Lately it seems that I’m always trying to do at least 10 things at once, and let me tell you, my ADD thinks it’s in heaven. However, the rational part of me watches the attention-deficient part of me and just shakes her head. I know I need to work on my self-discipline, because without it, nothing gets done. Or else what does get done takes ten times longer than it should.
So instead of letting my wandering self have free reign, I’ve really been working on following through and getting one task done before moving on to the next.
What I’ve found so far is two things:
1. Trying to improve your sense of self-discipline is hard work!
2. It’s something that you have to do on your own, because no amount of outside influence, no matter how well intentioned, is going to work to calm your mind enough for you to focus.
What I have found is that there are a few things that really help, and if you can master these (or at least work at mastering them) then you have a decent chance of becoming more self-disciplined.
Here are my top five “secrets” of self-discipline that you can use to help you focus on following through and getting things done:
1. Train yourself to focus.
Big surprise, eh? The first secret to self-discipline is learning how to focus. Here’s why…
Following through requires you to achieve a goal. You have to work at the plan until the goal gets met. When you reach your goal, you have followed through, and in order to do that you have to be disciplined enough to keep the goal in the top of your mind at all times until you meet it.
How can you do this?
Vision boards help. Make yourself a vision board with the outcome you want on it. Keep it somewhere you can look at it often. Either by your desk, or even make it into a screen saver so every time you walk away from your computer you are reminded what you’re working for.
A second thing you can do is use post-it notes and write down your goals on them. Tack them up in your field of vision — mine are on all along the bottom of my wall calendar — and use them to remind yourself what’s at stake and why you need to stay focused.
2. Use “SMART” goals to set up your success.
This is not really a secret either. Every self-improvement program going tells you to start with “SMART” goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
When you’re trying to become more disciplined to follow through, specific measurable, and attainable are the most important attributes because these are the three that will speak to your focus.
Since my mind wanders most when I’m writing, we’ll use that as an example. Instead of saying “I’ll write a few blog posts today” in order to stay focused and actually get them done, I need to learn to say “I will write 5 blog posts today.” That’s specific, measurable, and attainable — well, it’s attainable as long as I can keep my butt in the chair! It’s also relevant because producing a newsletter and a blog depends on my ability to write new content, and it’s timely because there is a deadline — by the end of today.
Keeping all that in mind when I set the goal first thing in the morning to write five blog posts that day helps me stay focused and sitting still in order to achieve it.
3. Keep records of your progress (or lack thereof).
I’ve never been a big one for timelines, but I know they help. I’m more of a list person, and I keep lists of what I need to do during the course of a day and what I actually get done.
Keeping a journal of your progress helps you know where you were successful, and also where you got sidetracked. Of the two, I think knowing where you get sidetracked is the more important because then you can take steps to improve your focus around the areas where you are having difficulty.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep track of when you do get things done. You should always find a way to celebrate your achievements, especially when you’ve accomplished something you usually struggle with.
4. Spend time around other focused people.
But not when you’re supposed to be working!
When you’re not working, however, find ways to meet people who are successful at being self-disciplined and focused and see if you can’t pick up some tips from them.
Online forums and Facebook groups are a great place to meet successful people and get to know them. I can tell you from experience, that when I started hanging out with successful women in a Facebook group, my work habits and my life turned around.
What I’ve found is that people are only too happy to help others achieve success, as long as you’re sincere about it and willing to put in the work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and interact. You will not only meet some pretty awesome people, you’ll also find that your life opens up in some pretty amazing ways, not the least of which is you will become more focused because you want to keep up with your new friends.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Because you will. It’s only natural, and one of the best ways to improve at something is to have to work at it. The thing to remember is that you only truly fail when you stop trying, so as long as you get back up and try again then it’s a lesson, and you’ll get it right next time.
Improving self-discipline and focus is a process, and it won’t happen overnight no matter how badly you want it to. Take small steps every day, and when you stumble just start over again.
So there you have it, my five secrets to improving your self-discipline. Put them to work for you, and soon you’ll be able to stay focused on following through and achieving every goal you set for yourself.