How do I become more self-disciplined and avoid procrastinating?

Here’s the best part about self-discipline that you may not be aware of:

Self-discipline = freedom.

What’s the link between self-discipline and freedom?

First, self-discipline is not something that is external; it is a choice we make every single moment of every day. We are disciplined when we take care of the essentials: we know what to eat to give us energy and optimize our brain’s performance; we move our body to stay healthy; we get enough sleep by practicing a nighttime routine to help us unwind early at the same time each evening.

Second, when we take care of the essentials, we free up our time to do deep work: the work we consider the most important in achieving our personal goals. For some, that may mean letting our analytical brain focus on problem-solving. Or, it could mean studying early in the morning for an upcoming exam while our mind is still focused and well rested. Or, it can mean putting in the hours to developing a particular skill we need to become better at work, improve our mastery of something, or to overcome an obstacle that pertains to our personal or professional life. In any case, by being self-disciplined we give ourselves the freedom to truly express our highest self.

Here are several ideas for you to gain more freedom through self-discipline so that you can focus on what’s most important to you.

  • Practice self-discipline by taking care of your essentials:
  • Start the day with one small yet powerful question first thing in the morning: What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today? There are many benefits to this technique: it keeps things simple, it helps your brain focus better, makes you prioritize your goals, and streamlines the work you need to do on that particular day so you don’t feel overwhelmed with making too many choices. Here’s how:
    • Put it in writing; write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall.
    • Read it out loud as you start each day, and come up with an answer on the spot.
    • Then, devote your time to completing what’s most important to you for that day.
  • Make a commitment to yourself by defining a very specific goal you want to achieve in a certain time frame. For example:
    • I am committed to focusing on my studies in the next 30 days so that I can pass all three of my exams with top marks.
    • I am committed to finding a job in 3 months that is both a good fit for my skill set in and is in a company whose values I share and respect.
    • I am committed to building my physical endurance by running 4 times a week for 2 months so that I can be prepared to participate in a 5K race.
  • Put in the hours. This means:
    • Do the work that is necessary.
    • Don’t find excuses to postpone your work or ignore it because you’re too busy doing something else.
    • Don’t let others distract you from what you need to do; instead, politely turn down invitations and tell people you’re busy until you’ve completed what you need to do on that day.
  • Be persistent. In other words, keep your eye on your ultimate goal:
    • Don’t just walk away from something just because it seems impossible to do at that very moment. If you keep at it, chances are it will get easier the next time you try it.
    • Fight the urge to give up whenever things get tough. Instead, embrace the difficulty and brainstorm different ways to overcome it. Keep experimenting until you find a better solution.
    • When you fail at something, chalk it up to inexperience and nothing more. Stay focused on what you need to do. Then do your best to get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.
  • Become a pro at time management. How can you focus if you believe you’ll be spending hours working with no end in sight? Try a different approach to your work. When you’re ready to begin, use a timer to divide up your time into manageable increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way.
    • Set the timer to 30 or 60 minute increments to maximize concentration.
    • You can also try the Pomodoro technique which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks.
    • When you’re done with one segment, step away from your desk and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest: take a 5-minute walk to get some fresh air, stretch your body for a few minutes, grab a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Ignore distractions successfully. Reading email and constantly checking your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feed is distracting, prevents you from focusing, and can contribute to feelings of chaos and overwhelm. Even worse: studies have shown that all this multitasking can lower your IQ by 10 points! Try making a conscious effort to avoid distractions as much as possible:
    • Set your phone to Airplane mode.
    • Set expectations with others by letting them know you won’t be available in the next few hours.
    • Check your email and social media apps twice a day (around lunchtime and in the afternoon).
    • Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news early; do these activities later after you’re done with your work or studies.
  • Learn something new every day on how being disciplined can give you an advantage. Here are a few resources:
    • Watch this 6-minute video to better understand why doing the hard work can set you apart from others.
    • Read these books for more ideas:
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