7 Tactics That'll Make You More Self-Disciplined
October 7, 2019
In the late 1960s and early 1970s at Stanford University, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments now referred to as the “marshmallow tests.”
The experiments went like this: he put a single marshmallow on a plate in front of a child. He then told the child that they could either eat the one marshmallow now, or they could wait ten minutes and get two marshmallows.
Some waited, others ate the marshmallow right away. Then Mischel tracked each child's success in life through factors like SAT scores, educational attainment and body mass index (BMI).
What he found was the children who could wait the ten minutes to get the two marshmallows led significantly more successful lives – even above other factors like IQ.
The point? Self-discipline really matters. If you have the self-discipline to delay your gratification – like some of the kids did by not eating the marshmallow right away – you’ll have a more successful life.
Okay, great. But how do you improve your self-discipline, so you see those better results? In his LinkedIn Learning course Success Habits, Instructor Chris Croft gave seven tips for doing exactly that.
7 Tactics That’ll Help You Become More Self-Disciplined
1. Articulate the bigger purpose behind each task
The most important on the list. If you have a clear understanding of your goals and how this task fits within them, you are much more likely to complete it.
“The biggest source of self-discipline is to have a reason to do the task,” Croft said.
For example, say you have a flat tire and need to change it. Your purpose is clear – change the tire as quickly as possible so you can get on your way. You are going to do that task, no matter how tired you feel.
To make this happen effectively at scale, you need clear goals you are fully aligned behind. That'll ensure you always have a clear purpose behind the tasks you take on. (LinkedIn Learning courses that can help here are Finding Your Purpose at Work and Successful Goal Setting.)
2. Find a method that works for you for overcoming procrastination.
There are a million strategies out there for overcoming procrastination. Some people give themselves fake deadlines. Others break tasks into smaller chunks and take them one-by-one. Others use a reward system.
It doesn’t matter which strategy you use for overcoming procrastination, so long as you have one and it works. And do it regularly. (If you are looking for strategies, check out the LinkedIn Learning course Overcoming Procrastination, which lists several.)
3. Uncover your habits and patterns that lead to you becoming undisciplined.
When you fail on self-discipline, how and when does it happen?
Is it usually after work? Is it harder to focus at home, versus at a coffee shop? Is it when you don’t get enough sleep?
Conversely, in what environment are you most disciplined?
Be aware of what works and what doesn’t. And then you can put yourself in situations where you are more disciplined.
“If you can work out the pattern, you can set up conditions that’ll help you work best,” Croft said.
4. Remove temptations.
For many of us (myself included), our cellphone is our biggest distraction. So, when you need to focus, put it in airplane mode or put it in another room.
And pay attention to your workspace. Remove the television from where you work. Don’t have food there. Keep it clean.
“What’s your temptation?” Croft said. “What’s your escape from self-discipline? And could you get rid of it or hide it or not buy it?”
The less temptations you have around you, the better results you'll get.
5. Consider meditation.
Study after study has proven that meditation reduces anxiety and increases focus and self-discipline.
It’s hard to make meditation a regular habit but, once you do, it does have a tremendously positive effect. On all aspects of your life. (If you are looking for a place to start, check out the LinkedIn Learning course from Arianna Huffington on the subject.)
6. Establish good habits by starting small.
I’ll tell a personal story that proves Croft’s point. For years, I was overweight, and would always try really intense workout routines to shed the pounds. I'd stay committed to the routine for last two weeks, tops, and then I’d go back to my old routine.
One day, I just started walking two miles a day. It was an easy, small step; so easy it was hard to justify not doing it. Over time, walking became part of my routine, and I lost the weight.
The point? There is a temptation to go big and to try to rearrange your life overnight. But, by starting small and easy, you have a much better chance of actually incorporating a new habit into your routine.
7. Measure your progress.
There’s an old business adage that goes, “What you can’t measure, you can’t improve. And what you do measure generally improves.”
There’s truth in that. Rather than setting a vague or ambiguous goal, if you can put some metric behind it, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding.
For example, lose X amount of weight in X days. Or, write X amount of words each day. The more specific and measurable your goal is, the more likely you are to achieve it.
Want more tips like this? Watch Chris Croft’s full course, Success Habits.
Other videos within the LinkedIn Learning course include:
- How to Overcome Worry, Laziness and Impatience
- How to Become More Emotional Intelligent
- How to Become More Organized
- My Top 10 Success Books
- How to Best Refine Your Goals