How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

In the spring of 1966, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix. The police had very little to go on, but they suspected Miranda of kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman ten days earlier. The officers interrogated Miranda for two hours and were rewarded for their effort: Miranda admitted to the rape charge and signed a confession paper. There was just one problem. During the interrogation, Miranda had been alone and at no point was he informed that he had the right to legal counsel.

When the case went to trial, Miranda’s written confession was used as evidence. He was quickly convicted, but his lawyer appealed because Miranda had never been informed of his rights and thus, according to his lawyer, the confession was not voluntary. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the decision, but eventually the case made it to the United States Supreme Court.

The United States Supreme Court overturned the Miranda ruling by a vote of 5 to 4 because “The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.”

The Supreme Court had just created a bright-line rule.

The Power of Bright-Line Rules

A bright-line rule refers to a clearly defined rule or standard. It is a rule with clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It establishes a bright line for what the rule is saying and what it is not saying.

The Miranda ruling is one example. If a police officer fails to inform a defendant in custody of their rights, then the suspect’s statements are not admissible in court. Plain and simple. Clear and bright.

Most of us, myself included, could benefit from setting brighter lines in our personal and professional lives. Consider some common examples:

  • We might say that we want to check email less frequently.
  • We might say that we want to drink moderately.
  • We might say that we want to save more for retirement.
  • We might say that we want to eat healthier.

But what do these statements really mean?

  • What does it mean to check email less frequently? Are you going to “try to be better about it” and hope that works? Will you set specific days or certain times when you will be unavailable? Will you check email on weekends? Will you process email only on your computer?
  • What, exactly, is moderate drinking? Is it one drink per week? Five drinks per week? Ten drinks per week? We haven’t defined it, so how will we know if we are making progress?
  • What does it mean to save more? More is not a number. How much is more? When will you save? Every month? Every paycheck?
  • What does eating healthier look like on a daily basis? Does that mean you eat more servings of vegetables? If so, how many more? Do you want to start by eating a healthy meal once per day? Twice per day? Every meal?

It can be easy to make promises like this to yourself, but they do not create bright lines. Fuzzy statements make progress hard to measure, and the things we measure are the things we improve .

Now, do we need to measure every area of our lives? Of course not. But if something is important to you, then you should establish a bright line for it. Consider the following alternatives:

  • I only process email between 11AM and 6PM.
  • I enjoy a maximum of two drinks per night.
  • I save $500 per month for retirement.
  • I eat at least two types of vegetables per day.

These statements establish bright lines. These statements make action steps precise and obvious. Vague promises will never lead to clear results.

Using Bright Lines to Break Bad Habits

The examples I outlined above focused primarily on building new behaviors, but bright-line rules can be used just as effectively to break bad habits or eliminate old behaviors.

My friend Nir Eyal proposes a similar strategy that he calls “ Progressive Extremism .” To explain the concept, Nir uses the example of being a vegetarian. If you were interested in becoming a vegetarian, you might start by saying, “I don’t eat red meat.” The goal is not to change everything at once, but to take a very clear and extreme stand in one small area. You are establishing a bright line on that topic.

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research. Read full profile

How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

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“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” —The Miranda Warning

In the spring of 1966, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix. The police had very little to go on, but they suspected Miranda of kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman ten days earlier. The officers interrogated Miranda for two hours and were rewarded for their efforts: Miranda admitted to the rape charge and signed a confession paper.

There was just one problem. During the interrogation, Miranda had been alone and at no point was he informed that he had the right to legal counsel.

When the case went to trial, Miranda’s written confession was used as evidence. He was quickly convicted, but his lawyer appealed because Miranda had never been informed of his rights and thus, according to his lawyer, the confession was not voluntary. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the decision, but eventually the case made it to the United States Supreme Court.

The United States Supreme Court overturned the Miranda ruling by a vote of 5 to 4 because “The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.” (1)Ernesto Miranda didn’t escape prison for long. He was soon sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison for a robbery he committed during a separate crime.

