Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Convenience is the death of discipline

It's been a while, but finals are over, and I can now reclaim my life! All I want to do is sleep in late, stay in my PJ's all day and order in, watch a movie and lie on the couch in my snuggie.

Sound familiar?

We have a penchant for comfort. We have been trained through positive reinforcement that comfort is a luxury. Spa days and do-nothing days are pure bliss; TV remotes and microwaves give us what we want, fast. So that becomes what we strive for. We want the most efficient washing machine and dryer, the fastest internet, TiVo to skip through commercials, etc.

In the midst of all this convenience, we have forgotten discipline.

If you truly want to maintain a high level of productivity, you must stay disciplined. If you truly want a healthy retirement fund, you must stay disciplined. If you truly want better health, you must stay disciplined.

You see, the problem with convenience is not convenience itself. No, it is the mindset that we slip into when we enjoy it. It is so easy to come home and sit on the couch and reach for a remote. The motivation I have to study dissipates after a few minutes of watching Glee. I start to relax, thinking that I "deserve" a break. As soon as the show is over, I still have no motivation to get back to work.

Discipline is counter-cultural and unexciting, but it helps maintain long-term goals when faced with short-run distractions.

The solution? Barriers. Set up barriers to block yourself from falling into the convenience trap. The TV can be so tempting after a 12 hour day, but if you've taken out the batteries of the remote and placed them on the opposite side of the house in a hard to get place, I guarantee that the extra effort used to find and replace the batteries of the remote will deter you from plopping down on the couch to watch your shows.

Note, however, that if you have planned a movie night, the extra effort will barely be a hindrance at all, because you have intentionally set the time aside. It becomes just another step in your list of preparations, along with cleaning the living room and making popcorn.

Now that spring break is upon us, it is so tempting to go to bed late and sleep in the next morning, but in order for me to maintain some semblance of productivity, I've scheduled myself for morning appointments the remainder of this week.

In the moment, discipline fails. With some preparation and strategically erected barriers, we won't need to rely on how motivated we "feel." We will have no choice but to perform at a high level.

Similarly, no matter how knowledgeable we are on financial matters, when we deposit our paycheck, we get this itch to spend. Now that we know there's money in our account, all of a sudden we start to notice things in store windows we were passing by earlier, and they're looking like they would fit perfectly into our lives. We know that short term gratification will keep us further from our long term goals, but we've worked a lot of hours this month and we "deserve" a little treat.

Solution? Automation, baby. Have your paycheck deposited into your savings account, schedule automatic bill payments and an automatic transfer of 15% (or however much) into your investment account, and then transfer a certain amount (play around with the percentages, keeping in mind how aggressively you want to reach your savings goals) into your checking account. This way, you can only spend the amount that you pre-set to transfer into your checking account. I guarantee you that your savings rates will go up.

By planning ahead of time, we can negate the short term temptations by blocking the enticing convenience aspect, which forces us to stay on target with our goals.

No comments:

Post a Comment