Sometimes a new year is a great time to refocus, reset some goals, and have a “fresh start”. However I think most of us can agree that telling yourself you are going to do something, or writing down a goal in your planner is really only the beginning to the “new year, new me” motto. One of my favorite quotes is “In order to change some things in your life, you have to change some things in your life.” Simple and true. A new habit, goal, or plan comes down to one thing: daily discipline.
Fitness seems to always be the big go-to new years resolution. Gyms become more crowded than the checkout line on Black Friday and then 3 weeks later it’s back to normal. Why is this? Most people start off strong the first 4-10 days, but start to allow the old excuses to creep back into their new routine. And then it seems to turn back into a procrastination nightmare of, “if I can take tonight to rest up, I’ll get back at it tomorrow.” Only for tomorrow to be another excuse.
Recently I read a book called the Slight Edge. In this book, Jeff Olson talks about how simple daily disciplines compound into success. Many people will procrastinate on things or try to take on too much at once. My favorite principle he talks about in this book is called Mind Over Mattress. What he says, is that the number one self-discipline secret to success is get up when you say you’re going to. It sounds too simple to be true right?The psychology behind it is that if you tell yourself you are going to get up at 7, and you wake up at 6:58 and go back to sleep until 7:30, you have programmed your sub-conscious mind to think it’s okay to not do what you say you’re going to. You may think that it’s not a big deal, but it is just the beginning of the slippery slope of what else you will allow yourself to slide on. However, the positive power of following through on something you said you were going to do (actually getting up by 7) starts your day on a positive note of momentum.
Another thing Jeff talks about in his book is the Power of Completion. You should always have a to-do list and break it down what needs to be done each day, and do not allow yourself to go to sleep until all of that day’s tasks are done. This will help keep you from procrastinating and putting off things no matter how minor they are. The key I’ve learned to this is not to overload your list, you have to make it reasonable. For example instead of having a list of 20 things to get done during the work-week, break it down and get 4 things done each day. Don’t overload all of the most time consuming things on one day. If all you get done each day outside of work and family responsibilities is the 4 things on your list, that is much more powerful than procrastinating and trying to get it all done on the last day of the week (only to most likely fail, accomplish 7 of them, and contribute to more self-betrayal).
I’ve waited to write this blog until about a month after finishing this book, because I wanted to see the results in action instead of just through theory. I can honestly say that I was terrible about procrastination on the smallest things which caused a problem when it came to procrastinating on larger things that didn’t have a deadline. So after reading this book, I started doing 3 things:
1) Making a weekly to-do list, broken down by each task each day, and making sure never to go to bed without having everything crossed off of it for that day. This also allows me to prioritize the importance of them and have a more balanced week.
2) Every morning I would write down in a planner everything I did the day before; accomplishments for my 2 businesses, anything on my to-do list (around the house or for our family), things to develop personally (reading, listening to audio’s, attending events) etc. This allows you to see what is really consuming your time each day.
3) Getting up every morning when I said I was going to.
Doing anything for 21 days turns it from a discipline to a habit, whether that is a good habit or bad habit. After 21 days of doing the above 3 things and growing my self-discipline to a whole new level, I started adding in action plans to grow our one business each day. Even if it was a simple few things everyday, I knew that doing something everyday would compound over time and get us closer to our goals . Daily action in this business was something I always struggled with following through on each day.
I can honestly say that I have been more productive, more efficient, and more accomplished these last 4 weeks than any other time period. To me the most important change has been doing things for our business without having to stop and think about it, it has become routine and best of all it gets done everyday.
So if you have goals for the New Year, I suggest you focus most on your self-discipline and your daily habits in addition to your action plan to reach those goals. Happy New Year!