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What are some specific set of behaviors that lead to self-discipline. Preferably backed by studies/research or confident experience.

What I am trying to achieve is be able to work a specific number of hours during the day. I work from home as a free lancer, I have good days, bad days, good weeks and bad weeks but I'm not able to get myself to work in a consistent manner. Lets say 8 hours each day.

I end up spending wasting a lot of my time during the day, and work for close to 5-6 hours.

What I am really trying to find-out is if there is any research on behaviors that promote and enable you to keep a focused mindset, as opposed to a fickle mind that keeps wandering -- Reducing internal interruptions.

If you are aware of studies or concepts that relate to self-discipline and show what factors help improving it :
Eg :

  • How having an Internal Locus of Control is beneficial, than an external Locus of Control.
  • I am open to concepts proposed by self-help gurus but only if You feel it really makes sense, because, the problem with most of their advice is, you can't tell the wheat from the chaff.

    I am working with time management techniques also, but, I am looking for specific ways that help improve self-discipline.

    share|improve this question
    If you can manage 6 hours a day then I don't think you've got a problem! I'm the one struggling to hit 6 at all... – MerlinMags Aug 8 '11 at 18:07

    1 - Start small.

    If you have a little trouble with self discipline and want to work on it, the best thing you can do is to start small, which generally means picking something you think you can succeed at.

    2 - One thing at a time.

    Another thing you can do is to try picking just one thing

    3 - Don't let other's sway you.

    One thing to be wary of when attempting to rein in your history of impulsive or less than well thought out behavior patterns is to look at who you keep company with.

    4 - Watch out for weak moments.

    One of the trickiest parts of self discipline is handling weak moments. These are the killers.

    5 - Fitting it into your lifestyle.

    To improve your self discipline, you need to make whatever it is you've decided to do fit into your lifestyle.

    6 - Don't talk about it.

    Quite often when we make up our minds to do something, one of the first things we do is go around telling everyone we know what we are going to do. Or not do, if that's the case. Try not to do this

    7 - Milestones.

    One of the things you can do along the way is to mark milestones. It might be days or weeks, or months or even years. Or it might be something less easy to write down, such as noting how you feel a change in the way you view certain things

    8 - Don't let slips stop you.

    One of the biggest threats to self discipline is slipping and then falling headlong into defeat. This is common with dieting.

    9 - Rewarding yourself.

    As with most things in life, if you reward yourself well, you'll find your sub-conscience begin to act as an ally rather than as a force trying to subvert your efforts

    Ref: How to Improve Your Self Discipline: Ten Simple Tips

    share|improve this answer
    Why #6? Isn't it helpful to have others know of my plan, so that they can support me and I feel more obligation to follow through with my plan? – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 18 '12 at 14:23
    @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun no. I think Soner is right. Happened to me when I "started" to workout. – Nadav S. Sep 16 '13 at 9:24
    The link 404s for me now. – RegDwight Dec 27 '13 at 14:52
    Must agree with #6. Even though in pretty much every book they advise to do the opposite, I tend to finish more when I don't talk about it. I guess because it's better to say "hey, look at what I've done," instead of "hey, look what I'm going to do." – Dwelle Jan 11 '14 at 16:44
    #6 is really interesting. A neuroscience Professor talked once about this. He told it has to do with the reward system/feel of your brain. At the moment you have plans to do something you are willing to reach your goal and satisfy yourself with the feeling you've made it. The moment you tell somebody about your goal and your plans, your brains unconsciously reward you by creating the feeling you've already done something for it. – Daniel Martinus Feb 4 '15 at 7:29

    Two books for you:

    "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield - Simply changed my life.

    "59 Seconds" by Richard Wiseman - Chock full of science backed research into behavior/work/procrastination etc. This is the last self-help title I will buy unless Wiseman has a 2.0

    share|improve this answer
    The War of Art looks very promising. – DMin Aug 6 '11 at 2:13
    The War of Art is gold. You will still need the strength to fight the Resistance. – z-boss Aug 10 '11 at 18:01

    The good trick I learn about self-motivation is:
    Avoid situations when you have to motivate yourself

    my way to deal with that is to start writing my ideas about tasks I have to do into simple paper notebook - not organized in any way - just by giving each idea a number.

