Okay, the jig is up. We are all (myself included) guilty of drafting up awesome, detailed plans for how to become more productive or self-disciplined—and then finding that sticking to them day-to-day is harder than we thought.
Maybe you want to schedule meetings two weeks in advance, get eight hours of sleep a night, or start bringing lunch to work, but no matter what your goal, those carefully crafted plans are often discarded in favor of more appealing things (who wouldn’t rather flop on the couch after work than cook up lunch for the next day?).
But while we all struggle with willpower (and probably always will), we also have the ability to get better at following through with plans. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with time and some very strategically placed energy, it can happen!
In my own search for self-discipline, I came across some incredibly helpful advice from Jeff Haden of Inc. I picked out my three favorite immediately actionable pieces of advice and shared them below to help you and me both gain a little more self-control today.
1. Eliminate as Many Choices as Possible
Mental energy is precious, so we need to use it carefully. The more decisions you make—including things as small as what kind of milk to put in your coffee—the less energy you have. Eventually, carelessness sets in, making you way more susceptible to bad habits that derail your hard work. But if you limit the amount of decisions you need to make throughout the day, you can save some of that energy to make smarter choices (like, you know, cooking up some lunches for the week).
Do it Now
Always find yourself fretting over what to wear to work? Save yourself time and energy in the morning by deciding what to wear the night before. This simple task can get done right before bed, and you’ll feel less taxed in the morning when you have real decisions to make.
2. Do the Hardest Thing You Need to Do First
It turns out that our mental energy is highest at the beginning of the day. The longer the day drags on, the more we feel fatigued and the more likely we are to make sloppy decisions. So, get the toughest obstacles out of the way in the morning, and you will be less likely to crack under pressure later on.
Do it Now
Keep a notepad on your desk to quickly write down that list of “morning must-do” tasks. Seeing that list sitting at your side will remind you of what needs to get done ASAP.
3. Refuel Frequently
This is probably my favorite piece of advice (mostly because it involves food). It turns out that regularly eating healthy nutritional meals and snacks gives your brain little boosts of energy it needs to power forward. Without proper fuel, your brain is more likely to focus on immediate indulgences and forget about those long-term goals. So, keep eating to exercise that willpower and make the right choices!
Do it Now
Go out and buy some of your favorite (healthy) snacks to keep in a desk drawer. You’ll have them on hand for when cravings take over or when you don’t have time for a sit-down lunch—and your willpower won’t dip just for lack of food.