15 Jan 2013

Being disciplined seems to be hard, something you are or not, no matter what. People certainly talk that way. What I found is that being disciplined is quite easy. It just takes some tricks and practice.

From time to time someone tells me I’m disciplined, mostly because of something I did or said about something I’m doing. And after being called disciplined, more often than not, I hear: “I could never do that, I wish I could, but I’m too lazy.” But here is the thing, you see, I’m lazy too, but I don’t want to be. So I keep myself from being lazy.

“I don’t have the time” — That’s what I thought. Then I got up a little bit earlier every day. At first, just 30 minutes, which is enough to squeeze in 20 minutes of guitar practice every day. That’s not a lot, but it’s a lot more than nothing. Repetition is key here. Then 30 minutes became one hour, then two. Suddenly I could get a lot more done than before, by minimizing the time in the evening I spent doing nothing and maximizing my morning, where I feel fresh and productive.

“I could never get up that early” — If I had my alarm clock right next to my bed, I too wouldn’t. I’d turn the alarm off, go back to sleep and wonder what the hell happened two hours later. But instead I put my phone, serving as the alarm clock, on the other side of the room before going to bed. So when the alarm goes off I have to get up, walk over there and turn it off, by which time I’m already too awake to just go back to bed. Putting the phone on the other side of the room also keeps me from lying in bed at night checking Twitter and instead makes me pick up that book I wanted to finish.

“With all that free time I’d just do useless stuff” — I would do too. But what I found is this: setting the right goals, as small as they may be, is one of the biggest steps away from being unproductive and lazy. Spending an hour working through that new programming book, practicing scales on the guitar or running in the park seems like an awful lot. “I’ll do that tomorrow then.” Scratch that hour, make it 20 minutes. When those 20 minutes are up, the task for today is done, see you tomorrow. I’m not saying having huge goals is wrong, no, but I found it a lot easier to get closer to achieving those by splitting them up in several small steps and goals. The best thing about this, is that achieving feels good, as small as the goal is, and certainly helps growing motivation to do more, by keeping the fun and getting rid of that “I’m finally done, I’m glad it’s over” feeling.

I’m lazy by my own definition but I keep myself from giving in and instead try to do things I’m proud of. Things, that don’t make me feel “I wish I had done something productive instead” the next day. The key to all this is my wish to get better, to be more productive, to create more, to learn more and to spend my time without regretting it later as wasted. When I feel that wish, that urge to do something about my laziness, is when I set my goals low and put the alarm clock on the other side of the room. That helps me tremendously when I feel like making excuses and reading another trivial article online.

All my discipline is born out of the recognition of my laziness and my will to do to something about it. The results are those tricks I play on myself to help me get something done, to do something I’m proud of. With a little practice it gets a lot easier, and I certainly look forward to my daily morning routine, where I can achieve yet another goal.