October Learning & Development, Part 2: Making Discipline a Habit

Welcome back to the blog! I hope everyone is enjoying fall and taking some time to relax and embrace the spirit of the season, whether through going for a walk through the woods to observe the changing leaves or curling up on the sofa with a cup of coffee or tea and your favorite book, magazine, or podcast.

Picking up from last week’s theme, I wanted to share some additional tips for making discipline a habit.  Some of these may be familiar concepts to my regular readers–for example, accountability.  Accountability with a trusted friend, colleague, or family member can help with developing discipline.  Many people think self-discipline means doing it all on your own, but it does not mean that at all. In fact, having a coach, or a group, or an accountability partner can really help you to develop more discipline.  An example would be when someone puts off housework until they know someone is coming over, and they race around to get the house all tidy before their visitor arrives. It is far easier to give in and be less disciplined when you just have yourself in the picture. When you have a person or people hold you accountable, though, you are far more likely to make sure it happens.    

An accountability partner is someone you set up a contract with to hold each other accountable for reaching goals. This is a mutual pact and is probably the easiest to set up. The goals do not have to be the same ones, the point is to connect on a regular basis, often once a week, and share with each other how much you have accomplished.  The best way to do this is to break up the task into daily chunks and do each one each day so that you are not trying to finish up the project the night before you meet with your accountability partner.  (For more on accountability, check out this blog post from April 2023.)

Using Challenges to Develop More Discipline

One way you can develop more discipline is to use challenges. This makes it more like a game and less like a chore. Also there can be the element of friendly competition with others and having others help hold you accountable which improves your odds of success.  Challenges are very popular and you can find them in many places across the internet and social media. Or you can make up your own and share it with a group of people. However, you end up doing it is up to you.

When looking to see if a challenge will be useful to you, there are some factors to look for, so you can best benefit. Is the challenge realistic? You want to stretch yourself, but not to the point where it might be too difficult to succeed. For example you could challenge yourself to cook all your meals at home for the next 30 days in order to save money on take-out or restaurant food, but that might be challenging if, for instance, you have travel planned away from your home during that time, or if you have an especially busy few days with work, kids’ activities, or other family obligations on deck. You also want the challenge to not be too easy. You need to see if you have the time to devote to it. Be sure to include time for learning new things, for example if you challenge yourself to build a new blogging website in 30 days, remember that if you have never done one before, you will have to learn some things and that will be extra time above just writing the blog posts.  (Having launched this blog earlier this year, I am all too aware from personal experience the time it can take to learn new website-building systems! 🙂)  

If the challenge is a large one over a longer period of time, are there clear-cut milestones along the way to help you have a sense of accomplishment? If your challenge, for example, is to find a new job or change careers entirely, you may want to build in smaller steps and milestones along the way–such as making a list (written or mental) of what you’re looking for in your new career, writing or revamping your resume, researching job leads, networking informally or through informational interviews with people in the field you have your eye on, and so forth. 

When you do a group challenge, you have some added benefits. There is a sense of camaraderie when working together on a goal that you don’t get when just “competing” with yourself. Other people can give you ideas, too. For example, if you are in a group challenge focused on cooking more or eating out less, the group members can share recipes and support.

Organization Is a Major Tool in Developing Discipline

If you want to develop more self-discipline, it helps to get organized. Organization helps you feel less overwhelmed and makes it easier to get things done. You also can focus easier on your goals if you have a structure to both your day and your work environment.

For example, say you have a goal of writing a book. Lots of people want to write books, but many never end up finishing one–why? Because a monumental goal like that requires discipline and organization, and especially if there isn’t a fixed deadline imposed by someone else, it’s easy for our goals to fall to the back burner as day-to-day obligations get in the way. You cannot successfully write a book if you only write when you feel like it. You also are less likely to get much writing done if you are not organized. If your research for your book consists of pages that you have to search through every time you need something, or worse yet, find the notes buried in a pile of paperwork, you will find you spend more time on finding things instead of actually writing.

Scheduling your day is another way of organizing that will help you develop discipline. This is more than just having a to do list. You need to look at when you get up, when you go to bed, and block out times like work hours that cannot be used for accomplishing your goals. Then you need to take a look at the time left over and figure out how to best use it. One of the ways a lot of people add more time in their day is to get up an hour earlier and devote that time to their goals. Some people go to bed an hour later and use that time. Be realistic about how much time it takes to do the steps needed to accomplish your goal.

Organizing your workspace and your files on your computer are also ways to help you with developing discipline. By making sure you cut down on the time it takes for related tasks to accomplish your goals, you allow more time to actually do the work of the goal itself. To go back to the example of writing a book, if your research is well organized either in your workplace or in well-marked files on your computer, you will spend less time looking stuff up and more time actually writing. This will lead to faster writing as well since you are not interrupting the flow to spend time searching for something.   You will then be far more likely to actually finish writing that book. 

    This is another example that really resonates with me from personal experience. In 2022 I was invited to contribute a chapter to The Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit for Success and I got a taste of the organization and discipline that writing required–and that was for a single chapter, not even a whole book!  Some of the tips and techniques that I described above really helped me stay on track, and I definitely plan to use them when I tackle my next writing goal of writing and publishing an entire book someday!  How have discipline and organization helped you get closer to achieving your goals?