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5 Easy Ways to Stay Focused Throughout Your Day

stay focused throughout your day

Increased efficiency seems to be the Holy Grail of today’s modern fast-paced society. It’s created a multi-billion dollar industry composed of countless smartphone apps and self-help books promising to increase your ability to get things done. It’s all frankly quite distracting!  Before you go spending your hard earned cash on that sort of thing, save yourself a few dollars and read the list below.

I believe at the heart of being efficient and being productive is the ability to stay on task. If you’re focused you can not only get things done quicker, you can then get a lot more things done. Pay attention in your office, or to your friends and you’ll soon notice the people who get the most done are the ones who start and finish things in one sitting. This is what the tech boffins in Silicon Valley mean when they say, “don’t work hard, work smart.”

So, here are my top 5 ways to stay focused throughout the day.

1. Keep a Tidy Workspace

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how neat your workspace is but you definitely should. Excluding your bed, you probably spend more time in your workspace than anywhere else on the planet. Keeping it tidy will improve your efficiency and reduce distractions.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind.” Well, this is the attitude you should apply to your workspace. Every item within your line of sight should be relevant to what you do. By all means, personalize your workspace, put up pictures of loved ones, have a few pretty plants, but don’t place them directly in front of you. Having an organized workspace will dramatically unclutter your mind and help you focus on the task at hand.

stay focused throughout your day

2. Get More Sleep

Sleep has been referred to as the single greatest performance enhancer known to humankind. Oh sorry, correction, single greatest natural performance enhancer. I’m sure Lance Armstrong and his friends have a few other performance enhancers up their sleeves. But for you and I, nothing has the power to improve our ability to stay focused during the day than sleep.

Study after study has proven that individuals who sleep better are more accurate in their work, better at retaining and recalling information, more efficient, and better decision-makers. Should you want more detail, the team at the Sleep Advisor blog often discuss the importance of a good night’s rest has on mental performance in much greater length.

3. Experience the Benefits of a Power Nap

Nothing, and I mean nothing, can beat the cognitive performance boost that a good night’s sleep gives you. One thing does come close, however, and that’s a power nap. A microdose of sleep taken during the daylight hours.

Napping has been shown to be particularly effective if you are attempting to learn new skills or retain information. Studies have shown that individuals studying languages have an improved ability to recall words if they take a nap shortly after a study session.

Throughout the course of the day we all experience peaks and lows in terms of energy known as circadian rhythms. We are thought to be our most effective around 11 am and then comes the post-lunch slump, or the postprandial torpor, a decline in energy in the early afternoon.

Many power through this slump with caffeine. But a more sensible option is to lean into it and have a nap. You will find that after you wake you will have a vastly increased ability to focus.  That’s what I call working smart!

Related Reading: How to Care for Yourself While Running a Startup

4. Exercise More

Stress is one of the biggest impediments we all have to get things done. Worrying too often clouds our thought patterns and can lead to muddled behavior and sometimes complete inaction.

When we worry, the body releases a chemical known as cortisol into your system, also known as the ‘stress hormone’. Apart from sleep, the most effective way to combat elevated levels of cortisol is to engage in physical activity. This can be anything from going for a jog at lunchtime, lifting some weights or targeting a flurry of jabs at a punching bag.

You might be saying to yourself, “who has time to exercise during the day?” Well, I’d answer that exercise again falls into the category of working smarter. An individual who sits at their desk all day worrying – their system flooded with cortisol – will have less ability to focus on the task at hand than someone who gets up, goes for a run and comes back with a clear head.

5. Make Lists in the Evening

Some of the most focused people I know are also the most avid list makers. They make them in the mornings and in the evenings. I even have one friend who makes lists of lists. While that might be taking it a step too far, I do firmly believe the process of writing a list has an incredible power to focus the mind on what’s really important.

Take five minutes in the evening to list your duties for the following day and then highlight the number one priority. This will give you a great boost to how you start the morning. Achieving that top goal should come before everything else, before you check emails, return calls, before anything. Then once you’ve ticked that off, you can get to work on the rest of your goals.

