot's article on "HabitRPG" (referenced in this article), I've been using HabitRPG for quite a while now. It has definitely helped motivate me to do my "daily" chores and habits, although I still "die" sometimes. I owe Mr. Justin Pot, the MakeUseOf site, and of course, the developer of HabitRPG a dose of gratitude.

    I suppose the next step (for me) is to look more into this "Pomodoro technique" mentioned in this article. Although HabitRPG has improved my "chores," my longer-term projects could probably benefit from some of this "Pomodoro" stuff, although it initially sounds somewhat intimidating.

    • Joel L
      February 16, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Pomodoro is really simple! You can literally get started with it in just one minute and all you need is some sort of stopwatch or timer. I always fall back on it when I really need to ramp up my productivity. :)

  2. Saikat B
    February 12, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Great post as always Joel. we have all the tools at our disposal, but now it's up to us how we use it. A boon can be bane, and a bane can be turned into a boon with some careful planning and thought!

    • Joel L
      February 16, 2014 at 8:40 am

      Thanks Saikat! I agree very much.

  3. Amit Kumar
    February 12, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Its very nice article, such posts give hope to combat overloaded techno-time pressures in the modern world.
    Thanks for the nice post...

    • Joel L
      February 16, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Thank you. Glad it was useful to you!