Monthly Archives: March 2011

3 Simple Self Discipline Tips To Beat Procrastination

Sometimes little changes can have big impact on your life. In today’s article I will present you 3 simple techniques that will improve your self discipline. Those 3 are:

  • 10 Minute rule
  • 3 Magic questions
  • Ultimate goal VS immediate desire

10 Minute rule
The basic idea is: If you have to complete some task decide that you will work on it just for 10 minutes to see how it goes. You can stop or continue after that, but you will commit yourself to the task for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes have passed you will usually find out that you actually want to keep working on the task. You will notice you are already producing results and the law of inertia will keep you going. Once you get started its easy to keep going.
For procrastinator the hardest part is to get started on the task and the “10 minute rule” will help you vastly with that. You won’t be overwhelmed with the enormous task on your plate anymore, you only have to work on it for 10 minutes. Sometimes that might even be enough to get the whole thing done! People who procrastinate can sometimes spend five hours to procrastinate on a task and in the end it turns out it only takes 10 minutes to complete it.
The 10 minute rule will help you get started and usually you’ll find out that you are still working on the task when the initial 10 minutes have elapsed. According to studies it takes about 10 minutes to get absorbed in the task you are doing. What if you stop after 10 minutes? That’s fine, you completed the first part now you can move to another. Take another 10 minutes and see what you can do now! Rome was not built in one day. You can only eat an elephant one bite at the time. Consider 10 minutes as one bite and slowly you will get even the biggest, most overwhelming task (your elephant) done that way.

Stopwatch

Stopwatch

3 Magic questions
The second technique to improve your self discipline is called “3 magic questions”. Every time you catch yourself procrastinating ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Where am I now and what am I doing?
  2. What do I want to do?
  3. How will I feel when I do it?

The point of this exercise is to change your focus from your current distraction to the task you want to get done. And one way to change your focus is to ask yourself the right questions.
With first question you will become aware what you are doing right now, that you are procrastinating, not getting anything done and you will feel bad about yourself.
Example: Where am I now and what am I doing? I’m behind my computer surfing the web, looking at lolcats funny pictures.

Next you will focus on what you want to get done. Think about every detail, get yourself into the state of doing it.
Example: What do I want to do? I want to finish writing new article on my blog and publish it.

With the last question think about all the positive results you will get from accomplishing your tasks. They might not be immediate, but make them seem like you already have them. See what you will see when you get it done, and try feel physically in your body as if you would already finish your task.
Example: How will I feel when I do it? I will feel great, i will get the job done and get the valuable information I’m putting to this article to my readers.

Ultimate goal VS immediate desire
When we procrastinate we are usually in inner conflict between the ultimate goal that we want to achieve by completing our task and the immediate desire that we can get right now. For example, you want to exercise, but you are procrastinating to get to the gym. The ultimate goal is to lose 10 pounds. The immediate desire is to watch youtube videos and browse facebook while eating a cupcake. What you have to do here is to switch your immediate desire with ultimate goal. You have to make your ultimate goal your immediate desire. You do that by changing your focus to the positive results you will get by completing your task. They might not be instant but you have to ask yourself: “At this point would I rather be slim, fit and healthy or would I rather see another funny video on youtube?” This way you make your ultimate goal more real. Ask more questions about how completing your goal will positively affect your life and you will get more and more compelled to do it now. Make your ultimate goal seem like instant gratification.

These 3 simple techniques will greatly improve your self discipline. Try it next time you catch yourself procrastinating!

Self discipline, delayed gratification and marshmallows

Some decades ago a group of psychologists from Stanford University conducted an intriguing experiment regarding self discipline. They gathered a random group of children and assigned them a simple task. They presented them a marshmallow and they had a simple choice. Either they could eat it right away OR they could wait for fifteen minutes and they would get two of them! Most of the children could not wait 15 minutes. Even though they would get two marshmallows instead of just one. Some tried to resist in agony before giving in. But a few of them waited the whole fifteen minutes. The interesting part is, those that waited turned out the be the most successful in life. Can we get some self discipline how to out of marshmallows?