Well, there you have it my friends – five ways to stay focused throughout your day. I hope you managed to make it to the end without getting too distracted. If you didn’t, then maybe hit the hay a little earlier tonight. Give it a go. You can thank me in the morning – but not before you check a few things off your list!

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How to Write a Shareable Blog Post Quickly

blog post

Whether you own a business with a blog, you’re a freelance writer or a traditional blogger, learning to write a shareable blog post quickly is an essential skill that can be quite lucrative.  Even if you’ve never written a post before, knowing how to do so can break down barriers and provide opportunities to guest blog on other sites and grow your business.

Do you know how to create a shareable blog post quickly?  Your answer obviously depends on what I mean by ‘quickly.  After all, the word is a bit vague. Some people can crank out a post or two every day.  For others, like me, it’s a slower process affected by time constraints, professional obligations, and family commitments.  So, my definition of the word may be substantially different from yours.

Nonetheless, I would argue most writers would love to increase their output and improve the quality of their posts.  That is where the word ‘shareable’ comes into play.  Will your articles get the love, attention, and engagement they deserve? Will readers clamor to share your content on social media?  If you’re uncertain, consider what you can do to compose more shareable content and increase your writing speed.

Ramp Up Your Productivity

Personally, when I need to produce an article quickly, I use a time management method called the Pomodoro Technique.  I avoid ALL distractions and work on my post for twenty-five minutes.  Then, I take a five-minute break to perform other tasks.  I can answer an email, start a load of laundry, etc.  After my break, the process begins again.  After completing four rounds, I allow myself a more extended break of thirty minutes to relax, eat a meal or exercise.

This technique is amazingly effective, and I suggest using it throughout the entire process of creating your content.

Perhaps you’re saying, “I’ll just write shorter posts.  Then I can produce more in less time.”  Well, you can do that.  However, your site will not please Google if it’s packed with mini posts.  Google will respond by pushing you down the rankings.  Better to publish articles of at least 600 words.  And audiences share longer articles more often anyway.

Create a Catchy Title

I can’t tell you how many times I have read a strange, unclear, or incredibly long post title and ask, “What was this writer thinking?”  Of course, I don’t click on the link because I don’t want to waste my time.  That may sound harsh, but it’s hard to take bloggers seriously when they don’t understand or adhere to basic rules.

  1. The title should be a clear statement or question

  2. It should be relatively short – six to ten words is usually plenty

  3. Powerful and emotional words like ‘you’ or ‘free’ or ‘easy’ should be incorporated

  4. Numbered posts and how-to articles typically generate more interest

Chose a Relevant Yet Interesting Image

Another important aspect of a shareable blog post is the image your readers see.  You don’t have to break the bank to obtain eye-catching pictures for your content.  Plenty of free-to-use sites offer professional photos for you to upload to your blog.  Here are a few:

  1. Pexels

  2. Skitterphoto

  3. Gratisography

  4. Pixabay – now offers pictures and short videos

For example, this video was free for me to use in this post.

Use Images, Graphs, or Videos Within Your Post

Readers will likely find your content more appealing if it contains a little visual stimulation.  Include a relevant photo from the sites I mentioned above or embed an emotional Tweet or instructional video for impact.  People share posts that entertain and provide value.

Make the Words Stand Out (In a Good Way)

Most professional bloggers keep their paragraphs short.  They would likely tell you to vary the length of your sentences too.  Readers have become accustomed to this style of writing because they’re skimmers.  They simply love subheaders and bullet points.  So use them.

This brings me to another point.  I know it sounds boring, but use a large, standard looking font when you blog.  People can’t read tiny words on a mobile device and won’t stay on your post, let alone share it.  And if at all possible, use black lettering on white background.  You might think this is ho-hum, but you’ll look like a pro.  And that will result in social media shares.

Include a Call-to-Action At the End

If a reader makes it all the way through your post, you have kept their interest and provided valuable information.  It’s the perfect time to ask them to:

1. Leave a comment about your post

2. Join your email list or Facebook group

3. Follow you on social media

4. Share your post

Don’t ask your audience to complete more than one action.  Their time is important, and you’ll likely irritate them if you request too much.

