You probably know the marshmallow test: ask little children of they would like to have one marshmallow now, or they will get a second one if they can go 15 minutes without eating the first one. A very difficult question for a small child!

For a long time there was this notion that this test could predict how successful children would be in later life. Kids who chose to eat the marshmallow straight away – short term – would be less successful than the kids who didn’t give in to the temptation. Later studies contradicted these presumptions.

The marshmallow tests tell us how we behave in certain circumstances but don’t show us how we can engage on a daily basis in activities we do not enjoy. Which strategy will help you to tackle these tasks you don’t want to do. Like analysing, working through transcripts, executing the next lab test, calculating statistic adaptions, making several phone calls to get enough inclusions….


There are quite a few strategies that could be helpful. A couple well known ones: make sure you are not distracted; change your environment; change the task; ask for help; monitor your progress; plan; suppress the impuls to stop; add something fun to the task.

Research has shown which four strategies works best to regulate your behaviour that allows you to persist and work on your averse activities.

  • Focus on positive consequences: ‘what is in it for me’ once you have completed the task?
  • Focus on negative consequences: what negative consequences will occur when you don’t perform the activity?
  • Thinking of the near finish
  • Regulate your emotions: change how you feel about the activity, try to change your emotions, try to have a good mood

What self-regularity strategies do you use?

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