Quick Tips–Boosting Self-Control

In the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel began studying self-control in children. In a series of experiments that became famously known as the “marshmallow test,” Mischel examined the skills and situations that could make squirmy kids hold off on eating one treat (sometimes a marshmallow) in anticipation of a double treat a little later.

Mischel’s new book, The Marshmallow Test, is filled with ideas on “mastering self-control.” I’ve just started reading it and I’ve already come upon one quick tip you can use to help yourself avoid temptations and distractions so you can study.

I love quick and effective strategies for reaching your goals, and Mischel’s explanation of “If-Then implementation plans” is elegant and powerful. All you need to do is plan ahead, and you’ll increase your self-control in the face of temptation. Make a plan. Tell yourself, for example, “At 5:00, I’ll start writing my paper.” Or “If my phone rings, I will ignore it.” Or, “If I get hungry I’m going to finish my chapter before hitting the kitchen.”

The key is to make the if-then plan before you face the temptation, and practice it until it becomes an instinct.

So simple, and yet it helps. Mischel explains the science behind the strategy and it’s a great read, but you don’t need to know why it works to use the trick to your advantage. Good luck! I’ll bring you more from Mischel soon.

Quick Fixes for Conciseness (Examples)

One of my recent posts introduced the concept of writing “concisely,” meaning eliminating unnecessary words.

Here are a few more examples.

1] Not concise (some people say “wordy”):  this research sheds some light on

Quick fix:  this research illuminates

The word “illuminates” is powerful and precise and replaces the four words “sheds some light on.”

2] Not concise:   she researches various types of categories of minerals

Quick fix:  she researches categories of minerals

The words “various types of” add no additional meaning to “categories” and so should be deleted.

3] Not concise:  they sat in a circular formation

Quick fix:  they sat in a circle

Isn’t a “circular formation” just a “circle”?

4] Not concise:  the paper puts the emphasis on

Quick fix:  the paper emphasizes

Same meaning, 50% fewer words.

If you have interesting examples of ways you’ve made your own writing more concise, please share them as a comment!