Triple Check for Spelling and Grammar Errors

The following paragraphs contain affiliate links.  If you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

Before you publish your content, edit it.  Then do it two more times.  Go through each paragraph line by line.  Does it make the grade?  Nothing will ruin the quality of a post like a series of typos.  You won’t look professional and neither will your work.

When I began my journey as a blogger, I wanted to hire a proofreader.  However, I could not afford one.  So, I purchased Grammarly.  It is an inexpensive program that edits my posts, Microsoft Word documents, and my emails.  I still rely on it to correct my work daily.  If you just can’t swing it at this time, ask a trusted friend or family member to review your article.

For Goodness Sake, Include Share Buttons

How can anyone pass along your epic post without share buttons?  Don’t make it difficult for your fans to sing your praises.  No share buttons translate into little attention or exposure to potential readers or clients.  Perish the thought!

Several plugins give writers the ability to place share buttons on their site.  After much research, I opted for Social Warfare.  This tool has helped my business grow with professional looking buttons that look great on desktop and mobile.

Related Reading: 7 Expert Strategies for Using Share Buttons

So, there you have it; my suggestions on how to write a shareable blog post quickly.  I hope you found them valuable.  If you follow these steps, you’ll be cranking out crazy good content in no time!

And please consider sharing this post. (There’s that call-to-action – ha!)

Remember, life is better when we lift each other up.

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How to Feel Gratitude After a Disastrous Year

How to Feel Gratitude

Enjoy this informative guest post by nationally recognized life strategist, Randi Levin.

The #1 secret to understanding and effectively living a grateful life is in your acceptance that gratitude is not a one-and-done fleeting thought fueled by Thanksgiving. Instead, it is an actual state of mind and a lifestyle habit that exists in your daily life, unrelated to whether you have had the best or the most disastrous year.

This may seem difficult, yet a mindfulness practice of gratitude is rich in rewards, costs you nothing to develop, and keeps fears and energy in check. The overall benefits to your physical and mental health are sound. Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at UC Davis, is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is the author of the book Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. His findings are based on studies and research done around the globe revealing that happiness levels increase by approximately 25% when we practice gratitude!

We essentially train ourselves to reset to a thankful ‘set-point’ allowing ourselves to feel good even when things are not going our way. Dr. Emmons further points out that those who are appreciative tend to have stronger immune systems, are more creative, and may even have closer relationships. Listen to his point of view and amazing tips on how to feel gratitude in the video below or got go the link here.

Dr. Robert Emmons of UC Davis talks about Gratitude from Character Lab on Vimeo.

Have you ever longed to have more balance in your life? You may have noticed that life does not play out in a straight line! There are curves everywhere! Some years are more abundant and joyful than others.

Cultivating an active gratitude practice is the link to balancing the good and the bad, the highlights and the low points, and is a great connector to the gaps in evaluating your own sense of purpose. When you are thankful, you make decisions from your heart and your mind, working together in life-balance and accountability.

Here are 3 essential benefits and action steps of thinking thankful:

  • You fear ‘less.’ Gratitude bypasses fear. When you focus on what you are appreciative of, it becomes difficult to let negative thoughts in. Think about gratitude as a lamp that is turned on in a dark room. When you flip the switch, you shine a light on that which was previously scary, allowing you to take a small step toward a larger goal.

    Try this now: Write yourself a permission slip to do something that previously intimidated you. Then write down all the things that stopped you from doing this one thing before. Say them aloud; dump them in front of the mirror. Now that your fears and limiting beliefs are aired, rewrite that list as if you successfully completed what previously held you back. Now say this new list out loud. See the shift? Great…now what part of this fear can you bypass today?

  • You take action in the NOW. A gratitude attitude grounds you in today and allows you to control not only the moment but also yourself within it. This opens up opportunities and choices that are closed to us when our focus is only on tomorrow’s goals or yesterday’s failures. When you are focused on today, your energy soars.

