8 Tips to Exert and Improve Your Self Control by Annie Pilon

If you’re tired of reading self help books and seemingly never getting anywhere, you may be interested in a study that found a single factor — self-control — to be one of the primary keys to success.

John Tierney and Roy Baumeister, co-authors of the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, recently hosted a discussion about the importance of self control. In this video from Reason TV, Tierney explained:

“This was something that had been kind of out of fashion. But more and more studies started showing that no matter what kind of successful outcome you looked at – in school, in careers, in marriages and relationships, financial security, health – in general, there were two qualities that correlate with success. One of them is intelligence. The other is self control.”

8 Tips to Exert and Improve Your Self Control

1. Know Your Limits

You only have a finite amount of usable willpower. If you use too much of it over a certain period, you won’t have any left to exercise for other things. Because of this, you should limit the number of goals you try to attain. Otherwise, they could compete against each other. Instead, focus on each one sequentially instead of all at once.

2. Build Your Willpower

Willpower can also act like a muscle. It can get tired. But if you exercise it regularly, it will get stronger. Even simple things like working on your posture over a few weeks can lead to increased self control over time.

3. Eat

You can’t exercise self control properly if you’re starving. Of course, this tip correlates to success in every area except dieting.

4. Avoid the Planning Fallacy

People tend to underestimate how long big tasks will take to complete. If you’re able to be more realistic, then you’ll be more in control of your actions.

5. Make a To-Do List That’s Actually Doable

Unfinished tasks can nag at your brain and impact your self control. For this reason, it’s best to try to accomplish completing tasks on your to-do list as early possible. But the trouble is that many people tend to put vague items on their to-do lists that are difficult to accomplish. Instead, choose items for your to-do list that are very specific. Have a specific plan for getting things done. This way, you’re more likely to complete the tasks and less likely to deplete your willpower by having to focus on unfinished projects.

6. Keep Track of Goals

It’s hard to control something if you’re not keeping track of it. So if you’re trying to save money, track your spending. If you’re trying to lose weight, weigh yourself daily. Luckily, there are smartphone apps and websites that can track online activities and keep track of many types of goals for you.

7. Utilize “The Nothing Alternative”

If you’re having a hard time getting motivated for a project, follow this simple advice. Instead of forcing yourself to work on the project at hand, simply avoid doing anything else that might distract you until that project is completed. If you don’t allow yourself to get distracted by other things, you’ll eventually be so bored you’ll have to work on that main project.

8. Conserve Your Willpower

The authors insist this is the most important tip of all. People with high self control actually spend less time resisting temptation. That’s because they set up their lives to run smoothly and try to avoid temptation in the first place. If you can put yourself into situations where you don’t need willpower, you’ll use less of it and be able to exercise it in important situations later.