The Supreme Court had just created a bright-line rule.

The Power of Bright-Line Rules

A bright-line rule refers to a clearly defined rule or standard. It is a rule with a clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It establishes a bright line for what the rule is saying and what it is not saying.

The Miranda ruling is one example. If a police officer fails to inform a defendant in custody of their rights, then the suspect’s statements are not admissible in court. Plain and simple. Clear and bright.

Most of us, myself included, could benefit from setting brighter lines in our personal and professional lives. Consider some common examples:

  • We might say that we want to check email less frequently.
  • We might say that we want to drink moderately.
  • We might say that we want to save more for retirement.
  • We might say that we want to eat healthier.

But what do these statements really mean?

  • What does it mean to check email less frequently? Are you going to “try to be better about it” and hope that works? Will you set specific days or certain times when you will be unavailable? Will you check email on weekends? Will you process email only on your computer?
  • What, exactly, is moderate drinking? Is it one drink per week? Five drinks per week? Ten drinks per week? We haven’t defined it, so how will we know if we are making progress? (2)I want to give credit to Brian Johnson for originally developing this drinking example and for sparking my research on bright-line rules, which led to this article. Thanks Brian!

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  • What does it mean to save more? More is not a number. How much is more? When will you save? Every month? Every paycheck?
  • What does eating healthier look like on a daily basis? Does that mean you eat more servings of vegetables? If so, how many more? Do you want to start by eating a healthy meal once per day? Twice per day? Every meal?
  • It can be easy to make promises like this to yourself, but they do not create bright lines. Fuzzy statements make progress hard to measure, and the things we measure are the things we improve.

    Now, do we need to measure every area of our lives? Of course not. But if something is important to you, then you should establish a bright line for it. Consider the following alternatives:

    • I only process email between 11 AM and 6 PM.
    • I enjoy a maximum of 2 drinks per night.
    • I save $500 per month for retirement.
    • I eat at least two types of vegetables per day.

    These statements establish bright lines. These statements make action steps precise and obvious. Vague promises will never lead to clear results.

    Using Bright Lines to Break Bad Habits

    The examples I outlined above focus primarily on building new behaviors, but bright-line rules can be used just as effectively to break bad habits or eliminate old behaviors.

    My friend Nir Eyal proposes a similar strategy that he calls “Progressive Extremism.” To explain the concept, Nir uses the example of being a vegetarian. If you were interested in becoming a vegetarian, you might start by saying, “I don’t eat red meat.” The goal is not to change everything at once, but to take a very clear and extreme stand in one small area. You are establishing a bright line on that topic.

    Over time, you can progressively move your bright line forward and add other behaviors to the mix (i.e. “I don’t eat red meat or fish,” and so on).

    How Bright Lines Unleash Your Hidden Willpower

    Establishing bright lines in your life can provide a huge boost in daily willpower. There are two reasons for this.

    First, bright lines shift the conversation in your head from one of sacrifice to one of empowerment. When you don’t have a bright line established and you choose not to do something, the tendency is to say, “Oh, I can’t do it this time.” Conversely, when you do have a bright line clearly set, your response can simply be, “No thanks, I don’t do that.” Bright lines help you avoid making just-this-once exceptions. Instead, you are following a new identity that you have created for yourself. (3)Related reading: How to Say No, Resist Temptation, and Stick to Your Health Goals

    Second, by establishing clear decisions in your life, you conserve willpower for other important choices. Here’s the problem with trying to make daily decisions in muddy water: Without bright lines, you must decide whether a situation fits your standards every time. With bright lines, the decision is made ahead of time. Because of this, you are less likely to suffer from decision fatigue and are more likely to have willpower left over for work, relationships, and other health habits.

    “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”
    –The Miranda Warning

    IN THE SPRING of 1966, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix. The police had very little to go on, but they suspected Miranda of kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman ten days earlier. The officers interrogated Miranda for two hours and were rewarded for their effort: Miranda admitted to the rape charge and signed a confession paper.