    Try this now: Create a success jar or a success wall to post your daily successes. Yes, DAILY successes. If you are reaching for resolutions, promises, or goals, what often happens is that in your quest for the finish line you miss the process that led you there. Keeping a jar, or accessible wall filled with small notes about even the tiniest things that went right in your day keeps you mindful of your own growth and success and along with that your gratitude. Review your notes weekly or monthly, when strung together they will begin to weave a tapestry of positive reinforcement and abundance.

  • Manifest into your life what you most desire: You attract what you want because you are focused on the possibilities in your life rather than on the limitations. It is common to feel small and limited when you have had a run of failed results. Yet this is the stuff that resiliency is made of. We need resiliency and flexibility as part of our stories. Sometimes figuring out what you don’t want supports you in understanding what you do.

    Try this now: Reclaim your bucket list! Your new abundant thoughts can help you to pivot toward the things you most want to achieve this year! What shifts if you simply change the vessel? Instead of a large, amorphous bucket, keep your list in a beautiful box or glass bowl. Bring it down to the items that you really want to welcome in. Now…here is where the fun begins! What can you do RIGHT NOW in regard to each and every item on this list?

    We don’t always hit our goals because they are too large and abstract. If you take the opportunity now to decide on your first action step for each one this list comes to life! Here is an example: Your bucket list says that you want to travel the world. Yet, you have little cash and time. What can you do? Where can you combine a business trip and a pleasure trip? Do you know anyone who lives in a city or at a beach that you have wanted to visit? See where this changes the action steps?

    Now, book that trip! Begin.

“Gratitude is the soul of balance, realigning all aspects of your life.” ~ Randi Levin

A Bonus Step To BEGIN TODAY:

Many people love to keep gratitude journals to record their thoughts and activities. While I support this idea, I don’t like how often our words just remain on the page and never make it into real life! What I love instead is a 365-day in-action approach to feel gratitude that you can begin today!

START THIS NOW: Every day, for a year mindfully reach out to one person, one business, one old friend, one ex-lover, your mom, somebody you have not spoken to in years, or one burned bridge and share your gratitude with them! In your email, phone call, or text you are going to express why you are thankful that they are, or were in your life. You are going to shed light on what they have brought into your life, why you support this business, or what you appreciate the most about the lessons you learned from an old friend or ex-lover!

When you share these thoughts, be present about how this makes you feel. Are you happy, angry, sad, or overjoyed? Is this freeing you to do more in your day, to take forward action, to reach for more? Are you more mindful of your current energy and are you using that energy to create a better you and a more stellar future?

Related Reading: How Delaying Gratification Results in Remarkable Success

Think about your conversations with those you have thanked. How have they responded?  How is this changing your every day, and shaping and reframing your perspectives? Are you manifesting new enriched opportunities and connections?

Now, take this one step further! Once a quarter, reach out in person. Write and read a letter of gratitude to someone in your life. Savor the moment. What are you feeling? How are they responding? How is your life enhanced or changed by this experience?

What can you do now?

What can you do next?

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How Diversity in the Boardroom is Boosting Employee Morale

When I was a little girl, I knew men made more money than women and almost always held higher positions too.  It was a fact of life.  In my neighborhood, fathers were the main breadwinners while mothers either stayed home or filled the financial gaps with part-time or temporary jobs.  Full-time female workers were few and far between.  Even rarer was the woman who managed to land a management position.  I can count on one hand the females I knew with any legitimate professional power and influence.  I can’t even imagine how small those numbers were for minority women at that time.

As I grew, I noticed a distinct change in the societal norm.  If you’re older than thirty-five, you probably experienced the same dramatic shift.  Moms either needed to or wanted to work.  And with that, ladies began to find role models.  Whether it was Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate representing a major American political party or famous business icons like Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, girls finally had multiple women to emulate.  In turn, we began to proclaim, “if she can do it, I can do it.”  Anything was possible.

