You can learn as much about discipline from what you do wrong as from what you do right. The only reason I know I’m not as disciplined with my time and commitments as I would like to be is because I actually have been very disciplined in the past. If I compare now to then, I know I can do much better. Perhaps this is true for you too?
Obviously, I’m not an expert on the subject of discipline, but this year, I’m putting a lot of focus on getting more organized and taking my discipline to the next level. So it seems logical to me to start by looking at what I already know about discipline.
I actually do know a few things about discipline, mainly through what I’ve learned when things go wrong. There have been plenty of moments when I wasn’t organized and effective enough with my time to stay on top of important projects or responsibilities. I’ve learned some hard lessons as a result. So I thought I’d do some reflecting on what I already know about being disciplined. See how many also apply to you. Here goes…
1. Discipline, for me, is the result of being highly organized and effective in managing my time, projects, and responsibilities. When I’m organized, discipline seems to come more naturally. I know that when I have a million things I’m trying to keep track of–all of them floating around in my head–I have to devote at least some of my psyche to my feeble attempt at not forgetting any of them. FAIL! However, I want to point out that for some people, getting more organized won’t happen unless they get more disciplined first.
2. I know that I can only effectively keep track of maybe 3 projects or to-do items at a time. If I add one more, the least important item will usually be forgotten unless I write it down.
3. I’m excellent at capturing (as in writing down) anything that’s important or even just things I simply want to follow up on, but I’m absolutely terrible at doing anything with all the 3×5 cards that each have written on them about ten things to remember or follow up on. Right now, I have so many index cards filled with things to remember that I could probably wallpaper my office with them. Not having a solid way to process everything inhibits my discipline.
4. When I’m trying to keep track of way more than 3 projects or items (like a couple dozen or more), I get stressed…and I’m always stressed. This stress may not be severe and I’m typically pretty happy and not very stressed out, but I know this stress is there because when I finally knock out a few items I’ve been trying to keep track of, I feel the results of the stress going down and my mood is instantly elevated. However, if I have a couple “mission critical” items that I’m keeping track of, and these are mixed in with the dozens of other projects and to-do, and follow-up items, it causes confusion, procrastination, and loads of pressure.
5. I know that there is a direct relationship between discipline, behavior, and motivation. So looking at discipline from a behavioral and motivational perspective, I can already make some distinctions about my own habits and lack of discipline in some areas of my life. The fewer fires I have to put out due to missing deadlines on important projects or trying to do too many things at one time, the clearer my thinking and the less pressure and stress I feel. Also, the more motivated I am to stay on top of things and to better manage my time.
6. Confusion plays a big role in my lack of discipline. It complicates things and causes me to procrastinate because when I have so many things to keep track of that I start forgetting them, I have trouble taking action on anything because I feel like there’s something more important that I should be doing. Since I can’t remember what it is, I lose the motivation to do anything at all. Also, when confusion is strong, procrastination tends to run rampant, at least for me. When I’m trying to juggle way too many things, procrastination rears its ugly head every time. Fix my discipline and I’ll likely solve most of my procrastination issues.
I have high hopes for the results I expect to gain from getting organized, managing my time better, and being more disciplined. This list represents what I know from experience and from observing my own behaviors. How about you? How many of these applied to you? Do you have any others that you would add to your own list?