Save Your Willpower - Design an Environment to Increase Self-Discipline

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Optimizing your environment for self-discipline really comes down to understanding how automatic most of your decision-making is. This same concept of defaulting to the more desirable choice can be applied to your own self-discipline.

We’re predisposed toward the choice that requires less effort and will happily accept whatever is in front of our faces.

A default option is one that the decision-maker chooses if he or she does nothing, or makes a minimal amount of effort.

Countless experiments and observational studies have shown that making an option

the default will increase the likelihood of it being chosen, which is

known as the default effect.

Optimizing these default decisions is

where the bulk of your efforts to create a more discipline-conducive

environment can take place.

If you’re distracted by social media, for

example, you might move the app icons to the back page of your phone so

that you aren’t constantly seeing them whenever you open your phone to

do something else.

And if you’re in the habit of mindlessly picking

up your phone while working, you can simply start placing it facedown

and far enough away that you have to get up to reach it.

There are

seemingly endless examples of how you can utilize the default effect to

become more disciplined with very little use of willpower itself.

If

you sit in an office all day and have back problems, then you might

benefit from standing up and walking frequently throughout the day.

You can make this your default option by drinking water constantly so that you are forced to get up to go to the bathroom.

The

two biggest facets of environmental change are reducing clutter and

distractions and optimizing choices based on the default effect.

If

you reduce distractions from your environment, you’ll clear your mind,

which in turn increases focus, efficiency, and productivity.

Furthermore,

you can use your dopamine reward system to your advantage by

reinforcing your own good habits with positive rewards, while also

cutting back on mindless pursuits of small pleasures.

Finally, you can make it so the path with the least effort leads to the choices you desire and benefit from.

These tactics all help you avoid actually using—and depleting—discipline so you can save it for your bigger daily challenges.

After all, why exercise willpower when you don’t need to if you can plan around it?

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