It may seem obvious to you then that boosting employee morale is as easy as placing more women and minorities into influential positions.  Well, you’re not alone.  2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign to increase the percentage of females on U.S. boards to 20% or more by the year 2020.  Malli Gero, co-founder and president says, “research shows that gender diversity is good business and results in higher sales, greater corporate morale, and better return on investment for stakeholders.”  Those are three seemingly compelling reasons for companies to hurry up and get with the program.

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Sadly, diversity in the boardroom and upper management remains at what you might call a deplorable level. Globally, women hold between fifteen and eighteen percent of the available director positions, depending on which study or survey you read.  This is partly because turnover on boards is low.  The good news is that the numbers have been growing steadily, if not quickly, over the last decade.

Recent pressures from activists and investors have prompted boards to increase their number of minorities and females.  The alternative is to face backlash and criticism from the media and other powerful groups if these changes are not made.  Perhaps you’ve heard of organizations like the Forte Foundation, the Thirty Percent Coalition, and the Professional Diversity Network that are not only shining a much-needed light on this topic but providing resources to underrepresented professionals in an attempt to speed up the process of parity.

A Reason to Smile

Minorities and women are taking notice of the recent changes in corporate demographics.  Research shows that role models have a positive effect on stigmatized and under-represented populations.  Having someone to look up to in a company setting increases motivations, the number of goals set, and interest in advancement by those in lower positions.  You might not be surprised by any of this, but it’s nice to have evidence for the obvious, right?

Additionally, businesses with relatively high percentages of female managers and board members tend to take on issues important to stigmatized groups.  Corporate programs that spotlight and address equal pay, flexible work schedules, mentorship, and charitable contributions are increasingly popular.  As a result, the future is looking a little brighter for us and will probably continue to do so.

Related Reading: 7 Deadliest Sins of the Struggling Career Woman

Career expectations for women have certainly changed and grown over the past thirty years.  Gone are the days when we put absolute limits on our professional potential.  Big business is likely to continue boosting employee morale with improved representation of marginalized groups in positions of power.  Do you think we are headed in the right direction?  What other actions should corporate America take to ensure equality?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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7 Innovative Sites to Help You Crush It in Business

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

I love shopping.  Not for clothes, handbags, makeup, shoes or jewelry, but for products that make me more efficient.  Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate a quality outfit.  However, nothing relieves my stress more than finding a tool that boosts my productivity.  Okay, maybe yoga and wine are also on my list for anxiety relief, but I’ll keep my focus on organizational tools for now.  After all, time is our most precious commodity.  If there’s a system or technique that will help me manage my work and avoid anxiety, I’m all over it.  In my never-ending search for the latest and greatest, I’ve found 7 innovative sites to help you crush it in business from this day forward.

  • Grammarly – I’m telling you, this tool saves my bacon.  I started using it when I wrote my first article and have been relying on it ever since.  The basic features are free, but I paid the nominal annual subscription rate for the upgraded version.  Grammarly checks for spelling and grammar errors as well as correct sentence structure in my blog posts, emails, social media messages, and Word documents.  I also use the browser extension when I surf the web.  This impressive platform can also be used for cover letters, term papers, business proposals and works within Microsoft Office.

  •  DialMyCalls.com – This business began in 1999 as one of the internet’s first wake-up call services and evolved into a mass online notification company with over 80,000 clients including Fortune 500 companies, schools, and government agencies.  With this service, you can send voice or text messages and emails to groups of customers, coworkers or family members.  You can send a 30-second message to up to 25 contacts once per week at no charge.  Beyond that, you can use a pay-as-you-go package or subscribe to the economical and unlimited monthly plan.  DialMyCalls is available on Android and iOS mobile devices.

  •  WorkFrom  – I recently started using this site because I was tired of working from the same old haunts I had been visiting for months.  I desperately needed a change of scenery and some better amenities.  If you are a remote worker and long for unique, new spaces with available wi-fi, then WorkFrom is for you.  After you create your free account, you’ll gain access to the listing of public and private spots that will allow you to get stuff done more efficiently.  Each location is rated by you and other Workfrom community members for high-speed internet connections, comfort, access to outlets, and other details important to digital nomads.  You can access the website or use the iOS or Android app.

