How to Stay Disciplined – 5 Useful Tips

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There are many areas in our lives in which we need to stay disciplined. It could be in our work, in our studies, in our relationships, in our chores, and so on.

Being disciplined is not easy when you don’t really enjoy what you’re doing, or when you’re in a low-energy state or in a bad mood. That is why it’s important to know how to stay disciplined, and set yourself up for success.

In this post we give you 5 useful tips on how to stay disciplined in different areas of your life. You can use them exactly as described, or adapt them to the specific area you need to stay disciplined in.

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Have a Clear Reason

 

When you’re very excited about something, you don’t really need any advice on how to stay disciplined. In fact, in such cases, you may even need advice on how to also give attention to other areas in your life that you’re not so excited about…

You will see this in every area of your life: When you’re really in love with someone you don’t need to “remind” yourself to be faithful, when you work on project that excites you no one needs to check if you’ve worked enough hours, and when you learn something that you love no one needs to check that you’ve actually done your “homework”.

However, not everything you’re going to do in life is going to be exciting, and even those things that usually excite you are not necessarily going to excite you every day, all day long.

At these times, when you’re not 100% excited about what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s important to have a clear reason why you need to stay disciplined. The more important the reason is to you, the more you will be able to “force yourself” to stay disciplined.

For example, when you have a romantic partner that you love and value, but you’re having a bad period and you meet someone charming and attractive, you need to remind yourself of the reason why you should not do anything that would jeopardize your relationship, or that would even just pave the road to potentially jeopardizing your relationship in the future.

When you’re tired or not in the mood, but you have a task that needs to be done, you have to remind yourself why it’s important for you to finish that task. It could be because you need money to feed your children, it could be because you need to do this to achieve your goal in life, it could be because that task (or avoiding something) keeps you in good health, and so on.

If you’re struggling and don’t seem to know how to stay disciplined, remind yourself of what you’ll be gaining if you stay disciplined, and what you’ll be losing if you don’t.

If you don’t have a clear and good reason for why you’re doing what you’re doing, ask yourself if you should really be doing it at all. And don’t mistake excuses for reasons. For example, most of the time, “I’m watching videos because I need a break” is an excuse to justify your lack of discipline, and not an actual reason.

Do Not Take Unnecessary Breaks

 

The example given at the end of the previous section brings us exactly to our next tip on how to stay disciplined – don’t stop for unnecessary breaks when you’ve already started performing some task.

You must realize that the hardest thing is to start doing something (or to stop yourself from doing something). Once you’ve already started doing something, it’s much easier to continue.

Additionally, taking a break takes you out of focus, and when you go to continue the task later, you waste time reminding yourself where you left, what you wanted to do, and generally speaking, getting back into a good work rhythm.

That’s why it’s important to not take a break, if that’s possible. Taking a break puts you back in the harder position where you need to start doing something, and wastes time on getting “acquainted” with the task again. And if starting the task was hard for you to begin with, you definitely don’t want to challenge yourself again for no good reason.

There are, of course, legitimate reasons to take a break, and sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between necessary and unnecessary breaks. But if you’re trying to learn how to stay disciplined, at least be true to yourself in deciding whether a break is legitimate or not. No one can help you if you decide to lie to yourself.

Unnecessary breaks usually belong to one of these categories:

 

  1. Interruptions
    Someone or something interrupts you while you are performing a task. This could be a legitimate interrupt (for example, something urgent came up), or something that just makes you lose your concentration for no good reason.

    We talk about minimizing unnecessary interruptions in the next section of this post on how to stay disciplined.

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  3. “It doesn’t excite me” breaks
    Had you been very excited about the task, we wouldn’t have had to have a conversation about how to stay disciplined and not take unnecessary breaks now, would we?

    These types of breaks are also known as ”I’m bored” breaks, because you’re not really enjoying what you’re doing and don’t want to do it. That is why you need to remind yourself of the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing, but be true to yourself, because it’s very easy to tell yourself that “you don’t really need to do that” when you don’t like what you’re supposed to be doing.

    If you’re doing something because you have to, well that’s a reason to. I can assure you that if you stop for a break, the chances of you getting excited about the task later are not going to improve. In fact, you’re going to hate it more.

    It’s better if you just get it over with it so you can take it off your mind. Of course, you should do a good job, and not just finish it in the quickest way possible just so you can say it’s done.

    In short, this is not a legitimate reason to take a break. If this is not a task you need to be doing and it does not contribute to you in any way, then simply don’t do it. But if there’s a good reason why you started doing it and the reason still holds, don’t take a break because you’re not excited or you’re bored.

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  5. “I can’t concentrate anymore” breaks
    These kinds of breaks can actually be legitimate, if you’ve been doing something that’s very mentally demanding for many hours without a break, or if you’re already falling asleep, in the sense that your eyes close and you actually doze off unintentionally.

    However, many people decide that they can’t concentrate anymore much earlier than their actual limit, and take a break that is much longer than they should in order to be able to concentrate again.

    Remember that since breaks can actually make things much more difficult for you, you need to be true to yourself before you decide to take a break, and ask yourself if it is really time for a break.

    The tips we give you on how to stay disciplined will help you, but they cannot replace your own decision-making process. They are just there to help you make the right decision.

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  7. “I’m almost finished – I can have a break”
    This is one of the most dangerous and unnecessary types of breaks. You’re nearly done, or you have a good pace, so you tell yourself you can take a break.

    On the contrary. If you made good progress faster than expected, or you’re nearly done, you should continue until you’re finished. You’re now “in the zone” (relatively speaking, at least), and need to use it to get the task over with.

