How to Improve Self-Discipline
Brian Tracy has written 80 self-help books with a core interest in self-discipline. He distills his advice on that in a video: 5 Hacks to Improve Self-Discipline This Year.
Here are those five tips, plus my own yes-ands and yes-buts.
1. Try time-blocking.
“Set aside 15 minutes a day to work on your goal. Treat it as any appointment and show up on time…. After one month, you’ll have spent seven hours on your goal.”
The question is, how can you motivate yourself to do it and stay with it? Might it help to write it in your daily calendar, say for just two days? That’s not much of a commitment, yet perhaps enough time to help you decide whether it’s worth calendaring for at least one more day.
Or if your goal doesn’t feel compelling enough to do even that, maybe you need a different goal. Perhaps something bigger, like a change-the-world goal? Or something smaller and more surely doable, like cleaning your home 15 minutes at a time, so you can feel better about yourself, thereby be more likely to accomplish other things, or so you feel OK about inviting someone over.
2. Get an accountability partner.
“Someone who will check in with you periodically, and you can check in with them to help them with their goal. Many of us find it easier to let ourselves down than to let someone else down.”
But what if you don’t have a viable such partner? People often feel that way because they’d be embarrassed to ask that person. Might you not feel embarrassed if you frame it as, “We all like to grow, and I believe in co-mentoring. Because I respect you, what do you think of our trying a half-hour conversation in which we discuss an issue of yours, and then we discuss mine?” Here’s more on co-coaching.
Still don’t feel like asking someone? Then do you want to try sharing your goal with your social media followers? Just make yourself honestly report your progress or lack thereof.
3. Remove temptation.
“Remove what will challenge your focus. If you’re trying to lose weight, remove unhealthy foods from your home. If you’re trying to cut spending, set aside a budget and put the rest in savings.”
That can help, but might you more likely keep from buying that ice cream or spending beyond your budget if you create a mantra that reminds you of the number-one reason you want to achieve your goal? If it’s weight loss, is it for your health, attractiveness, or to feel more comfortable in your clothes? If it’s spending less, is it to avoid poverty, so you can live consistent with your professed environmentalist/non-materialistic values, or to stop your spouse from guilt-tripping you for overspending? If you want to stop your substance abuse, is it mainly to help your health, relationships, or work life? Try saying your mantra three times in the morning, at lunch, and before you go to bed.
4. Have an aim, a purpose.
That needn’t be something earth-shaking—For you, that may not feel realistic. My typical client doesn’t want to change the world but would be happy living in a decent home with a decent job, raising kids well, giving a little money or time to charity, and having some fun along the way.
So do you have one or more aims, large or small, that feel motivating enough for you to prioritize? If your goal is big, should you break it into baby steps? You might even draw a “thermometer” with the baby steps on the side, which you’d color it in each time you achieved one.
5. Eat that frog.
“Tackle your ugliest tasks first. If your start your day with that, the rest will seem easier.”
Here, I don’t agree. One size doesn’t fit all. Morning people who don’t have a lot of compelling other tasks to do might tackle their frogs first. But other people might save their frogs for later in the day when it feels right.
This article was written by Marty Nemko, Ph.D. who is a career and personal coach based in Oakland, California, and the author of 10 books.