Whether you want to run a marathon, write a novel, learn to play the guitar or save up enough money to retire young, self-discipline is critical. Unfortunately, practicing self-discipline is not always easy. Even when you desperately want to achieve the goal you are aiming for; it can be hard to stay on track. These tips can help you stay self-disciplined and reach your goals.
You need a clear plan, and you need to make an explicit connection between consistent self-discipline and success. First, you should set a specific goal. For example, instead of looking to retire early, write down what age you want to retire at and how much money you want to have. Then, write down the steps you need to take. Again, being concrete is important. If you want to become a great guitar player, instead of writing to practice the guitar more, write down to practice the guitar daily for one hour, or whatever you think you need to reach your goal. This gives you specific metrics to measure your discipline. Above all, you should make a mental connection between your long-term goal and your daily activities. Throughout the day, ask yourself if what you are doing is getting you closer to your goal. This question might be all you need to motivate yourself to put away the game or close the social media feed and get back to work.
Build in Slack
It may seem strange to talk about slack when you are considering self-discipline, but it’s important to avoid burnout. Whether it’s setting aside a little discretionary income to spend on whatever you like, making sure you have a certain amount of unscheduled time daily or giving yourself a rest day from the activity you’re pursuing, taking breaks can actually keep you fresh and working harder and more efficiently toward your goal.
Look for Small Victories
Outside of your official plan, look for small ways to get closer to your goal. For example, if you’re trying to take daily walks of at least three miles, look for other opportunities to walk more as well, such as parking further from entrances or getting off your bus a stop early. If you are trying to save money, you might be able to shave off some expenditures with very little effort. For example, if you have student loans, you should look into refinancing them. A private lender may offer better rates that save you money on your monthly expenses. In addition, cancelling the gym membership, cutting the cable cord, and avoiding going out to eat as often, are also great ways to build up extra savings each month.
Tracking and Rewards
You need some kind of system to track your progress. This can be a spreadsheet, an app or just an entry in a notebook. This gives you a visual way to see how far you’ve come when you feel discouraged. It also can help you build in rewards. If you are trying to learn a language, you might reward yourself when you reach a new level of competency. Determine what these levels and rewards will be ahead of time. Some people might shy away from rewards because they think they should be able to stick to self-discipline without them or that they are a distraction from the main goal. However, rewards can keep you going when your resolve is flagging.