    There was just one problem. During the interrogation, Miranda had been alone and at no point was he informed that he had the right to legal counsel.

    When the case went to trial, Miranda’s written confession was used as evidence. He was quickly convicted, but his lawyer appealed because Miranda had never been informed of his rights and thus, according to his lawyer, the confession was not voluntary. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the decision, but eventually the case made it to the United States Supreme Court.

    The United States Supreme Court overturned the Miranda ruling by a vote of 5 to 4 because “The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.”

    The Supreme Court had just created a bright-line rule.

    The Power of Bright-Line Rules
    A bright-line rule refers to a clearly defined rule or standard. It is a rule with clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It establishes a bright line for what the rule is saying and what it is not saying.

    The Miranda ruling is one example. If a police officer fails to inform a defendant in custody of their rights, then the suspect’s statements are not admissible in court. Plain and simple. Clear and bright.

    Most of us, myself included, could benefit from setting brighter lines in our personal and professional lives. Consider some common examples:

    We might say that we want to check email less frequently.
    We might say that we want to drink moderately.
    We might say that we want to save more for retirement.
    We might say that we want to eat healthier.
    But what do these statements really mean?

    What does it mean to check email less frequently? Are you going to “try to be better about it” and hope that works? Will you set specific days or certain times when you will be unavailable? Will you check email on weekends? Will you process email only on your computer?
    What, exactly, is moderate drinking? Is it one drink per week? Five drinks per week? Ten drinks per week? We haven’t defined it, so how will we know if we are making progress?
    What does it mean to save more? More is not a number. How much is more? When will you save? Every month? Every paycheck?
    What does eating healthier look like on a daily basis? Does that mean you eat more servings of vegetables? If so, how many more? Do you want to start by eating a healthy meal once per day? Twice per day? Every meal?
    It can be easy to make promises like this to yourself, but they do not create bright lines. Fuzzy statements make progress hard to measure, and the things we measure are the things we improve.

    Now, do we need to measure every area of our lives? Of course not. But if something is important to you, then you should establish a bright line for it. Consider the following alternatives:

    I only process email between 11AM and 6PM.
    I enjoy a maximum of 2 drinks per night.
    I save $500 per month for retirement.
    I eat at least two types of vegetables per day.
    These statements establish bright lines. These statements make action steps precise and obvious. Vague promises will never lead to clear results.

    Using Bright Lines to Break Bad Habits
    The examples I outlined above focused primarily on building new behaviors, but bright-line rules can be used just as effectively to break bad habits or eliminate old behaviors.

    My friend Nir Eyal proposes a similar strategy that he calls “Progressive Extremism.” To explain the concept, Nir uses the example of being a vegetarian. If you were interested in becoming a vegetarian, you might start by saying, “I don’t eat red meat.” The goal is not to change everything at once, but to take a very clear and extreme stand in one small area. You are establishing a bright line on that topic.

    Over time, you can progressively move your bright line forward and add other behaviors to the mix. (i.e. “I don’t eat red meat or fish.” And so on.)

    How Bright Lines Unleash Your Hidden Willpower
    Establishing bright lines in your life can provide a huge boost in daily willpower.

    Here are two reasons why:

    First, bright lines shift the conversation in your head from one of sacrifice to one of empowerment. When you don’t have a bright line established and you choose not to do something, the tendency is to say, “Oh, I can’t do it this time.” Conversely, when you do have a bright line clearly set, your response can simply be, “No thanks, I don’t do that.” Bright lines help you avoid making just-this-once exceptions. Instead, you are following a new identity that you have created for yourself.

    Second, by establishing clear decisions in your life, you conserve willpower for other important choices. Here’s the problem with trying to make daily decisions in muddy water: Without bright lines, you must decide whether a situation fits your standards every time. With bright lines, the decision is made ahead of time. Because of this, you are less likely to suffer from decision fatigue and more likely to have willpower left over for work, relationships, and other health habits.

