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Excellence Through Habit-Building (Ep. 16)

Tony StubblebineIt’s 6:30 AM. Just kidding, it’s 9:00. Your head pops up off the pillow.

Brain does a quick run over what you’ve got to do today. Go to class. Workout. Write a paper. Study for that test in History of Inebriated Paleontology. Finally find Spider-Man’s cameo in The Avengers (here, let me help you)Lot’s to do. Let’s get going!

…aaaand now it’s 10:30 PM and all you’ve done is fill up your workout water bottle and talk to your roommate about why Spider-Man should have a cameo in every movie. The day is completely shot.

Well, you’re not alone. As it turns out, figuring out how to motivate yourself to do everything you need to do is a common problem. It’s actually the most-asked question I get from students who email me after signing up for my newsletter.

In a recent article on why freedom can kill your productivity, I talked about a phenomenon called ego depletion. Also known as willpower depletion, it’s basically the idea that you have a set amount of willpower you can use to motivate yourself each day.

The tasks you do that require motivation – whether large or small – all take up some of this willpower. So the more you try to make yourself do in a given day, the more willpower it’s going to take. Sometimes, you don’t have enough to get everything done – or, even worse, you overwhelm yourself and crash.

However, building strong habits can help mitigate ego depletion. When you do something often enough that it becomes habitual, it no longer drains your limited supply of willpower. You just do your habits automatically.

That’s why this podcast will be amazingly helpful to you, no matter what your goals are. Today I’m interviewing Tony Stubblebine, the co-founder of an incredibly popular app called Lift.

If you’ve never heard of the app before, here’s a quick rundown: Lift is a habit-tracker with some great community features built in. You simply add the habits you want to build to your personal list, and then each day you check off each on as you do it.

I’ve been using Lift for quite a while (I actually mentioned it in episode 10), and it’s helped me build some helpful habits – drinking more water, remembering to take my vitamins, and studying Japanese every day, just to name a few.


Lift also has a new feature called Planswhich are step-by-step lists of instructions written by community members who want to help you achieve a specific goal. While Lift’s core functionality helps motivate you to do daily, repeated tasks, Plans helps you move forward and achieve big, multi-step goals.

I think this feature has a lot of potential, so I went ahead and wrote one myself called Create a Life Plan. It’s a step-by-step approach to setting diverse goals, and it’s based around the idea of being mindful of your path.

The Plans feature aside, I’ve just been a huge fan of Lift in general. That’s why I’m stoked to have Tony on the podcast as a guest.

In this episode, we talk about Tony’s journey from an Iowa college student, to entering the working world, to becoming a CEO of a company with hundreds of thousands of users. We also dive into behavioral science a bit, exploring how motivation works and why habit-building is so effective.

Items mentioned in this episode:

Things you should do right after listening:

  • Check out my plan or simply ask yourself – are your goals only concerned with your career? Have you thought about the bigger picture?
  • Start building some solid habits. If you’re like me, you could probably be better hydrated, or exercise more consistently, or read more each day. Lift is a great app for building these habits, and it’s free, so see if it helps!

If you enjoyed this interview, leave a review of the CIG podcast on iTunes! If you do, I’ll send you a crayon drawing of the super hero of your choice. It will not be good. Claim it on Twitter.