No matter how skilled an individual or team is, having the self-discipline to execute on projects and ideas is the single most important skill needed in today's business environment. An individual or team with average talent and skill can outcompete a more talented team if they have mastered the art of discipline.
Self-discipline operates much like a muscle; it can get stronger over time if trained properly. To help your self-discipline muscle get stronger, here are 6 tips and strategies:
1. Plan what you will be disciplined about.
You don't have to exercise self-discipline with everything, just the important things. Be critical of your to-do list. Before you embark on a project or task ask yourself if you should do the task at all. Make sure your activities are connected to your goals. If you are like me, your life is full of time and energy wasted on projects and tasks that should never have been started in the first place.
2. Start the day with self-discipline.
Recent research indicates that when you start your day with an act of self-discipline, you are preparing your mind to be more disciplined throughout the day. Think about small acts of discipline like exercising before work, packingyour lunch, or arriving at work early. Choose something that does not take a lot of time, but you feel good about doing it. Do it every single day. This will help you build up positive momentum for self-discipline in other aspects of your life.
3. Create a system.
Take a systematic approach to the things you need to be disciplined about. Create a system that keeps your projects top of mind and has a built in daily and weekly check-in. This system should also outline your accomplishment criteria with a calendar and timeline for completion. Not only can a well thought out system help you get more done it can also protect you from overwhelm and help you manage your self-discipline muscle.
4. Eliminate distractions and temptations.
The fiercest enemies of self-discipline are distractions and temptations. Even when you've worked up your self-discipline to become more productive and efficient, one small distraction can throw your day off track. Whether it's a phone call from a friend, a funny article online, or the lure of an unhealthy habit, it's best to eliminate these distractions. If it's your phone that's distracting you, for example, consider turning it off or placing it out of view while you finish working.
5. Avoid needless decision-making.
Throughout our lives, each decision we make requires consideration and energy. The problem is that our lives are full of superfluous decisions, like what to wear, what to make for dinner, or what to do for the evening. The more time we spend on these decisions, the more it wears down our executive function. And as a result, it's harder to dedicate willpower to the things that really matter. Set boundaries for yourself and plan ahead of time so you don't waste time and energy deciding in the moment.
6. Do the hard stuff early in the day.
Discipline yourself to do the hard stuff first! The main reason you should do the hard stuff first is that it will weigh on your mind and drain your energy anyway, so you may as well do it right away so you can enjoy the rest of your day. My goal is to have completed the hard stuff for the day by 11am.
Please add to the conversation—comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.