    James Clear

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    In the spring of 1966, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix. The police had very little to go on, but they suspected Miranda of kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman 10 days earlier. The officers interrogated Miranda for two hours and were rewarded for their effort: Miranda admitted to the rape charge and signed a confession paper. There was just one problem. During the interrogation, Miranda had been alone and at no point was he informed that he had the right to legal counsel.

    This post originally appeared on James Clear’s blog.

    When the case went to trial, Miranda’s written confession was used as evidence. He was quickly convicted, but his lawyer appealed because Miranda had never been informed of his rights and thus, according to his lawyer, the confession was not voluntary. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the decision, but eventually the case made it to the United States Supreme Court.

    The United States Supreme Court overturned the Miranda ruling by a vote of five to four because “The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.”

    The Supreme Court had just created a bright-line rule.

    The Power of Bright-Line Rules

    A bright-line rule refers to a clearly defined rule or standard. It is a rule with clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It establishes a bright line for what the rule is saying and what it is not saying.

    The Miranda ruling is one example. In the US, if a police officer fails to inform a defendant in custody of their rights, then the suspect’s statements are not admissible in court. Plain and simple. Clear and bright.

    Most of us, myself included, could benefit from setting brighter lines in our personal and professional lives. Consider some common examples:

    • We might say that we want to check email less frequently.
    • We might say that we want to drink moderately.
    • We might say that we want to save more for retirement.
    • We might say that we want to eat healthier.

    But what do these statements really mean?

    • What does it mean to check email less frequently? Are you going to “try to be better about it” and hope that works? Will you set specific days or certain times when you will be unavailable? Will you check email on weekends? Will you process email only on your computer?
    • What, exactly, is moderate drinking? Is it one drink per week? Five drinks per week? Ten drinks per week? We haven’t defined it, so how will we know if we are making progress?
    • What does it mean to save more? More is not a number. How much is more? When will you save? Every month? Every paycheck?
    • What does eating healthier look like on a daily basis? Does that mean you eat more servings of vegetables? If so, how many more? Do you want to start by eating a healthy meal once per day? Twice per day? Every meal?

    It can be easy to make promises like this to yourself, but they do not create bright lines. Fuzzy statements make progress hard to measure, and the things we measure are the things we improve.

    Now, do we need to measure every area of our lives? Of course not. But if something is important to you, then you should establish a bright line for it. Consider the following alternatives:

    • I only process email between 11AM and 6PM.
    • I enjoy a maximum of two drinks per night.
    • I save $500 per month for retirement.
    • I eat at least two types of vegetables per day.

    These statements establish bright lines. These statements make action steps precise and obvious. Vague promises will never lead to clear results.

    Using Bright Lines to Break Bad Habits

    The examples I outlined above focused primarily on building new behaviours, but bright-line rules can be used just as effectively to break bad habits or eliminate old behaviours.

    My friend Nir Eyal proposes a similar strategy that he calls “Progressive Extremism.” To explain the concept, Nir uses the example of being a vegetarian. If you were interested in becoming a vegetarian, you might start by saying, “I don’t eat red meat.” The goal is not to change everything at once, but to take a very clear and extreme stand in one small area. You are establishing a bright line on that topic.

    Over time, you can progressively move your bright line forward and add other behaviours to the mix. (That is, “I don’t eat red meat or fish.” And so on.)

    How Bright Lines Unleash Your Hidden Willpower

    Establishing bright lines in your life can provide a huge boost in daily willpower.

    Here are two reasons why:

    First, bright lines shift the conversation in your head from one of sacrifice to one of empowerment. When you don’t have a bright line established and you choose not to do something, the tendency is to say, “Oh, I can’t do it this time.” Conversely, when you do have a bright line clearly set, your response can simply be, “No thanks, I don’t do that.” Bright lines help you avoid making just-this-once exceptions. Instead, you are following a new identity that you have created for yourself.

