- Some people are better at self-discipline than others.
- Self-discipline is not an innate ability, but instead can be learnt.
- Self-discipline is critical to success.
- By using a few simple techniques students can learn to focus on what they want out of life rather than what they want right now.
Chances are you have read about people bursting with self-discipline. You know the type, they’re up at 5am to meditate and plan their day. Then it’s gym before 6am followed by a kale and spinach smoothie before they cycle to their trendy new start-up, the 4th they’ve successfully launched in just a few years. They don’t waste time and their achievements are endless and astonishing. Yet, you’ve already hit the snooze button twice this morning. You’re behind at work and you’ve run out of clean clothes…
How is it that for some people sticking to a schedule seems effortless, whereas for others it seems impossible? The difference here is self-discipline. Self-discipline is critical to success, be it in your studies or life in general. It’s waking up that hour earlier to study or staying in on Friday night to complete that assignment. If you’re finding that your self-discipline is in short supply and your results are showing it, fear not! Research shows that self-discipline is not in fact innate and can be created and encouraged. Here are six simple steps to help you do just that.
1. Remove temptations
Before sitting down to start studying make sure you’ve rid yourself and your desk of all distractions. Disconnect from your social media accounts, hide that book you can’t stop reading and whatever you do, turn off your phone. The world will continue to revolve around the sun, you will be okay! Create a healthy and productive workspace free from clutter and to-do lists. Make sure that it’s easy to pay attention to your books and that there are no outside distractions vying for your attention.
2. Feed your brain
Practising self-discipline empties your tanks. Did you know that forcing yourself to ignore what you want now in order to focus on your long-term goals rapidly depletes your glucose levels? Turning off technology and creating a focussed space to study will do little good if you can’t stop thinking about those chocolate biscuits in the kitchen cupboard. Before you start, be sure to have a meal or snack rich in brainfood – scrambled eggs, veggies or fish should do the trick. Also, be sure to avoid sweets, chocolates and the usual suspects. These will only send your blood sugar levels soaring, followed by a huge and unproductive crash.
3. Forget about perfect timing
When practising self-discipline in your studies know this, there is never a perfect time to start studying. If you’re waiting for the perfect moment, stop procrastinating, there will always be something that urgently needs to get done. An errand to run or a friend to chat to. The perfect moment is not coming and if you wait for it, you’ll never start. You know what they say, there is no time like the present. So, pick up those books and get going, your results will thank you.
4. Give yourself a break
To maintain focus and momentum it is important to give yourself regular breaks while studying. Keep in mind however that a break does not equate to an hour on Instagram or a two-hour power nap, but rather a few strategically planned minutes. Set an alarm, not your phone that is turned off remember, for 45 minutes. Commit to studying and not leaving your desk for that time. When the alarm goes off give yourself a 5 – 7-minute break to go to the bathroom, get some fresh air and a snack if necessary.
5. Reward yourself
For some, just being self-disciplined is reward enough. For the rest of us, sometimes the key to self-discipline lies in the quality of the reward. If you’re just learning to nurture your willpower a good reward goes a long way. Set yourself a goal, for example focus on a specific chapter for 45 minutes. Once time is up and you have successfully completed the task give yourself a small treat. This could be five minutes on social media or a delicious coffee, whatever works best for you. Be sure however that your reward system itself doesn’t become a distraction. Self-discipline is not created by 45 minutes of hard graft followed by three hours on Facebook.
6. Baby steps
Show yourself empathy, especially in the beginning. Remember that self-discipline is not an innate ability. While some people seem to have stronger willpower, the rest of us have to keep practicing. According to research it takes 10 000 hours to become an expert at something. Self-discipline is no different. Be sure to set small realistic tasks to begin with. If you start too big you will become overwhelmed, which will produce the opposite result. When it comes to self-discipline slow and steady wins the race.
The key to great results lies in self-discipline. By honing this skill now, you will set yourself on the path to success not only in your studies, but throughout your life. Learn to focus on what you really want rather than what you want right now.
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