Pacing Your Use of Your Self Control Resources and Task Related Avoidant Coping

One psychological model of self control is that it’s like a “mental muscle”.

According to the model, self control

– is “a limited resource” that gets depleted and functions less well after already used (in other words, if you’re using self control all the time you’ll exhaust yourself and fail)

– within limits, the capacity of the muscle can be increased through exercising it in a way that builds it up.

Here’s a strategy for overcoming task-related avoidant coping that utilizes the above model.

Pick a task you’ve been avoiding.

Pick something where continuing to avoid the behaviour will cause you future stress, anxiety or problems, and continuing to avoid the behaviour is inconsistent with your personal values.

If you can realistically complete the task in 30 minutes, just do it!

Otherwise try this.

7 Day Plan

Day 1: Work on it for 15 minutes right now.

Day 2: day off

Day 3: work on it for 30 minutes.

Day 4: day off

Day 5: work on it 1 hour.

Day 6: day off

Day 7: work on it 2 hours.

20 Day Plan (for if you need more days):

Day 8: day off

Day 9: work on it for 15 minutes.

Day 10: work on it 30 minutes.

Day 11: work on it 1 hour.

Day 12: work on it 2 hours.

Day 13: day off

Day 14: work on it 30 minutes (omit the 15 minute level at this point)

Day 15: 1 hour.

Day 16: 2 hours.

Day 17: day off

Day 18: 30 minutes

Day 19: 1 hour

Day 20: 2 hours.

This procedure is just intended as an idea.

As regular readers will know, I am enamored with the Couch to 5 K program (time version) for jogging. I love how the pacing of that program works. You build stamina slowly but you also cycle back to the easier levels of the program. This is done in a way that levels that seemed hard initially later seem like resting.

In coming up with this idea for tackling task-related avoidant coping, I tried to replicate those aspects of Couch to 5K.

Don’t expect to be good at the task initially

If you’ve been sitting on a problem keeping it warm for a long time, when you start non-avoidant coping, don’t expect to be good at the task from the outset.