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How to Improve Impulse Control for More Success with Simple Tips

How to Improve Impulse Control for More Success with Simple Tips
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Improving Impulse control is difficult for many to develop and becomes more and more difficult each year but it is vital in dealing with issues with procrastination, addiction and productive action.

No one begins their life with good impulse control as it is a learned behavior. The ability to resist acting on something you want immediately, even when the consequences are very negative, can take years to develop. Our advanced technological world makes this even more difficult to obtain. So, many things are now fast and easy to obtain: instant credit, fast food, feelings of success via video games, instant celebrity on YouTube or reality television, not to mention medication and illegal drugs.

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There are two stages in impulse control: the ability to pause to think it through, and the discipline to maintain the resistance after the initial pause. A breakdown in either of these stages produces problems that can have a great impact on your life.

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Most of us have a tendency to do easy, quick tasks instead of more difficult tasks, even if the more difficult ones are immensely more valuable. If you control that impulse to do that easy job and stop to think about what action would give the most benefit, you will be more effective in reaching your goals.

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Improving Impulse Control

Here are a few simple ways to do handle those 2 stages.

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Interrupt the Impulse

  • Setting up conditions to delay your ability to perform the act immediately is the first part of improving impulse control. If the temptation is not readily at hand and takes extra effort to satisfy, the chances are much greater that you will be able to control the impulse.  Here are a few examples:
    • Remove snacks from your house when you go on a diet.
    • Throw away the cigarettes.
    • Remove bookmarks from your web browser so it takes more effort to go to your favorite distracting sites (Face Book, games….).
    • Lock up the video gamesl
    • Unplug the TV or just put the remote in a hard to reach spot.
    • Drive a different route to bypass the tempting store where you want to stop.

Maintain the Impulse Control

  • Maintaining impulse control is the second part. It involves not giving in to the desire after the impulse is interrupted and is just as hard, if not harder, to do as interrupting it in the first place. It is also much more complex but there are a number of ways to do this.
    • To fight temptation, try substituting a healthierm more immediate reward for the less desirable treat you crave. For example, put a dollar into a vacation fund every time you resist the urge to have a drink.
    • Make a bet with yourself, ir with others is even better, that you will resist temptation and reach your goal.
    • Satisfy the need in a controlled manner. Allow yourself 1 desert each week. This can keep the desire from becoming too intense to resist, which can lead to an uncontrolled binge.
    • Leave yourself notes expounding the reasons to maintain the resistance.
      • Put notes about the health benefits of healthy eating on the refrigerator or snack cupboard.
      • Put notes on why you should not smoke in your pocket where you keeopyour cigarettes.
      • Wrap your credit cards up in such notes.
    • Poison those inducements by imagining them as completely disgusting or horrific. You can be quite creative here.
      • Imagine that those potato chips are old and stale. They are so greasy and soggy! Eating them will give you major indigestion. Throwing up until you are too weak to crawl into bed.
      • Think of the TV or Video games as time vampires sucking your limited amount of time out of your life. When you pick up the remote control, it is a tube stuck in your hand. The more you watch and play, the moe life is sucked out of you. You fade away, out of existence, even while your mind is screaming that you didn’t do what you always wanted to do.

 Reduce Stress

  • For both of the above stages, it’s important to reduce stress. When you are over stressed the part of the brain that is responsible for impulse control cannot do its job effectively. You brain is too busy to react in anyway except by habit when the brain is overtaxed. The more you’ve got on your mind, the easier it is to give in to temptation.

Improving impulse control is like strengthening a muscle, the more you exercise it, the more it can handle. But it can also become over used and strained if continuously pushed, so use these tips judiciously.

Can you think of any other tips for impulse control?

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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