You may read about those people who have built self-discipline. They get up at 5 am, meditate and plan their day, run for 6 miles, and then drink a kale and protein smoothie for breakfast. They do all of this before going to work at their startup, which they hope to take public next month. They never waste time, and their accomplishments are astonishing.
Yet, here you sit, surfing the internet, reading online politics, playing candy crush, and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream straight out of the container.
Is this the life you really want to live? Or, are you searching for a life in which you will accomplish your goals and dreams, no matter what they are?
If this is your goal, the key to success in achieving your goals and plans both in your professional and personal life is to become a more self-disciplined person.
How can you build the kind of self-discipline that other people have? Discipline is critical to career success, so are there tricks to help you become more self-disciplined? There are. Here are eight ways to help yourself become more self-disciplined than you are now.
- Start Small
You don’t need to wake up as a completely different person. As a cultural event, people tend to make resolutions on New Year’s Day: They say, this year will be different. Well, you can make this year different, but you don’t need to change everything at once. For best results, pick just one thing.
Otherwise, you’ll tend to overwhelm yourself with too many changes to make at once.
This defeats your intention of becoming a more self-disciplined person.
- Identify What You Want to Do Differently
Do you even like kale smoothies? Do you want to? While drinking one may seem like the noble, healthy thing to do, it’s not likely to make you a better person. It may make you an insufferable jerk, though, if you are only doing it to show how awesome you are.
If you’re focusing on health, pick something that is practical and that will make a real difference in your life. That could be going to the gym, walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator or limiting the ice cream you eat.
If you want to make your career different and more successful, ask what would make a difference. Take a look at the performance of people who have the job you want. What do they do differently than you? Do they arrive early? Stay late? Work from home? Dress up, even though the dress code is casual? Do they respond to all emails within an hour? Figure out the characteristics that you are missing, pick an important one and build on that.
- Remember You Are an Adult
Adults don’t sit around and wait until someone tells them what to do; they just do it. That may mean giving up some of your downtimes at work, but disciplined people are the ones who succeed, and disciplined means that you keep going even when you’d rather not.
Again, you can start small. If you normally sit at your desk and play on your phone until your manager comes by and gives you a new task, set your phone time for 5 minutes. Then, when the alarm goes off, go find your manager and ask for something new to do.
The timer will help remind you that you are on the clock even if you don’t have a task at hand.
Better? Work with your manager to establish such clarity about your goals and the expectations about your contributions in your job that you never have to ask your manager what to do. You just move on to the next task. (Perhaps you may never play on your phone at all. It’s conceivable.)
- Make a List
Part of self-discipline is knowing what you need to do and then doing it. When you’re not used to behaving in a disciplined manner, you will sometimes struggle to come up with your next activity. Start your day with a list of tasks that you need to accomplish.
You can make the tasks work-related or plan part of your day for personal items. Everything from emails to laundry to stopping at the grocery store can go on the list.
Checking the items off the list can help you towards developing self-discipline.
- Make Choices in Advance
If your goal is to pay attention in meetings, choose to leave your phone at your desk. Don’t even put it in your pocket. You can’t play with it if it’s not there. If you want to become more self-disciplined about food, ask the waitress to box up half your meal before she puts it in front of you or choose to always eat just half of the sandwich.
If you want to get on top of your emails, decide how many emails you’ll respond to before doing something else, whether it is 5, 10, or all of them. Just decide before the situation presents itself and you’ll find it a lot easier to remain steadfast in the face of temptation.
- Make Use of Technology
Technology makes people flighty—they can always check Facebook or Twitter or reblog something on Tumblr, not to mention playing games and texting friends. But there are also technological tools that can help you build self-discipline.
One such tool is ZenZone, a brain fitness trainer app that will help you achieve your goals in self-discipline training. Another is Coach.me which helps you form a new habit with their habit tracking app.
Additionally, you can set timers that limit the amount of time you spend playing a game, or on your favorite time-wasting website. Take advantage of these tools. You can use one that tracks your time to give you an idea of how you spend your time and then work from there to lower the number of hours you spend wasting time.
If your goal is a fit lifestyle with a healthy weight, regular exercise, serious walking, and a restful sleep each night, trackers exist to help you. Fitbit, for example, helps you track all of this. While you need to record some of the data, Fitbit connects with other devices to automatically capture, as one example of its capabilities, your weight from a synchronized scale.
- Recognize Your Limited Temptation Capabilities
If a self-disciplined life was easy, everyone would practice self-discipline. But, it’s not. However, did you know that every temptation you avoid improves your ability to avoid the next temptation? So, for example, when you make decisions in advance, you reduce your temptations. This also holds true for decisions in your personal life.
If you want to stay sober and professional at the office holiday party, decide in advance that you will strictly limit your intake of alcohol. If you want to eat healthily, go grocery shopping when you’re full and don’t buy bags of candy.
If you want to arrive on time for work, go to bed earlier so that you have time to get up and get out the door without feeling pressed for time. If you know that the drive to work varies between twenty minutes and a half hour, always leave expecting to spend thirty minutes on the road.
Figure out a way to make the things you struggle with less available. This will lower the number of times you are tempted to do something that hurts your self-discipline. This will also save your strength for unexpected temptations. For instance, if snacking on salty carbs is a disaster for your diet, don’t buy the potato chips. Keep only healthier carbs such as SmartFood popcorn items in your pantry.
If you know that you will have a difficult time talking with your boss about a particular topic without rolling your eyes and saying something inappropriate back, plan what you’re going to say in advance. Then, schedule the discussion for the beginning of the day when you have the most stamina against temptation.
- Remember That Failure Is Always Part of Succeeding
Many people want to become self-disciplined and then they make a mistake in their hoped-for routine on day two and give up. You will not make yourself perfectly disciplined overnight, so expect some failure to happen along the way. But, if you plan for it, and understand that you will fail from time to time. one mistake won’t derail your whole plan on your way to success.
At the same time, when you experience success, you need to celebrate. You accomplished all of the five goals that you had set for yourself this week. Reward yourself and celebrate in a way that won’t undermine your success. (Eating healthily? No food rewards.)
Say that your goal is to gain new clients for your business. A bad reward would be to take three days off from prospecting. A good reward might entail lunch at a fancy restaurant with a friend.
Building self-discipline can help in all areas of your life. If you’re ready to get started, pick one area and get going. Don’t worry about perfection in all areas at once, and don’t worry about failure, just worry about becoming better today than you were last week. Gradually, you’ll become disciplined in that one area and then you can move on to the next.