Embracing Self-Discipline In Your Life
As an entrepreneur, I know you have a long list of projects and tasks and things that need to get done and that are important for your small business. As a small business owner myself, I also know how every item on that list can haunt us and many times we feel it will never get done. #beenthere The truth is we need a lot of self-discipline to get things done.
If you have come to the place of admitting you could improve your self-discipline and you’re determined to overcome the excuses you created, celebrate this step. Achieving even the minor milestones we set to ourselves is rewarding and motivates us to keep working on our goals.
To help you review your mindset and habits, I compiled a list of ideas to help you boost your daily productivity and achieve your goals. Maybe the won’t all resonate with you but if you can identify at least one idea that you could work on and implement to help you become more productive, then go for it.
1. Avoid The Perfectionist Trap
You finally finish that project, but when you start proofing it or testing it, you think of one more way it can be improved. Then you think of another. Then you research another. Before you know it, you’ve practically rewritten or redesigned the beast and you’re scrambling to meet deadlines (your own, or client-driven ones.) Perfectionism is a trap that makes you feel good about yourself and creates space for procrastination.
Learn to step back and say “STOP! This is done” by deciding in advance to do so. (It’s easier than you think.)
2. Don’t Punish Yourself For Success
If you finish a project early, resist the urge to immediately fill it with another one. That’s like punishing yourself for being super-efficient and leads to stress and burnout – no matter how keen you are on your business.
Instead, reward yourself with a well-earned dose of self-care. Read a book. Watch a movie. Sit in the garden for the afternoon. Go see your horse. Get your hair done. Learn to just be and not get busy.
3. Learn To Switch Off
It’s a proven fact that the most burned-out people are those whose mind is always on their business. That’s a paradox for most entrepreneurs, but talk to any top, seven-figure entrepreneur and you’ll find that ninety-nine percent of this elite category have no trouble shutting the office door at a certain point every day.
And running on empty won’t make you more efficient. It will just undermine the quality of your work and increase stress.
Having a physical activity, a hobby or just creating time to go for a walk will help you clear your mind and replenish your spirit for what’s next.
4. Don’t Schedule Every Last Minute
Many entrepreneurs plan just enough time to complete a project before starting the next one. This is planning for perfection, also known as ‘planning for stress’. What happens in real life is that something always comes up. You get a call from the school to come to pick up your sick child. You’re knocked out by a migraine. Even minor distractions, such as your dog having an accident on the carpet or a phone call you weren’t expecting can throw off your perfect, to-the-minute schedule.
Plus. if you’re seeing clients, you know the importance of decompressing even just for ten minutes to properly prepare you for the next client – but in addition to time for making notes, be sure to build in time for going to the washroom or getting a fresh glass of water or just getting out of your seat and stretching.
5. Remember The 80/20 Rule
If you’re not familiar with it, this is commonly known as the Pareto Principle. Namely, that business people spend eighty percent of their time on trivial tasks and twenty percent on truly vital ones.
Start keeping track of where you are spending your time to understand where your attention is going. Two or three days will give you an idea of what you are doing and for how long.
Keep the truly vital ones, and discard, delegate, automate or outsource the rest. Getting into the habit of doing this will revitalize your business and your life.
6. Watch Out For Downtime Anxiety
The sad fact about entrepreneurs is that the more we do, the more we feel compelled to do. We start to feel anxious or guilty if we find ourselves with downtime … so we fill it in.
Stop. That’s just another way of punishing yourself for success.
7. Procrastination Is An Indicator, Not a Sin
If you find yourself always procrastinating before starting a specific task or activity, treat it as a friend. Don’t beat yourself up with a bunch of ‘should’ self-reproaches. Procrastination is a clue that something isn’t working for you. Either it needs to be dropped, delegated, automated or outsourced, or you are feeling intimidated and need to give yourself a pep talk and Just Do It.
In either case, take the time to identify what’s causing you to procrastinate, and you’ll be able to apply the right solution without shame or blame … or further procrastination.
8. Realize That Self-Discipline Needs Practice
You won’t just suddenly wake up one day, able to be perfectly self-disciplined, any more than a non-musician can wake up one day and be a violin virtuoso. Like any other skill, it needs practice. But keep practicing, and that day will come!
9. If Something Isn’t Working, Check The Time of Day
Here’s a common scenario. The experts tell you to get your most hated task over with first thing in the morning. The result? You end up procrastinating on Facebook.
If this consistently happens to you, try throwing that rule out, and doing the task at a different time of day. (Maybe you need to get one successful task over with, before tackling the dreary one, as a confidence boost.)
Take the time to find the right time of day to tackle the joy killers … or outsource them!
10. Don’t Schedule Your Most Hated Task For The End of the Day
If you’ve ever done this, you probably already know what happens. That’s right: You end up putting it off for “first thing in the morning”. Then, the next day, it’s hanging over your head all day, because that day’s tasks eat up all your time and, having put it off once, it’s easier to put it off again.