    Every time when I have to motivate myself I'm just taking notebook and start writing my new plans / tasks and reading old ones.

    It helping brain to pick up ideas/solutions , and when I'm ready to start on my coolest task , I'm just starting immediately.

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    "You have to on any price avoid situation when you have to motivate yourself " I think a word is missing/mistyped/misautocompleted. Can you edit to clarity? – Jeanne Boyarsky Aug 5 '11 at 1:15
    I updated it for more clarity, thank you Jeanne – WorkGamificationApp Aug 5 '11 at 2:07
    much better. thanks – Jeanne Boyarsky Aug 6 '11 at 1:07

    The important thing I try to remember is just to pay attention. If you're blindly walking around you're going to run into everything. But if you're watching where you're going, it's a lot easier to avoid roadblocks.

    Even with mindfullness, though, it can be hard to refrain. Try meditiation and/or martial arts. Those will improve your self-discipline and a whole lot more!

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    I have been reading on this topic since I have asked this question. I have found that has very good resources on this topic. especially this blog : Dont Delay - by Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl

    He's a professor and specializes in the study of procrastination -- he's been doing this for the last 15 years. What he does a lot of the time is present research done on this topic in a language and format that's easy to understand and use.

    I am currently reading his book, "The Procrastinator's Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle" for a couple of bucks, its totally worth it.

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    I've had good luck with this book:

    Self-Discipline in 10 Days: How to Go From Thinking to Doing [ ]

    It is basically a how-to guide on self-awareness. It takes a unique approach to procrastination and discipline. Instead of tricks and tips for organizing things, it tries to ingrain thinking habits that remove common mental roadblocks. It turns the idea of discipline on it's head. I re-read it a couple times a year and my productivity doubles.

    The biggest thing I learned to do from the book was to ask my self: "what is stopping me?" and "what am I afraid of?"

    Once those mental chains come off, I can't help but be disciplined and diligent.

    share|improve this answer

    "What I am trying to achieve is be able to work a specific number of hours during the day. I work from home as a free lancer, I have good days, bad days, good weeks and bad weeks but I'm not able to get myself to work in a consistent manner. Lets say 8 hours each day."

    I think this is called life. It goes up and down and isn't consistent at all. The question maybe to ask is: "Where is my focus and why do you think you lack self-discipline?" The answer will clear up your real motivation. You can keep scratching, but where is your itch coming from?

    Henepola Gunaratana sums it up very well..

    "Discipline" is a difficult word for most of us. It conjures up images of somebody standing over you with a stick, telling you that you're wrong. But self-discipline is different. It's the skill of seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses and piercing their secret. They have no power over you. It's all a show, a deception. Your urges scream and bluster at you; they cajole; they coax; they threaten; but they really carry no stick at all. You give in out of habit. You give in because you never really bother to look beyond the threat. It is all empty back there. There is only one way to learn this lesson, though. The words on this page won't do it. But look within and watch the stuff coming up-restlessness, anxiety, impatience, pain-just watch it come up and don't get involved. Much to your surprise, it will simply go away. It rises, it passes away. As simple as that. There is another word for self-discipline. It is patience." -Henepola Gunaratana

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    Find a part of your life in which you are driven, organised and consistently get good results, and base the rest of your life on that.

    As an example, I've always found that when it comes to achieving goals when playing video games, I'm about as efficient as a person could be. Many games tend to provide well-structured goals for a player to achieve, and I've consistently found that I respond to that kind of stimulus.

    With that said, I looked around online to try and find a goal setting system that resembled a game, and I came across HabitRPG. I've been using it for a while now, and my productivity is through the roof.

    It allows you to specify 4 things:

    1. Habits
    2. Dailies
    3. To-Dos
    4. Rewards

    Habits are goals which you want to achieve on a regular basis, but not necessarily every day. Dailies are tasks to be repeated each day, such as "8H work / learning". To-Dos are single tasks to be completed, which will be removed from the list upon completion.

    You can add checklists, tags and set tasks to be completed only on certain days (e.g. Monday to Friday). The UI is quite nice, in that respect.

    Just by having a health bar, experience points and earning gold every time I complete a task, I, for whatever reason, become productive. It seems I only need a minor amount of accountability to myself in order to start achieving my goals.

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