One of the most important skills an entrepreneur needs is self-discipline. After all, being your own boss means there’s no one telling you to do your job. Without self-discipline, you’ll never get anything done.
Many people think of self-discipline as being strong enough to resist all temptations and just do all the work we need to do. But I’ve discovered that the best way to be disciplined is to help yourself, by removing all temptations from the situations where you need to get work done.
For example, I play rugby and need to train six times a week. Sometimes I train with my teammates but twice a week we’re supposed to train on our own. I had been skipping half of those training sessions. When I talked with my rugby friends about it, it turned out that they had been skipping some of their self-training sessions too. So we made an agreement: instead of training by ourselves we’d all get together at the park and train. If someone didn’t show up, they’d have to pay the four of us $20 each. That’s $80 for missing practice! In two months, only one of us missed a session.
Here’s the funny part: because everyone lived in different parts of the city, we all had to drive 30 minutes to meet up at the park. It would have been much more convenient to train on our own. But we had already tried that and it didn’t work.
Most of us face situations like this one every day. We try to convince ourselves that driving an extra 30 minutes to do something that we could do at home is stupid. We think that we should just be strong enough to get our work done without any extra incentives. But you’re a human being. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Temptations exist. You can either make it really hard for yourself or manipulate the situation you’re in so things are easier for you.
This is how I manipulated some situations in my life to make things easier for myself:
- I used to check my email several times a day and that was killing me. There’s no way to focus on something and be productive if you check your email every five minutes. I decided to tear up a $1 bill every time I checked my email during the day. Six months later, I’m out $3 and I’m 200% more productive. Not bad, huh?
- I wanted to eat more fruit and less junk food. So, instead of buying both at the grocery store, I only got fruits and no junk food. Now, every time I want junk food I need to drive a whole mile to the closest gas station. I’ve probably reduced my intake of junk food by 90%.
- When I get really stressed out, I start sniffing. This gives me headaches and stomach cramps. I used to think that it’s part of me and I couldn’t change it. Last month I did an experiment: every time I started sniffing, I’d take a 5-minute break from work. The first week of my experiment I was really pissed at myself. I’d work for two minutes, start sniffing, take five minutes off, then work for 30 seconds, start sniffing again, take another five minutes off and so on. I couldn’t get any work done. But little by little I started associating the sniffing with the punishment and I stopped doing it. Now it probably happens once or twice a day, but I don’t have the headaches or stomach cramps anymore.
When you run your own business being disciplined is incredibly important. But if you manipulate your situation, you can make it a lot easier to avoid temptation and get your work done.