    Second, by establishing clear decisions in your life, you conserve willpower for other important choices. Here’s the problem with trying to make daily decisions in muddy water: Without bright lines, you must decide whether a situation fits your standards every time. With bright lines, the decision is made ahead of time. Because of this, you are less likely to suffer from decision fatigue and more likely to have willpower left over for work, relationships and other health habits.

    “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”
    —The Miranda Warning

    IN THE SPRING of 1966, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix. The police had very little to go on, but they suspected Miranda of kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman ten days earlier. The officers interrogated Miranda for two hours and were rewarded for their effort: Miranda admitted to the rape charge and signed a confession paper.

    There was just one problem. During the interrogation, Miranda had been alone and at no point was he informed that he had the right to legal counsel.

    When the case went to trial, Miranda’s written confession was used as evidence. He was quickly convicted, but his lawyer appealed because Miranda had never been informed of his rights and thus, according to his lawyer, the confession was not voluntary. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the decision, but eventually the case made it to the United States Supreme Court.

    The United States Supreme Court overturned the Miranda ruling by a vote of 5 to 4 because “The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.” Ernesto Miranda didn’t escape prison for long. He was soon sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison for a robbery he committed during a separate crime.

    The Supreme Court had just created a bright-line rule.

    The Power of Bright-Line Rules

    A bright-line rule refers to a clearly defined rule or standard. It is a rule with clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It establishes a bright line for what the rule is saying and what it is not saying.

    The Miranda ruling is one example. If a police officer fails to inform a defendant in custody of their rights, then the suspect’s statements are not admissible in court. Plain and simple. Clear and bright.

    Most of us, myself included, could benefit from setting brighter lines in our personal and professional lives. Consider some common examples:

    • We might say that we want to check email less frequently.
    • We might say that we want to drink moderately.
    • We might say that we want to save more for retirement.
    • We might say that we want to eat healthier.

    But what do these statements really mean?

    • What does it mean to check email less frequently? Are you going to “try to be better about it” and hope that works? Will you set specific days or certain times when you will be unavailable? Will you check email on weekends? Will you process email only on your computer?
    • What, exactly, is moderate drinking? Is it one drink per week? Five drinks per week? Ten drinks per week? We haven’t defined it, so how will we know if we are making progress? I want to give credit to Brian Johnson for originally developing this drinking example and for sparking my research on bright-line rules, which led to this article. Thanks Brian!

    ” target=_blank>

  • What does it mean to save more? More is not a number. How much is more? When will you save? Every month? Every paycheck?
  • What does eating healthier look like on a daily basis? Does that mean you eat more servings of vegetables? If so, how many more? Do you want to start by eating a healthy meal once per day? Twice per day? Every meal?
  • It can be easy to make promises like this to yourself, but they do not create bright lines. Fuzzy statements make progress hard to measure, and the things we measure are the things we improve.

    Now, do we need to measure every area of our lives? Of course not. But if something is important to you, then you should establish a bright line for it. Consider the following alternatives:

    • I only process email between 11AM and 6PM.
    • I enjoy a maximum of 2 drinks per night.
    • I save $500 per month for retirement.
    • I eat at least two types of vegetables per day.

    These statements establish bright lines. These statements make action steps precise and obvious. Vague promises will never lead to clear results.

    Using Bright Lines to Break Bad Habits

    The examples I outlined above focused primarily on building new behaviors, but bright-line rules can be used just as effectively to break bad habits or eliminate old behaviors.

    My friend Nir Eyal proposes a similar strategy that he calls “Progressive Extremism.” To explain the concept, Nir uses the example of being a vegetarian. If you were interested in becoming a vegetarian, you might start by saying, “I don’t eat red meat.” The goal is not to change everything at once, but to take a very clear and extreme stand in one small area. You are establishing a bright line on that topic.

    Over time, you can progressively move your bright line forward and add other behaviors to the mix. (i.e. “I don’t eat red meat or fish.” And so on.)

    How Bright Lines Unleash Your Hidden Willpower

    Establishing bright lines in your life can provide a huge boost in daily willpower.

