I was thinking the other day about how there are certain things that I just repeatedly procrastinate doing. When clients talk to me of those same struggles, I recommend that they find a way to reward themselves for accomplishing the dreaded task. Therefore, I had to ask myself why it was not working for me since I use that approach for myself as well.
Was it that the reward was not enough of an incentive to tackle the task? Would it be more helpful instead to inflict a punishment for not doing those things? According to modern psychology’s view on rewards versus punishment, rewards have been found to be more effective in the long run.
As I continued to ponder this dilemma, my thoughts kept returning to the idea that it all comes down to discipline. If we do not discipline ourselves to accomplish those very things we dislike doing, they will not get done. Whether you employ giving yourself a small reward for your finished tasks or take away a reward for not being able to check off some of your chores, the essential element is whether you have any discipline.
So how do you apply discipline to overcome procrastination? First, let’s define discipline. Bobby Knight, the famous Indiana Hoosiers basketball coach, has a definition that I’ve always respected: “Discipline is… 1. Do what has to be done; 2. When it has to be done; 3. As well as it can be done; and 4. Do it that way every time.”
We can all probably claim varying degrees of successful discipline in our lives, and the places we falter in our discipline need improvement. At least when it connects with tasks that do need our attention, we need to have the ability to utilize our discipline to get things done.
When we cannot, it is like tantrum that a child throws because he/she does not want to do that. Wah! I DON’T WANNA! Wah! It is not fun, so I don’t want to do that. It is boring, so I won’t do that. To some extent, it is our inner child saying it is my way or no way. The lack of our own discipline is our inner child rebelling against doing something that they do not want to do.
How would you treat a child facing the same situation? How would you convince that child to do those tasks? How did your parents handle your resistances and what would you do the same or differently? You know better than anyone does how you can be motivated to accomplish things.
There is another approach, if there is someone that you can turn to and count on. As with other things in life, some people suggest having an “accountability partner,” someone who you know is keeping track of your progress and you can likewise monitor their progress with their own struggles.
We need to recognize that we are behaving as adult size children. We are resisting the logical and necessary tasks due to a stubbornness and counter-productive mentality. No Mom or Dad is going to step and do it for us. We have become adults and have all these responsibilities to take care of, so we need to face the situation and do those things we do not want to do. Unfortunately the longer we put off doing those things, the bigger burden they become. It magnifies how onerous those tasks feel and reinforces our detesting them in the first place.
What happens when you do not employ self-discipline on important tasks?