Unfortunately, self-control is a difficult skill to rely on. And when your self-control leaves something to be desired, so does your productivity. So what do people do to help their self-control?
They focus on solutions. Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems, because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.
They eat. Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole-grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control.
They forgive themselves. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
They don’t say yes unless they really want to. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.”
They don’t seek perfection. Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target, because they know it doesn’t exist.
They stay positive. Positive thoughts help you exercise self-control by focusing your brain’s attention onto the rewards you will receive for your effort. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention.
They avoid asking, “What if?” “What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to self-control. Of course, scenario planning is a necessary and effective strategic-planning technique. The key distinction here is to recognize the difference between worry and strategic thinking.
They sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present, which are a major productivity killer.
They exercise. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses.
They meditate. Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason. Give it a try.
They ride the wave. Desire and distraction have the tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When you feel as if you must give in, the rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to the temptation of a distraction.
All this means recognizing the moments when you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at these strategies. Give them a go before you give in.
This article originally published on Sept. 2, 2016 in Entrepreneur