Would you believe that self-control is a skill everyone has to some degree? It may come a little more naturally to some than others, but all human beings have the ability to say no to distractions that get in the way of being productive as an entrepreneur. Today it seems to be even more difficult, thanks to the vast amount of entertainment we have available. Whether you work from home or in an office, it’s easy to open a new tab on your browser and scroll mindlessly through personal social media accounts, rather than being productive while on the clock.
Even though it’s easier today to give in to distractions, this concept is nothing new. Ever since the beginning of time, men and women have struggled to stay focused. One study performed by TalentSmart tested more than a million people and came up with the conclusion that 90 percent of all top performers have a high EQ, or emotional intelligence, and at the root of that intelligence is self-control.
Though some people seem to be born with a greater sense of self-control than others, the good news is it’s something that everyone can develop. Here are a few keys to getting started.
Take Time to Mediate
Self-control involves training your brain, and the best way to do that is through quiet meditation. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting cross legged and humming, but it does mean sitting peacefully on your own with no distractions so you can ponder the proper keys to restraint. The more you focus and train your brain, the more you’ll be able to stay in control at work.
Overall health is an important part of self-control. When you’re hungry, tired, or out of shape, it can be much tougher to resist enticements. On the contrary, when you’ve eaten three square meals with a healthy snack in between, exercised the CDC's recommendation of 150 minutes a week, and practiced the “early to bed, early to rise” mantra every day for a week, you’ll likely have a much easier time controlling yourself.
Don’t Give in to Shame
It’s easy to get caught up in your failures, particularly when you’re just beginning to practice more self-control. You’ll get annoyed with yourself because you weren’t able to do these practices perfectly the first few times you tried.
Just remember that self-control is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will become. This doesn’t mean you won’t become fatigued and feel like giving up, but it does mean that you should be patient and celebrate the small victories along the way.
As another tip for training your brain, teach yourself to stay positive and focus on your efforts. This requires squashing all negative self-talk, which will only make you feel bad about yourself and the progress you’ve made. In time, negativity will cause you to lose your focus, and you’ll give up on the endeavor altogether or begin to regress significantly.
Work When You Feel Motivated
Your desire to work will come and go, and when it’s there, jump on the opportunity to get things accomplished. You won’t necessarily be able to work productively the whole day, but you can maximize on the times when you’re feeling motivated by doing your most difficult tasks. That way, when you’re starting to feel apathetic, you can switch to the easier assignments.
The interesting thing about self control is that once you get a handle on it, you’ll be able to fabricate motivation. Forcing yourself to continue to work productively, even when you don’t want to, will lead into a stronger desire to work until the job is finished.
Self-control doesn’t come easily or quickly. Most people don’t wake up one morning and decide they’re going to be productive from now until the end of time. It takes patience and a steady, consistent effort. Likewise, once you’ve found your self-control, don’t expect it to stick forever unless you nourish it.
Going back to the analogy of your self-motivation being a muscle, you’ll need to keep working hard to strengthen it or the muscles will atrophy. The good news is, just like when you build muscle strength, exercising restraint gets easier, and once you’ve developed enough self-control to work productively, you’ll have some amazing habits to work with that can last a lifetime.