Updated: Jul 17
It is said that discipline is a character trait that leads to success and that it is formed through
habit. The more frequent your actions, the more ingrained your behavior is. The frequency of the action results in habitual processes. It seems an easy concept to grasp, right? But where do we begin to put it into practice?
We have a solution or two. Now stay with us on this, before you think it is too simple to be effective:
1.) A Checklist 2.) Activity Journal Why these two? A checklist is for action, and an activity journal is for ceasing the bad habits and procrastination.
Definition: Checklists, Control Lists or Verification Lists are formats designed to perform repetitive activities, to verify a list of requirements or to collect data in an orderly and systematic manner. (pdcahome:2013) So just by its definition, we can already begin to see why a checklist is of great importance. But here is the science behind it. This takes us to the Pareto principle. It states that 20% of the effort you exert will result in 80% of your success. So if we apply this principle to a checklist, we come to this.
1. List the top 10 items of importance on your checklist.
2. Consider which will give you the greatest positive impact in your life, and take action.
3. Continue along with the 2nd and 3rd most vital things on your list.
Soon you'll come to find that 20% of your goals will help you achieve 80% of your success and move the needle. How so you may ask, well, let's get into the meat of it.
1.1 Overcoming Challenges
Our primitive brains jump boat at the first signs of distress, and that is why we put off difficult tasks and procrastinate. You will find that the most valuable tasks are the hardest and complex. This is why setting time each day to unravel them and sit with them first thing in the morning, allows us better mental clarity, and an opportunity to work towards dissecting and actioning incremental steps towards achievable goals in the long run. Remember it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. Quality takes time.
1.2 Aids Systematic Decision Making
Working towards these checklist goals (frequently if not daily) will make incremental steps forward towards reaching the finishing line. By helping to combat the patterns of failure, by means of making us more systematic decision-makers, creating an ecosystem of discipline.
1.3 Ease on the Brain
Now here is why it is so impactful. A checklist relieves the mind from remembering, by removing the cognitive pressure on the brain (Greg McKeown:2014). You are basically offloading all the memory to paper, and making space for other necessary brain functions to take place, thus lowering anxiety and memory overload. An added bonus is you get to put all your deadlines, goals and tasks on paper, thus resulting in you never forgetting important milestones. Nothing is worse than forgetting or overlooking important tasks (that you would otherwise never forget) if only you had jotted down all your thoughts!
1.4 Motivation and Reward
You will be exposed to the work you’ve actually accomplished, and not the (inaccurate) assumption of work you might construe in your head. This creates a reward system of sorts and signals to the brain that you find pleasure in this action. If done continuously, this creates dopamine (the happy hormone), further reinforcing the habit (goodtherapy.Org:2019) that pivots your efforts, and accelerates your drive to redo the action over and over again. What was once an unpleasant or complex task, now becomes easy and intuitive. Now for the other tool:
An activity journal refers to a daily record of activities. (familydocorg.) Write a journal of how you comprised your day after each task, with the time slots in between. Seeing your day to day actions in time slots is a wake-up call for us on two fronts: What we get right, and what we need to work on. For instance, a prime example would be jotting down in your journal that from 8 am to 10 am (two whole hours) you watched YouTube videos. Your reaction would definitely be "what???".
Jotting this down will certainly allow you to begin decreasing your YouTube viewing time, and maybe even make changes to what you watch, how much time you spend watching it, and above all, curating your viewing to more productive teachable content. This changes your disposition, shifting your attention to more productive matters.
Things to avoid when doing your checklist!
No to Multitasking
This is an area you want to avoid altogether. A study examined the working pattern of those conducting multitasking and researched 3 areas of brain activity. *Filtering information *Switching between tasks *Maintaining a high working memory. They found that multitaskers were terrible in all three areas. (Clifford Nass.) Nass: This brings us to the notion that when you are on your computer, or with your books and tasks, set different times and intervals between going over your work, and scrolling through your phone. Give yourself time to concentrate and be immersed in your main tasks, and give them first priority. Your friends' social media posts will still be there after you've successfully conquered your main tasks.
In conclusion, it comes back to what we define as success, and how our goals align within that structure. If we leave them to the last minute, the prospect of imagining the tasks at hand, and tackling them successfully begins to look unachievable to the point that it begins to affect your mental state, your sleep, and even other aspects of your life, such as the quality of your own work. A checklist puts your goals on paper, makes them actionable, puts how long you've neglected that goal into perspective, and puts you in a position to take action towards your own discipline.
We hope this article unleashes the beast in you!
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