    And don’t use the fact that you’re almost finished and want to be done with the task as an excuse to cut the final corners and finish it quicker. Finish it properly.

How to Stay Disciplined - Girl Thinking

Remove Possible Distractions

 

In the previous section, we discussed how taking a break and getting back to the task later wastes time in which you have to remember again what you’ve already done, what you wanted to do, and in general get back to focus.

The thing is, that this happens to a certain extent even if something just distracts you for a short time from what you’re doing. For example, you get a message on your phone or on your laptop, you get a call, someone starts talking to you, and so on.

But it’s important to note that there are other types of distractions as well, that also make it much harder, or even impossible, to reach your real goal.

For example, you start going out with someone new and you really want it to work, but you’re still in touch with your ex, and you have feelings for each other, even though both of you know you’re not a good match for each other. This may damage, or even completely ruin, the serious relationship you’re currently trying to create.

Another example is when your mind is constantly bothered by something. Let’s suppose you have a bill that you need to pay within 7 days. You keep on postponing the payment, but you keep thinking about it and it distracts your mind.

The more distractions you remove from your life in general, and the more you prevent yourself from being distracted while working on a specific task, the calmer and more effective you’re going to be.

Here are some suggestions to eliminate possible distractions:

  1. Put your phone on “silent” and away from you (so you don’t see any activity) when you’re working on a task.
  2. If you’re working from home and your family is around, ask them not to interrupt you while you’re working, unless it’s important. You can try to do that at the office too.
  3. Remove from your life everything and everyone that works against you achieving your goal. If you can’t completely remove something, reduce your interactions to the minimum.
  4. Take care of anything that distracts your mind and doesn’t let you focus.

When you learn how to stay disciplined, you realize it’s not easy, so make sure you remove anything that may make life more difficult for you.

Finish Each Task

 

Did it ever happen to you that you started something, then you left it for some time, but you never got back around to finishing it? I’m sure you had such cases. Everybody does.

But why did you not finish it? Was there a good reason not to finish it? A good reason might be that the circumstances had changed so drastically, that what you were doing was no longer relevant.

For example, if you were negotiating a deal with someone for a long time and then someone else comes to you with a better offer, you may decide not to finish the negotiations for the first offer, because you already have a better one.

Most of the time, though, we don’t really have a good reason for why we didn’t finish the thing that we started. We just get bored of it, or it proves to be more difficult than we imagined, or we don’t see progress at the rate we expected. Not finishing tasks is one of the reasons why we can’t seem to make our dreams come true, and why we need to learn how to stay disciplined.

Also, if you need to finish a task but you don’t, it creates a mental burden on you and adds to the mental list of “things you need to do”. It adds stress to your life and if you continue adding tasks you need to finish but don’t, it will start overwhelming you.

Finally, not finishing tasks makes us feel as if it’s ok to start something and not finish it, and this makes us not think in advance about what we want to do, and we make bad decisions. We start many things on a whim, never finish them, and waste a lot of our time on nothing. Plus, it subconsciously creates a feeling inside us that we can’t do things to completion.

So think before you start doing something, and when you start doing it, finish it unless there’s a very good reason not to. This will contribute to your sense of achievement and of discipline, and the good mood you will have will be associated with your choice to finish the task. This will help motivate you a bit more, the next time you need to stay disciplined.

Have Someone to Hold You Accountable

 

It’s very easy to lie to ourselves, isn’t it? We give excuses to ourselves all the time, trying to justify things that we do, that we know we shouldn’t have done.

This is a really bad thing to do, but we all do it to some extent. Some people base their whole lives on lying to themselves, and probably to other people too.

But it’s harder for us to give silly excuses to someone that we respect and don’t want to disappoint, especially if this someone can easily see through our lies. If you want to know how to stay disciplined, you need to learn a bit about accountability.

When there’s no accountability, we can do whatever we want, and no one would know if we did what we were supposed to do. We make our own plans, and we execute them the way that we want to. If we don’t feel like it, we don’t execute them. No one knows but us.

But if we have to “report” to someone we respect what we did compared to the scheduled plan, we feel more compelled to stick to the plan and show that we do things “properly”. We want that person to be proud of us. That’s why accountability doesn’t work without people you don’t really respect, or couldn’t care less about what they think about your plan and its execution.

Possibly one of the strongest ways to have accountability is to have a business partner, a study partner, a project partner, or any sort of partner who works together with you on the same thing. It can also be a group of people. It can also be your boss.

But I believe that it’s best if it’s just one person, and you really don’t want to do something that will harm that person, and just that feeling by itself holds you accountable to some degree. If you also respect that person and that person is sharp enough to see through your excuses, then that’s the best combination you can find for accountability.

The best reason to hold yourself accountable is not because you’re afraid of the other person’s reaction, but because you want to make the other person happy and proud.

How to Stay Disciplined - Blocks with Text

Summary

 

In this post, we presented 5 tips on how to stay disciplined:

  1. Have a good and clear reason why you’re doing what you’re doing
  2. Don’t take breaks if you can help it
  3. Remove any and all distractions you may have, and reduce to the minimum those that you can’t completely remove
  4. Perform each task to completion, unless there’s a good reason not to complete it
  5. Have someone you respect to hold you accountable

Remember, that it’s really all up to you. If you decide to give up, find excuses to why it’s ok that you’re not disciplined, and lie to yourself, no one can stop you. Maybe you will suffer some consequences, but ultimately, it’s your decision what to do.

Use our tips on how to stay disciplined to make your inner struggle easier, and help you set yourself up for success.

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