I’ve realized something rather unflattering about myself recently.
You see, I spent a lot of my 20s getting things done:
- I completed my college degree in three-and-a-half years, while working full time.
- At one point I was taking 30 credits at once during two overlapping semesters.
- I got my real estate license during that time (before I realized I was an introvert, ha!).
- After that, I started and ran a successful home daycare (see previous note about being an introvert…).
- Then I launched a transcription career, followed by a VA business, and then a blogging career, becoming the primary breadwinner in our family.
- I built a successful business while homeschooling our four girls.
(Hang with me here — I’m telling you this to make a point, not to brag on myself!)
Obviously I’m extremely disciplined, right?
What I’ve realized over the last year — in part due to my battle with exhaustion — is that I’m naturally motivated (okay…really, really motivated), but that when my motivation wanes, I’m downright lazy.
Motivation is good, and I think discovering what motivates us, what we’re passionate about and how to grow our internal motivation are all really good things. But at the end of the day, I want to be disciplined as well. I want to do the hard things even when I don’t feel like it. I want to spend my time either being productive or intentionally relaxing, not just zoning out on Facebook because I don’t feel like working.
For the rest of the summer, I’ll be focusing on developing discipline. While I have certain habits I want to start or break, I really just want to develop discipline in general. I want to practice consciously making the decision to do something that needs to be done, even when I don’t feel like it (like making a healthy dinner!) and having a plan for my time rather than just doing whatever I feel like doing.
To start, I’m rereading Crystal’s 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life series, which is both inspiring and practical.
Here are some other tips for developing discipline in your life:
1. Track your time.
My first wake up call really came from tracking how my time is spent each day. I started using TimeLogger on my iPhone to keep track of what I was doing each day, and it didn’t take very long for it to become clear that I was wasting a lot of time. If you prefer pen and paper, here’s a printable time tracker as well.
The great part about this exercise is that you’re not only gathering data to evaluate how you spend your time, but just the act of tracking your time makes you more conscious of the decisions you make. That by itself can inspire you to choose differently.
2. Use a timer.
You’ve probably heard this tip before, and for good reason: When you don’t feel like doing something on your to-do list, get motivated by setting a timer to do “just” 15 minutes. You may find yourself engrossed in the project at the end of the 15 minutes and motivated to continue.
On the other hand, you can also use a timer to set limits on the amount of time you spend relaxing or procrastinating. Give yourself 15 minutes to check in on Facebook and Twitter and then get back to the important things on your to-do list.
3. Remove distractions.
When my to-do list is long and my schedule is busy, I have to avoid starting any new books. I know that once I get into a story, it’s hard for me to set it aside to focus on the really important stuff, so I avoid starting it at all. Your distraction may be TV, social media or…your kids. You obviously can’t get rid of the kids, but you can take steps to avoid the temptation of the other distractions by unplugging the computer or TV or installing a program like Monotask to help you stay on track.
4. Make concrete to-do lists.
For a long time, I’ve worked off a long to-do list, picking and choosing what to work on each day. And for most of that time, that approach has worked pretty well! In an attempt to develop better discipline, though, I’m now assigning specific activities to specific days. That means being realistic about how much I can get done in a day, and it also means choosing to work on something even when I don’t feel like it.
(By the way, I still think productive procrastination is a valid approach to getting more done; I just feel like I need to focus more on discipline at this point in my life!)
5. Just do it.
The thing about discipline is that all of the tricks and ideas in the world won’t make you more disciplined unless you make the decision to just do what needs to be done.
When it’s time to do something that you need to do and you have that moment’s hesitation, you simply have to choose to do it anyway. There’s no secret trick that makes that first time any easier, but each time you say yes to doing what needs to be done instead of to your own procrastination and laziness, it builds a foundation for a more disciplined life.
6. Try, try again.
Chances are that even once you make the decision to “just do it”, you’re still going to choose laziness sometimes. Expecting perfection from yourself will just lead to discouragement and the desire to give up. Don’t make excuses for yourself, but acknowledge that taking two steps forward and one step back is still forward progress.
When you miss a chance to practice discipline, consider it an opportunity to pick yourself back up and try again!
Do you consider yourself motivated or disciplined? Have you struggled with being disciplined this summer?