WORKPLACE / FEB. 27, 2015
version 6, draft 6

How to Be Incredibly Productive If You Struggle with Self-Discipline


Productivity sets apart the successful from the rest. After all, everyone has the same 24 hours to work with. How is it that some folks get so much more out of their day?

It’s obvious the answer has to do with willpower and self-discipline, words that make most of us cringe. We’ve all said “No” to the donuts in the office only to buy a dozen on the way home. 

The reason our willpower often falls apart is because we take a one-dimensional approach—there’s only a handful of times you can say “No” before you crumble. 

Here are some powerful methods to hack into your self-discipline.

The Willpower Trinity

The key is to bring in some backup. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that willpower goals are often framed as “I won’t...” Rather, you need to include two other powers: “I will” and “I want”.

"I Will" Power

“I will” power is a replacement strategy. So, if you’re craving donuts, think of a healthy alternative that you can have, such as fruit. Or, if you feel the need to be social, rather than getting on Facebook or Twitter, send a networking email that will satisfy your social craving but also benefit your professional and more productive goals. 

"I Want" Power

The “I want” power is to think about your “Why,” the reason why you want to attain your goal. Instead of going out to the bar, you stay back at the office because your goal is to be a CEO. If you’re able to think about your reward each time you use your willpower, each sacrifice become less of a struggle. 

"I Won’t" Power

Remember, this is the most common form of willpower—simply saying "No" to temptation. It is effective but very limited, and often fails because it’s the sole approach.

The next time you have your willpower tested, remember the willpower trinity: I won’t, I will, I want. Think of it like placing more wood underneath a campfire—there’s so much more to fuel your fire.

Routines and Rituals

The next key for better productivity is to rely on routines and rituals. Our brains are constantly trying to move toward self-automation; the less conscious thinking and processing it has to do, the better. That’s why habits are formed.

Routines and rituals help to facilitate the work you’re trying to accomplish. Here are some key points:

  • You’re training your body first, then your mind to operate on a rhythm and schedule.
  • Focus on getting the system in place first, and then the work can come later—get up at the same time every morning, read or journal before checking your email.
  • You must do something that disrupts your regular behaviors.

Some exercises and ideas to get you started:

  • A popular ritual is known as “Morning Pages,” a stream of consciousness exercise, writing on any topic—your feelings, your goals, your relationships. Without the critical thinking! The focus isn’t on content as much as getting your body used to writing.
  • Have an area in your office or house solely dedicated to writing and work—nothing else.
  • Have breakfast/lunch/dinner, go for a walk, or another form of exercise at the same time each day.
  • Have a "no Wi-Fi zone" in your house.

Take a step back from meeting any sort of "productivity quota." Focus on getting to self-automation, sticking to schedules, and creating conducive environments.

Create the ritual, and the results will come.

Get our FREE eBook!
'6 Steps to Landing Your Next Job'





Get our FREE eBook!
'6 Steps to Landing Your Next Job'

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