Marshmallow kitty

Kitty drowning in marshmallows.

They practiced something called delayed gratification as opposed to instant gratification that most children chose. The ones who could not delay the gratification had problems later in life too. They earned less money, had problems with weight (that one is kinda no brainer and probably a direct result of too many marshmallows :) ) and also problems with drugs and alcohol.
The moral of the story is: Delayed gratification leads to better quality of life. And delayed gratification is directly linked to will power.

As it turns out its not easy for anyone to delay gratification, its hard for everyone. But those that did wait managed to distract themselves in various ways, either by looking away, singing a song, crawling around or just covering the sweets with something so they could not see it. That’s called strategic allocation of attention. Children (or adults) can distract themselves and in that way their desire is pushed aside by something else. You can only really focus on one thing at the time and if your focus is on the marshmallows it’s going to get harder and harder to resist it. You will think about how good they taste and will be almost able to taste them in your mind. Your chances of waiting the whole 15 minutes will get slimmer every passing second. Especially if you are a 5 year old child. But its not like adults are much better. Maybe they can wait to eat a marshmallow but there are so many other forms of instant gratification that sabotage our self discipline. Average American household watches over 8 hours of TV per day. Something to think about. And lets not forget how much time we all spend browsing the web randomly. Sometimes its really hard to delay the gratification of reading a wikipedia article on that new tech gadget that just came out.

Ability to delay gratification is a crucial skill to develop self discipline. The marshmallow example might seem innocent but it can show in much more important things in life too. Would you rather spend your money now on a new fancy car that all your friends will envy or will you delay that gratification and invest in a business that will possibly bring you a fortune in the future. Would you rather watch a TV show now or delay that gratification and study for a college exam that is coming up so fast?  Would you rather eat that box of chocolate now or delay until weekend and stick to your diet that will help you lose weight and achieve optimal health.

The good news is, that even if you are mostly all about instant gratification right now, you can change! It takes practice but it can be done and it will directly improve your self discipline. The key is to start small and not overwhelm yourself. Don’t try to do it all at once but start with a simple step like  not watching that TV show first time you come home, but do 30 minutes of exercise instead. Create a routine, one at the time and before you know it, you will have a handful of routines that will positively reinforce you for the better and help you develop solid self control.

Here is some self discipline how to on practicing delayed gratification:

  • When you want to instantly buy something wait and consider alternatives. Stop and breathe before you make impulse buys. Write a note what you want to buy, it will wait. Then a week later ask yourself: “Do I still need this?”
  • Have the big picture in your mind. You may get a fancy car now but how will that help with your other expenses? You can watch TV now but what will happen when you only have one day left to write that report?
  • Start small. Develop a small habit first. For example, try 20 minutes of exercise 3 times a week instead of watching TV. Once you master that, go bigger!
  • Eat the dinner before desert – no brainer but is it REALLY always like that?
  • Work first then take time for fun. Don’t skip and work and don’t skip the fun after either!
  • Think before you act. Before you do something ask yourself: “Is this just instant gratification that doesn’t really improve my life in any way?”

In the end, let me say that sometimes instant gratification is OK! Don’t beat yourself up everytime you screw up. We only live once and its OK to just take a day off sometimes but don’t make a habit of it!
Alright, I have delayed that gratification of going out for a beer too for long now by writing this article:) Gotta go, see you soon and good luck with your self discipline!

 

Further reading and sources:

The blog is up!

The day has finally arrived! My blog on how to self discipline and beat procrastination is finally up. I’m gonna post various articles and insights about self discipline here while trying to get more self disciplined myself too. 

I believe that self discipline is the basic skill and the foundation of all other success in life therefore if we manage to improve it we’ll simultaneously improve in all other areas too. You can be smart, talented but if you don’t get your ass up and take some action toward achieving your goals you will not achieve anything.

I had a problem with self discipline for a while now. I set a million goals for myself about how I’m gonna eat better, work better, make some extra income, get that college degree, waste less time watching TV and browsing the web (sounds familiar?) but I always seem to lack the self discipline to consistently follow through. I made this blog to improve myself in that area and help all the readers at the same too.