  • TimeAndDate You don’t want to miss an important client call or phone meeting with a colleague rooted in another time zone.  I was recently attempting to schedule an interview with a podcaster who was located thousands of miles from me.  For some reason, it was difficult to correctly calculate the time difference and schedule a time that would work for me.  Fortunately, I managed the task, but the experience took longer than it should have.  I vowed to correct that problem and found TimeAndDate.  It’s free, but you will need to open an account to get access to most of the site’s offerings.  This powerful tool helps calculate more than the hours between time zones.  It boasts features that lookup international dialing codes, print and manage calendars, find worldwide weather forecasts, plan national and international meetings and more.  The app is available on iOS and Android devices.

Related Reading: 15 Motivational Podcasts for Women Who Love Business 

  • CamCard – This site and app are more than just a business card management system and scanner.  After you take a photo of a card, it auto-populates text fields and creates a contact for you to save and share with your email and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) programs.  CamCard can also export this information into Microsoft Office programs.  The technology is perfect for networking events, conferences, and client meetings as you can exchange e-cards with each other.  How eco-friendly can you get?  The stripped-down, free versions are available on Android and iOs as well as the paid, upgraded apps.

  • Gboard – This is an app rather than an actual website. As a new user of this third-party iPhone or Android keyboard, I appreciate that it’s increased my texting speed.  I’m probably the slowest smartphone keyboard user on planet Earth!  Gboard offers glide typing and built-in search.  This means you can be in the process of texting someone and look up an address or any other information you need and paste it in the conversation without opening your browser.  Just tap the Google button to search.  Easy as pie!  Use Slash Keyboard as an alternative if you are an avid Android user.

  •  TripIt – I used to equate travel with stress.  That was before I began utilizing this wonderful travel organizer. Now I can’t imagine booking a recreation or business junket without this handy tool.  TripIt consolidates the confirmations and emails from hotels, airlines, and car rental companies into a master itinerary on my phone or computer.  No more flipping between apps or emails!  If a flight is delayed, canceled or a gate number changes, I get a quick update that saves me time and aggravation.  The platform’s basic features are free to use, but you can upgrade to the annual plan or TripIt Pro that keeps track of reward program points, finds alternate flights with open seats, and shares itineraries with others. 

I hope you utilize this list of 7 innovative sites to help you crush it in business.  If you found these resources valuable, please share it with coworkers, family members, and friends and let me know which is your favorite tool and why.

Life is better when we lift each other up.

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How Delaying Gratification Results In Remarkable Success

Is waiting for something I want worth it?  That’s a question you ask yourself daily.  If you overeat, the jeans may not fit later.  Although you don’t have enough money saved, that new laptop could go on the credit card.  Your family wants to go on vacation, but that money could go toward business classes to improve your resume.  These are uncomfortable choices for most of us.  However, you probably know people who are quite adept at using their willpower.  They seem to turn off desire like a light switch.  And, as a result, they are successful in nearly all facets of life.  Those perfect jerks!  You want this power, don’t you?  Yeah, me too.  Why are some people better at delaying gratification and how does it help them become successful?

Like Giving Candy To A Baby

Standford professor, Walter Mischel published the marshmallow experiment in 1972.  His team tested hundreds of small children for self-control.  A researcher sat each kid in a private room and placed a marshmallow in front of her.  The child was then offered a choice.  She could eat the candy after the assistant left the room for several minutes or wait until the assistant returned to give her a second marshmallow.  As you can imagine, most of the children fidgeted and pondered and quickly gave into temptation.  But one-third of the kids held out for the bigger prize.

The research team conducted follow-up studies for decades.  They found the children who used willpower and waited for the second candy grew up to demonstrate more tolerance for stress, earn higher SAT scores, and exhibit greater social competence than those who gobbled down the first candy.  In 1989, the study concluded, “To function effectively, individuals must voluntarily postpone immediate gratification and persist in goal-directed behavior for the sake of later outcomes.”  Those who were capable of putting more value on the greater reward were effective at delaying gratification and benefitted academically and socially because of it.