    Here are two reasons why:

    First, bright lines shift the conversation in your head from one of sacrifice to one of empowerment. When you don’t have a bright line established and you choose not to do something, the tendency is to say, “Oh, I can’t do it this time.” Conversely, when you do have a bright line clearly set, your response can simply be, “No thanks, I don’t do that.” Bright lines help you avoid making just-this-once exceptions. Instead, you are following a new identity that you have created for yourself. Related reading: How to Say No, Resist Temptation, and Stick to Your Health Goals

    Second, by establishing clear decisions in your life, you conserve willpower for other important choices. Here’s the problem with trying to make daily decisions in muddy water: Without bright lines, you must decide whether a situation fits your standards every time. With bright lines, the decision is made ahead of time. Because of this, you are less likely to suffer from decision fatigue and more likely to have willpower left over for work, relationships, and other health habits.

    What is Behavioral Psychology?

    Let’s define behavioral psychology. Behavioral psychology is the study of the connection between our minds and our behavior. Sometimes you will hear behavioral psychology referred to as behaviorism. The researchers and scientists who study behavioral psychology are trying to understand why we behave the way we do and they are concerned with discovering patterns in our actions and behaviors. The hope is that if we can use behavioral psychology to help us predict how humans will behave, we can build better habits as individuals, create better products as companies, and develop better living spaces as communities.

    3 Ways to Use Behavioral Psychology Right Now

    • How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit?
    • The 5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick
    • Habit Stacking: How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones

    Best Behavioral Psychology Books

    • Influence by Robert Cialdini
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    • The Person and the Situation by Lee Ross and Richard Nisbett
    • Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert

    Want more great books on psychology? Browse my full list of the best psychology books.

    More Behavioral Psychology Examples

    Let’s talk about how to apply behavioral psychology to your daily life. In each of the articles below, I break down some behavioral psychology research and share practical ways to put it to use in our daily lives.

    Looking for more articles explaining how to apply behavioral psychology principles in practical ways? I have a full list at the bottom of this page.

    All Behavioral Psychology Articles

    Behavioral Psychology Research Studies

    If you are interested in geeking out on the latest behavioral psychology research, then I recommend looking at studies from these top professors: Dan Ariely, Adam Grant, Daniel Kahneman, Ellen Langer, Kelly McGonigal, Richard Nesbitt, Lee Ross, and Richard Thaler.

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    The More We Limit Ourselves, the More Resourceful We Become

    In 1843, Soren Kierkegaard published his first major book, Either/Or ( ebook ), in which he tries to answer the question, “How should we live?”

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    How to Declutter Your Mind and Unleash Your Willpower by Using “Bright-Line” Rules

    “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one…

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    Use This Simple Daily Habit to Add More Gratitude to Your Life

    I have a simple gratitude habit that I have been following nearly every day for three years. I want to share it with you here.

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    The Goal is Not the Point: Choose a Path and Then Walk It

    Imagine, for a moment, that your life is like a treasure hunt.

    It’s not much of a leap, really. Like any good treasure hunt, you have a map to guide you. In life, the map is your corner of the universe…

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More

    We all have goals that we want to achieve in our lives. These goals may include learning a new language, eating healthier and losing weight, becoming a better parent, saving more money, and so on.

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    The 5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick

    In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit ( audiobook ), author Charles Duhigg explains a simple three-step process that all habits follow. This cycle, known as The Habit Loop, says that each habit consists of…

    1. The Trigger: the…

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    Bob Mathias on How to Master the Art of Self-Confidence

    By the time his senior year in high school rolled around, Bob Mathias had developed into a talented track athlete. He could run fast, jump high, and throw far. Given his wide-ranging talents, his high school coach suggested that…

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    Inside the Mind of a Mad Scientist: The Incredible Importance of Personal Science

    For decades the world’s greatest doctors and researchers had believed that stomach ulcers and, eventually, stomach cancers were caused by stress, spicy foods, and too much acid in the…

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    The More We Limit Ourselves, the More Resourceful We Become

    In 1843, Soren Kierkegaard published his first major book, Either/Or ( ebook ), in which he tries to answer the question, “How should we live?”

