Self-discipline is important if you want to be productive and successful. If you aren’t used to being self-disciplined, it can be nearly impossible to know where to start.
With so many self-discipline habits that need to develop, you may feel overwhelmed by your current inadequacies. Here are seven tips to help you improve your self-discipline (even if you don’t have any self-discipline habits in place yet).
1. Figure out your weaknesses and make plans to combat them.
A good place to start when you’re building self-discipline is to take an honest inventory of your current skills and weaknesses. When you know what your weaknesses are, you can make plans to combat them.
For example, if you know you have a habit of procrastination, you should set aside some time each day to take care of things you’d otherwise put off until the last minute.
By creating a specific time to deal with these things, you help break the cycle of procrastination. Although it might be scary, don’t be afraid to get feedback. Ask your family, friends, and coworkers about what self-discipline weaknesses they see in you.
A few years back, my husband told me that I have a bad habit of committing to things and failing to follow through. Even though I knew that was a weakness of mine, having someone else point it out to me made it a priority for me to fix.
If you ask someone for feedback, make sure you’re mentally prepared to handle whatever they have to say. Make a plan to overcome bad self-discipline habits.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
– Thomas A. Edison
2. Set SMART Goals for yourself.
It’s important to set goals for yourself. If you’re trying to improve your self-discipline, it helps to set goals that are SMART. The acronym SMART is used to describe goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
Instead of the vague goal to “be more disciplined,” you might create the goal “Set aside an hour a day over the next three months to tackle projects I’ve been procrastinating on.” You could even make it more specific by listing which projects, in particular, need your attention.
When you set goals, you give yourself an extra boost of motivation to get things done. If you want to motivate yourself, even more, share your goals with someone who will hold you accountable. When you have accountability, you’re more likely to meet your goals on time.
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”
– Bill Copeland
3. Don’t wait until you “feel like it.”
Don’t wait until the mood strikes before you work on things. If you wait until you feel like doing something, you may never get around to doing it.
One way to push yourself to jump into a task is to use the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro method has you set a timer for 25-minute intervals to get work done. Between each 25-minute work period, you get a 5-minute break. After four work sessions, you get a 15-minute break.
The Pomodoro method helps because it helps you overcome the concern that a task will take too long or be too hard. When you work with the Pomodoro method, you’re only committing to completing 25 minutes of work at a time.
By having regular breaks, you equip yourself for productivity.
“Don’t wait to be compelled to do great work.”
– Richie Norton
4. Tackle hard tasks first.
You can improve your self-discipline by doing the hardest tasks first. Instead of doing other tasks as a way to avoid difficult tasks, take the time at the beginning of your day to do your hardest task first.
That way, when you’re done with the task, you know that everything else you’ve planned for your day will be easier. If you regularly do your most difficult tasks at the beginning of each day, you’ll never have a long list of hard things you’ve been avoiding.
Have you ever dreaded making a phone call or running an errand, only to find that it took you less time to do than you spent worrying about it? All too often, we spend so much time dreading a task that we make it seem more difficult than it really is.
If you do these hardest tasks first thing each day, you’ll reduce the amount of dread you feel throughout the day.
5. Remove distractions.
One easy way to improve your self-discipline is to remove distractions from your work area. Turn off notifications on your phone for social media, gaming apps, and email.
If you’re trying to get something done, close extra tabs on your computer and resist the urge to read the news or engage in entertainment. If you can, create a space where you only work.
Try not to eat or enjoy hobbies in this space, but create it as a designated workspace. Create an environment that is free from distractions and that can help you get your work done. When you remove distractions, you won’t be working against yourself when you try to get work done.
Along the same vein, try not to work in your bedroom or on your bed. With so many jobs allowing work from home, it may be tempting to sit in bed while working. After all, our beds are often one of the most comfortable places in our home.
However, when you get into the habit of working in your bed, you make it harder to sleep in your bed at night. Not to mention working from bed makes afternoon naps even more tempting!
Some distractions cannot be removed. If you work in a shared space or in a space that has to serve multiple purposes, you may not be able to completely remove distractions.
When this is the case, create habits that will help give your brain signals that it’s time for you to get work done. You can do this by listening to certain music (like orchestra) while you work or by creating work-time rituals (like lighting a candle or getting a cup of coffee).
“Social media not only snatches your time, but it also teaches you attention deficiency.”
– Neeraj Agnihotri
6. Create and stick to a plan.
Creating and sticking to a plan might be one of the harder self-discipline tips on this list, but planning is so important to future success. Discipline yourself to regularly make plans for your day, your week, and your month.
It helps if you pick a certain time of day to make your plans. Some people benefit by spending their early morning time making a plan for the day. Others find that they’re better able to sleep at night when the next day’s plan is already laid out for them to wake up to the next morning.
It doesn’t matter what time you plan, but that you consistently make plans at the same time each day.
Once you’ve made a plan, stick to it. If you’ve set aside two hours in the morning to work on a particular project, you should stick with it. Even when you don’t feel like working on a particular task, it’s important that you follow your plan.
When you follow your plans, you rewire your brain and equip it to follow future plans. This can help you combat laziness, procrastination, indecision, and a whole host of other problems.
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”
– John F. Kennedy
7. Take care of your physical needs.
Taking care of your physical needs may not seem like a self-discipline tip. However, when you take the time to tend to your physical needs, you equip yourself to be productive and successful.
All of the mental efforts in the world won’t help you be productive if you aren’t sleeping, aren’t eating healthy meals, and aren’t engaging in regular physical activity.
If you’re trying to improve your self-discipline, discipline yourself to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Even on weekends, get up at the same time you’d get up for a regular workday.
For individuals prone to migraines and other stress-related ailments, a regular sleep schedule can be key to prevention. Make sure you’re eating healthy meals that give you energy. For example, if you feel sick after eating dairy, you should avoid it (especially when you need to be productive).
Be mindful of what foods make you feel good and which foods make you feel sluggish. When you eat as fuel, you’ll make better dietary decisions.
It’s also important to have some sort of physical activity. With more people working from home, it’s easy to neglect to get out and exercise. Build discipline in taking care of your body, and it will help you discipline yourself at work.
If you take medication or dietary supplements, make sure you’re taking them at the same time each day. Taking your medication as prescribed can make a significant impact on your ability to be self-disciplined.
Self-discipline can be hard, especially if you aren’t used to living a disciplined life. While these seven tips are not comprehensive, they can give you a starting point for developing your own self-discipline habits.
Even if you already have some self-discipline habits in place, these tips can help you sharpen your discipline habits.
If you haven’t been disciplined in the past, it’s important to forgive yourself and move on. If you dwell too much on your past failures, you won’t be able to move forward with a new, self-disciplined you.