Aug 14, 2020

How to practice delayed gratification?


In my previous post, I spoke about the two obstacles we face as we pursue digital minimalism. I shared a few thoughts about one of the obstacles - seeking external validation.

In this post, let's talk about the second obstacle - "instant gratification". 

Instant gratification, in simple terms, is our expectation that we need to get what we want as and when we want it, at that very instant. The "WANTS" are not only materialistic by the way. They could be anything in this connected world - information, entertainment, recognition/appreciation, completion of work etc.

An email arrives, we open it immediately.

A WhatsApp group message arrives, we check it immediately.

We start reading a book, we share about it on social media right away.

As we seek more instant gratification, we lose our ability to stay patient and wait for things to happen. We avoid work that requires perseverance and patience. We get stuck in a world of busyness.

To give you an example, I have been meaning to write an e-book for the past 3 months. I could hardly make any progress on that front but I have been regularly writing here on my blog. Writing 600-700 word posts and clicking on "Publish" is much more gratifying than writing a 200-pager e-book. 

Think from your personal life - what are those projects or ideas that you have been putting off because they are complex, ambiguous and require a lot more effort? There are high chances that you might be choosing other less important tasks that are high in the instant gratification scale.

Social media is all about instant gratification. We learn a new skill for a couple of days and we immediately want to share on our social media handles. Our focus is not on practicing/mastering the skill, rather it gets shifted to flaunting our amateur efforts to the world. 

There are many such instances in our day-to-day life where we seek instant gratification and we end up avoiding work that requires real effort.

Here are a few ways by which we can practice delayed gratification. 

  • Be extremely mindful of your smartphone usage. Disable notifications. Avoid or reduce constant check-ins. 
  • Be mindful of your time on social media and the posts you share. Ask yourself why am I sharing this now.
    • If you are practicing a skill, say photography, would it be worthwhile to wait for a few days and then share the pictures on social media?
    • If you are doing a course, finish it completely before talking about it
    • If you are reading a book, finish it completely before talking about it
    • If you are a content writer, save the post as a draft, chew on the content a little more before publishing it
    • If you are into gardening, let the plants grow for 3-4 months before sharing the pics
  • Take up projects that require more time and effort to complete. For example, E-book over a blog post, Long-form content over short-form content
  • Avoid reaching for your smartphone/kindle/iPad/TV the moment you feel bored. Wait for at least 10 minutes.
  • Allocate a specific time to watch your favorite YouTube channels or read the newsletters you have subscribed to or blogs you like to read. Avoid jumping onto the new and shiny the moment a new video/newsletter/blog post arrives.
  • Identify at least 2-3 offline activities that you enjoy and pursue them for the sheer joy of it, without seeking external validation. If possible, avoid talking about it on social media. External validation feeds instant gratification.

I need to remind myself of this list, so I'm jotting them down for my personal reflection as I want to consciously practice delayed gratification in my day-to-day routine. The intention is not to advise or preach to anyone. If you feel you are succumbing to instant gratification and want to change, we are in this journey together.

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