Also, if you habitually put off your most hated task for the end of the day, consider that you might be addicted to the guilty pleasure of assigning it to “first thing in the morning”. (This can feel like a real luxury, if you’ve completed everything else.)
Simply rescheduling it to another point in your day should put a stop to that self-destructive tendency.
11. Realize That Perpetual Busy-ness Is Another Type of Procrastination
Are you doing this? A simple way to tell: Does the task you fear most not get done, or get done late because you’re busy being busy?
If so, stop telling yourself that you’re the opposite of a procrastinator. You’re not.
13. Don’t Skip Meals
When you’re busy, the temptation is to skip breakfast or lunch and just barrel through. Not only is this bad for you emotionally, but it’s also a strain on your system and brain cells. Not eating causes blood sugar fluctuations and that can lead to anything from feeling tired, being impatient with a prospective client on a phone call to making mistakes.
Taking time for a scheduled meal is another way to boost your self-esteem. You’re telling yourself that you matter; that you are as important as your clients.
14. Try The Kick-Start Method
You tell yourself that you do your best work if you sit down and get to it without eating first in the morning: However, realize that you’ll pay for the burst of emotional energy this gives you, later in the day.
Avoid the crash by using it as a kick-start method; not as a way of life. Set your timer for no more than an hour (twenty-five minutes is ideal), start your task or activity; then when the timer goes off, go eat breakfast. Away from your desk.
Do this for a week, and you’ll probably find you get the best of both worlds: that morale boost in the morning plus sustained energy over the day. #winwin
15. Time Meal Breaks
If you find that meal breaks derail you, and you end up spending two hours and forty minutes for lunch, try:
- Moving away from the computer (and distractions like Facebook) when you eat
- Setting your timer for meal breaks too
I used to either spend a lot of time on my lunch breaks or eat at my desk, not having a meal break at all. By limiting my break to 30 minutes, at the kitchen table, followed by a quick walk to clear my mind has been very healthy and helpful to me.
16. Find The Hidden Time
Ever wish there were more hours in a day? Well, there usually are. Get up an hour earlier in the morning and fit in those things you usually never have time for. Work for an hour on writing the book you keep telling everyone you’re working on. Take the dog for a walk. Go for a jog. Take time for a really healthy, relaxed breakfast. Meditate. Get the Hated Task done before you ever start work.
Gaining that priceless extra hour can make a real difference to your business … and your life.
17. Cultivate Self-Honesty
The next time you tell yourself or someone else that you’re “too busy” to do something, try changing that message to yourself or to others. Try saying “I don’t want to…” or, “It’s not important”, instead of “I’m too busy”. (“It’s not important for me to meet with my top client” will give you quite a different feeling than of the old thinking “it’s not important for me to (fill in the blank)”.)
Speaking your truth helps strip away excuses or evasions. You can instantly see when you need a dose of self-discipline when you need to delegate or hand someone their own task back to them … or when you’re just plain avoiding something you really do need to do.
18. Take The Time to Prepare
Every night, to this day, I check with the boys that their backpacks are ready for school. The same goes to my calendar and to-do list for the next day.
If you want to start your days right and hit the ground running, take the time to look over it the night before.
Is there anything you missed? Have you scheduled enough time for Activity A? Do you need to prepare anything in advance for that client call? Are there any other important tasks you failed to include?
Don’t use this as another way to procrastinate. A five minutes check-in is all it should take to boost your productivity to new heights.
19. Start With One New Habit
People nowadays suffer from a compulsion to tackle too much. The result? They soon lapse, overwhelmed by all they are trying to accomplish.
Don’t try to change too much, too fast. Start by changing one old habit that doesn’t help you anymore, and don’t move on to the next until you’re getting used to your new, positive habit.
20. Take Feelings Out Of The Equation
If you are one of those who habitually waits until you feel like doing a task, understand that you don’t have to be enslaved by that habit anymore. (Plus, if you wait for your feelings to change about a task you don’t like or find hard, you’ll wait till the cows come home.)
If you find yourself saying things like, “I’m too depressed to work” or “I’m too tired to tackle this”, don’t be a slave to those emotions and thoughts. Do it anyway.
21. Find Your Motivation
Many parts of my work are not that attractive to me but understanding they are necessary for me to fulfill my mission of supporting families to live a better life through organizing helps me stay focused on my “why” and do what needs to get done.
Whether you are a stay-home mother or a working mom, a single person working full time, I believe that in one way or another you are giving a contribution to the world through your work.
Understanding why you do what you do helps you find your motivation to do just about anything.
Self-Discipline Creates True Confidence
Those who successfully transform bad, old habits into proactive ones quickly find out that their confidence increases exponentially.
That confidence will reflect in your interactions with clients and other members of your business community. It will sharpen your focus and teach others they can trust you because you always do what you promise and get things done.
Self-discipline is only hard if you keep telling yourself it is. Find your motivations, remove distraction and see how much joy that adds to life.
In the end, self-discipline brings its own, priceless rewards.