As someone who mostly works from home, with infinite freedom to do as I choose, I often find my thoughts going to things I must do, could do, should do to be more disciplined.

Being self-disciplined is a life skill for everyone, critical for ambitious people and it’s a life-line for the self-employed.

With substandard self-discipline you let time and productivity leak like a bullet-riddled water pipe, you get pulled in a dozen directions before you realise it’s too late in the day to really get started on something, and you never fully experience your full potential.

If your to-do list or calendar is the structure to your day, self-discipline is the structure to your mind and decision making.

Here’s what I’ve learned about creating strong self-discipline:

Forced self-discipline is unsustainable. If you have to ‘get angry’ with yourself and force deadlines or try to draw out superhuman self-discipline to stay on track, you might bursts of productivity but it’s highly unlikely it will last.

Strengthening your sense of honour and integrity is better. Rather than using negative emotions (e.g. anger, frustration) as fuel to your day, work on developing your personal sense of honour for living up to your commitments, your integrity for keeping promises and pride in delivering your best work. These are the fundamentals of your reputation making it even more important to develop to a high level.

Speaking of commitments, commit to less. Specifically, I mean stop making unnecessary time-bound commitments that paint you into a corner and inevitably set you up to fail on your promises. Save your firm commitments for those things that need it and you’ll have more energy and focus to really get it done when it matters most.

Take notice of what you’re valuing more. Sometimes our behaviour and how we operate each day get out of alignment to what we say or think we value. What does your regular behaviour show? Are you more committed to reacting to emails, updating social media, reading random blogs or organising your files than you are to your clients, partners, personal health or growing your business? Get brutally honest on what you need to start valuing more in your behaviour and take pride in acting that way more consistently.

Relate to a higher purpose. It’s easy to get lost in the daily grind of everything that is going on in your life. But when you can reconnect to the reason you created your projects or wanted to be involved in something and can link that to part of your self-growth or contribution to a higher purpose, you bring more positive energy to it. This causes you to rise above any tedious or uninteresting parts in the knowing that the big picture is worth it.

Focus on one area at a time. Self-discipline is a muscle that works across all areas of your life. If you want to get better, make the commitment to yourself to get better in just one area to begin with. It could be getting out of bed without the snooze alarm, or exercising regularly, or calling your mother back within 2 days. Whatever works for you but pick just one area and you’re likely to stick with it. Plus you’ll have the confidence that your self-discipline muscle is stronger for the next challenge.

There is no magic bullet to building self-discipline but EVERYONE can become incredibly disciplined if there is suitable desire and self awareness to see it through.

What would you like to be more self-disciplined about? Let us know and we’ll address that specific challenge in an upcoming podcast or blog. We’d love to hear from you!