To be truthful, I don’t know that I would have held out for the second marshmallow as a child.  But only because I hate marshmallows and wouldn’t have wanted another one.  I have my weaknesses, though.  Offer me a nice glass of wine or some dark chocolate, and I’ll squirm like one of the kids in the experiment.  My point is, people are more complicated than any study will show.

Perhaps you’re a dedicated worker, but you are a compulsive eater.  Maybe you exercise like a champ, then follow it up by blowing your monthly budget on clothes.  Professor Mischel refers to these reoccurring weaknesses as “hot spots,” and he believes we all have them.  If your hot spot is spending money, click here to find out how I paid off 40k in debt within two years.

 

It’s All In Your Head

I won’t get all textbook-y on you here, but it’s important to understand how the willpower process works.  The ventral striatum is the pleasure center of the brain.  It is the part of your mind that responds to the potential for immediate reward.  To bypass impulses from this area, the prefrontal cortex (in charge of rational thought), must be active.  As a person grows, the reasoning portion of the brain matures, and he or she learns how to deal with or avoid temptations.  This is why adults are better at self-control than children and adolescents.

However, we are all born into different environments.  If you were raised by people who frequently broke promises, you might have realized waiting for a fictional reward was useless.  Additionally, if you grew up poor, scarcity may have prompted you to choose immediate gratification.  One in the hand is better than two in the bush!  But that kind of thinking won’t help you reach your goals or overcome your indulgences now.

What’s She Got That I Haven’t Got?

It’s amazing to me how some people command incredible control over their desires.  They save money, exercise daily, eat right, and never make impulse purchases.  What’s the secret?  It’s all about the way they look at temptation.  People who successfully delay gratification believe they’ll be rewarded for sacrifice.  In addition, they’re able to put more emphasis on future pleasures than immediate ones.  Well, YIPPY for them!  I know what you’re asking; How does that help me?

According to Professor Mischel, both our biology and our psychology contribute to our overall self-control.  It’s not all predetermined by our DNA.  That means there’s hope for all of us.  We can learn how to increase our willpower and train it like a muscle.  However, this muscle can be fatigued.  According to the American Psychological Association, people who are subjected to repeated temptation are less likely to continue resisting the temptation.  They are “willpower-depleted.”  None of us make good decisions when we’re tired.

Can You Spare Some Change?

There are many different strategies to boost self-control.  You have probably tried several.  I’ll list the more common tactics I’ve used over the years that resulted in moderate success in delaying gratification:

  • Writing down both long-term and short-term goals

  • Having a daily schedule and routine

  • Eliminating exposure to temptations

“Been there, done that,” you say, “What else ya got?”  Those are great approaches, but you need more to get the ball rolling.  I know I feel the same way.  Here are some actions that you may not have tried yet:

  • Get an app to assist you.  There are numerous software programs designed to make it easier to reach goals and resist temptations.  Gympact rewards you with cash as an incentive to achieve your fitness objectives.   Level alerts you when you are overspending.  Quit That helps reinforce healthy habits and banish unhealthy ones by tracking your progress and updating you on how much money you’ve saved from quitting smoking or drinking coffee or alcohol, etc.   

  • Read The Willpower Instinct, by psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.  In the book, I found useful advice and exercises to help me make better choices through nutrition, fitness, and sleep.  Buy this one for yourself or a close friend.  I’m not so sure gifting this one to your boss or mother is such a great idea if you know what I mean.  It is a great read, though.

  • Get some help already!  If you’ve tried everything else, why not seek outside assistance?  Enough with the stigma about seeing a mental health professional in order to tackle this or any other recurring problems in your life.  The American Psychological Association can assist you in locating a qualified psychologist in your area.

At this point, I hope you are inspired to increase your impulse control and willpower.  It’s not just a talent given to some at birth.  Delaying gratification is possible if you understand and change how you think about temptations.  If you begin to choose anticipation over immediate reward, you’ll strengthen this ‘muscle’ and perhaps conquer a bad habit or two.

Do you have any tips or advice to overcome chronic indulgences?  If so, let me know in the comments section below.