You’re an intelligent person, right?
You work hard and you’re driven to succeed in your professional and your personal life. You have great ideas that you believe can improve things for yourself and those around you.
But, if you frequently find yourself at the end of the week wondering where the time has gone and why your results do not match up your intentions, you have a problem. You are likely missing out on one key element for your success: self-discipline.
The willpower to forge on with a project can be hard to tap when you’re up against distraction, procrastination, and good old honest laziness.
So, if your inner voice isn’t giving you the support you need to be the person you could be, why not try some scientifically-verified techniques to get back in control of your trajectory?
Here are some tips on how to improve self-discipline.
Reboot with a bang
Setting a due date to begin your new routine will give you stronger resolve to see it through, according to some studies.
Instead of making vague promises to yourself that you’re going to get better, tell yourself that next Monday you’re going to start taking some specific steps. Discipline starts with a plan!
Concretize your motivation
Just as a solid start date can help you start strong, making the effort to write down the reasons why you want to improve can help give clarity to what you’re doing.
List the five top reasons you want to improve your self-discipline and keep that list handy. It will give you strength when you’re starting to wonder why you’re doing all the hard work.
Picture your success
Your written note will motivate your mind but visualizing the success of your project can motivate your soul. By visualizing the effects of your self-control, your willpower will last much longer.
Arm yourself against temptation
It’s one thing to tell yourself you’re going to go the gym no matter what. But, when your friend calls you up for a drink, it becomes a different story.
By preparing for such temptations in advance, you’ll be able to deal with them more favorably when they arise. For example, tell yourself that if a friend calls you for a meet up when you have a workout planned, suggest a game of tennis instead of spending two hours in the pub.
Forge positive associations with unpleasant tasks
If you find yourself unwilling to get out of bed half an hour early each morning to go for a run, try to make it more appealing for yourself. Saving your favorite podcast for your workout the night before can help you get on track.
Hide your temptations away
Out of sight, out of mind, they say. Experiments have shown that hiding the things that are likely to tempt you, like chocolates or your game consoles, can make you less likely to give into their call.
Here’s a guilt-free reason to put greater emphasis on your sleeping life: sleep deprivation actually impairs self-discipline by affecting the way your prefrontal cortex functions.
Start to wind down, like turning off your smartphones, at least an hour before bedtime and give yourself plenty of chance to get 8-9 hours sleep. The quality of your sleep has a profound effect on how one can improve self-discipline.
Get some friendly support
Nobody likes to be nagged, but you’re more likely to stay in control of your good intentions with regular reminders. If you’re working on quitting a bad habit, like nail-biting or cutting out coffee, ask the people around you to remind you when you’re falling back into that habit.
Take your time
When you make a split-second decision, it is very often the wrong one. The snap answer to “Ice cream with that?” is always going to be “Yes, please!”. So, before you actually blurt out an answer, count to five and think about the options before you commit. That way, you are more likely to make decisions with your mind and not with your belly.
Give yourself a glucose boost
Willpower seems to be closely connected to glucose levels in our blood. If you find yourself unwilling to put in an extra hour at work when it’s needed, try making yourself a drink or a snack with honey in it to bring your blood sugar back up.
There’s a good reason why we associate drinking with regret. You don’t need to be a scientist to figure that out. When you are under the influence of alcohol, you are less likely to reflect on the implications of your behaviors.
It only takes a little reduction of your inhibitions to get you opting for a second slice of pie or to stay out at the party for another hour even though you have work in the morning. When you’re working on a goal, steer clear of the booze and you are more likely to make the right decisions when faced with temptation.
Use visual cues
You already have your friends watching your back, but they won’t always be nearby to help you avoid temptation. Most of the time, you’ll need to look out for yourself.
Leaving Post-It notes and other visual reminders around your home and office can help you regulate your behavior just when you need it. Leave a note on your front door to remember your gym kit when you leave for work in the morning. Wrap masking tape around your credit cards so you have to think twice before violating your personal budget.
Do it for you
Finally, return once more to your reasons for working so hard. Your willpower will not be as strong if you are just looking to please other people.
Figure out the importance of your self-discipline for your own goals and dreams and you’ll be able to give yourself a much better shot at success.