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    How to Declutter Your Mind and Unleash Your Willpower by Using “Bright-Line” Rules

    “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one…

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

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    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    Mar 11 · 4 min read

    How to declutter your mind and unleash your willpower by using “bright-line” rules

    Having your book become a New York Times bestseller is an astonishing feat, an achievement that usually cements your career and future as a successful writer. At the moment, however, author James Clear appears to be on a different level: His debut book, Atomic Habits, has sat on the advice and how-to list for 65 weeks as of this writing, demonstrating remarkable relevance with people worldwide who want to get better and improve their lives.

    Bestseller lists can some t imes be curated or suspicious. But with over three million copies sold since its release, it’s safe to say the book has been a smash success.

    Mr. Clear has been writing for years; his bright, crisp style is a pleasure to read. And if you have a day job, your approaches to productivity and creativity need to be different. They must be curated, focused, and involve small changes that lead to big results. When it comes to cranking out words outside your 9-to-5, these fan-favorite concepts from James Clear will get you moving in the right direction.

    Mr. Clear shares the story of how the Miranda rights were established in the United States to illustrate what he calls bright-line rules: Clear and motivating boundaries that inspire you to take action. We all want to make changes or adjustments in our lives, but when we set goals using murky language, it’s often unclear what it is we’re actually out to accomplish.

    Bright-line rules aren’t necessarily new: S.M.A.R.T. goals and other frameworks have been popular for decades. When you’re writing in the wee hours of the morning or late at night while juggling a full-time vocation, however, you’ll want to be especially clear with your objectives for sessions. Often, your writing or content pursuits may energize you, but you may be coming in with less than ideal energy to try and make it all happen.

    Takeaway: Intention alone is not always enough. Shape your intentions with bright-line rules and you’ll increase your chances of success.

    When you juggle writing pursuits with a day job, your attention is inherently fractured. Even with the best of intentions, it’s easy to let office politics or to-dos from your 9-to-5 cloud your brain and sabotage your concentration.

    What I liked about this James Clear piece about how experts focus is the attention to “A volume of work”. Mr. Clear notes that it’s only after you zero in on a certain subject or topic that the grind actually begins. In his words:

    “Welcome to the grind. It’s time to put in a volume of work. Not just once or twice. Not just when it’s easy. But a consistent, repeated volume of work. You have to fall in love with boredom and stay on the bus.”

    Takeaway: To help with this, clear advocates adopting some sort of trackable metrics to keep yourself focused. Rather than let your feelings run the show, let your actual output be a barometer for your focus and progress.

    When you have a day job, time and attention are at an extreme premium. It’s important to establish boundaries and galvanize your focus, but what will also make a big difference is using some of your content creation sessions as drilling sessions to build up your fundamental skill set.

    In this piece on deliberate practice, Mr. Clear notes that our brains will look to automate behaviors we do regularly and frequently. He uses the example of tying your shoes:

    “The natural tendency of the human brain is to transform repeated behaviors into automatic habits.

    For example, when you first learned to tie your shoes you had to think carefully about each step of the process.

    Today, after many repetitions, your brain can perform this sequence automatically.

    The more we repeat a task the more mindless it becomes.”

    This comment was a punch in the gut for me. I thought to myself: “What behaviors am I subconsciously automating during my writing sessions, whether I want to or not?”

    Takeaway: When you only have a little bit of time each week to pursue your writing or content creation passions, think about what skills and habits you want to reinforce that can set you up for success down the road.

    Habit-building and self-improvement are important for writers, particularly when your writing journey is currently secondary to a day job. Lucky for us, Mr. Clear is one of the most prolific writers on the subject. Take some time to learn from the best who walk their talk and you may find yourself breaking through to a new level of creativity and self-expression.