The story is all too familiar. You want to make positive changes in your life so one day you decide to kick it into high gear. You may want to get in shape, be more productive, or limit procrastination. Overall, you’re on a quest to develop self-discipline.
It typically starts like this — you write down all the things you want to change for the better. It could be making progress on a project you’ve been putting off, waking up at an earlier time, or avoiding late-night snacks. You create a big to-do list, set up a calendar that details everything you need to do, and maybe even download some must-have tools to help you stay organized.
One week rolls by and you find yourself doing an excellent job. Then week two hits and you start relaxing and letting things slip by here and there. Come week three, you’ve completely fallen off the wagon, and you feel like you’re so far behind that there’s no point in continuing.
You have the best intentions but end up falling short. Frustrating, isn’t it? Developing new habits won’t come easy — especially remaining disciplined to stay on course and hit your goals. It’s time for a new approach.
In this guide, we’re going to show you how you can build self-discipline. We’ll outline 15 tactics successful people use to stay on the right track, hit their goals, and create better lives for themselves.
How to Develop Self-Discipline
Developing self-discipline doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes plenty of hard work, dedication, and willpower, but once you master it, you’ll discover a greater sense of happiness and confidence.
Those who master self-discipline often find that they lead a much more regulated and peaceful life. Self-discipline is the precursor to a stronger sense of self-control. You’ll be more inclined to make better decisions that don’t have an adverse effect on your overall well-being.
A solid foundation of self-discipline all starts with habit formation. Half the battle — if not more — is breaking your old bad habits. Only then can you put your best foot forward and start laying a strong foundation of good habits.
Self-discipline is a battle that you and only you can fight. Nobody is going to be getting you out of bed for an early morning workout routine or make sure you’re checking all those tasks off your to-do list. You’ll need to have the drive, determination, and accountability if you want to see a difference.
Luckily, taking steps towards building self-discipline is much easier than you think. There are plenty of tactics you can try out, but by no means do you have to implement every single one. You’ll find that only some are applicable to your current situation.
Here are 15 ways you can improve your self-discipline. Read through the list, figure out which ones make sense for you, and hit the ground running.
1. Limit Mindless Tasks
Mindless tasks are absolute productivity killers. It’s so easy to unknowingly drift off into your phone for 20 or 30 minutes.
If you can curb these impulses you can stay on top of tasks at hand and be more productive in the long run. We recommend taking a long hard look at your weekly routine and tracking how often you’re cruising social media, binging Netflix, or browsing Reddit.
2. Understand Your Weaknesses
Understanding your shortcomings is just as important as knowing your strengths. It may feel uncomfortable to face your weaknesses at first, but as soon as you do, you can start finding ways to improve on them. It’s easy to ignore your problems and pretend as if they don’t exist, but don’t fall into that trap. Take a step back, assess your problems, and develop a plan to change for the better.
3. Take Consistent Small Steps
Consistency is key to self-discipline, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to knock it out of the park every single day. You’re on the right track as long as you’re taking consistent small steps towards your goal.
Let’s say you want to get in shape. Tell yourself you’ll do only 10 pushups every day. Then mark the days on the calendar when you actually did it. Doing 10 pushups every day isn’t going to make you a bodybuilder, but it will help you hold yourself accountable, practice self-discipline on a daily basis, and make progress towards getting in shape.
4. “It’s Just What I Do”
Engrave this little saying in your memory. The more you repeat this to yourself, the better chance your aspirations will become a reality. If someone decides to ask you, “How are you able to wake up every morning and go for a jog before work?” — you have an answer locked and loaded. If you keep telling yourself this, you’ll start to think that’s just the type of person you are. And just like that, you’ve become more disciplined and ready to take on the next challenge.
5. Just Do One
Sometimes it will be hard to take the first step to do something you’re not looking forward to. Fortunately, there’s a little trick you can implement into your routine to help you get started.
Let’s say you have a backlog of emails that you have to respond to. It may be daunting looking at a jam-packed inbox. The trick is to tell yourself that you’ll simply respond to one email. By the time you sit down, pull out your computer, and respond to one email, you’ll think, “Well, I’m already here. I might as well respond to a few more.”
6. Develop Healthy Habits
Self-discipline starts from the ground up. This means focusing on total body wellness. Think about maintaining a healthy diet, exercising as much as possible, taking time to meditate, and getting enough sleep. You’ll be surprised how much this can motivate you when it comes to other goals in life. If you can stay on top of these areas on a daily basis, then surely you can set your mind to achieving much more.
7. Avoid Decision Fatigue
Every morning you’re faced with a bevy of decisions as soon as you wake up. You have to figure out what you’ll eat for breakfast, what you’ll wear to work, or what you’ll pack for lunch.
You can see how these decisions add up quickly. The more decisions you’re faced with, the more your mind will exhaust itself without you even knowing it. But if you’re able to plan ahead — for example, choosing what to wear to work the night before — you’ll be better able to handle other decisions that come your way.
8. Forgive and Forget
You’re going to make mistakes along the way and you’ll have slip-ups. That’s just how life goes. Nobody is perfect. Instead of dwelling on the past and being hard on yourself, forgive and forget. Move on and start focusing on your next goal. Before you know it, you’ll have completely forgotten about whatever it was that was bothering you in the first place.
9. Set and Track Goals
If you don’t define success from the very beginning, then there’s no way to figure out if you’re making any progress. You can start by setting clear goals within the following categories — daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. From there, you should do routine recaps at the end of the day, week, and month to see if you’re hitting your goals.
10. Start Time Blocking
Time blocking can help you effectively manage your time and keep you on track to hit the goals you set for yourself. If you schedule blocks off on your calendar and dedicate time to certain tasks, you’ll be much less likely to procrastinate and let things slip by. Many people find that this time management strategy is much more doable than a lengthy and unorganized to-do list.
11. Use the Pomodoro Technique
You can also take it one step further and give the Pomodoro Technique a try. Named after the Italian word for tomato — as in a tomato-shaped kitchen timer — the Pomodoro Technique consists of focusing on one task for 25 uninterrupted minutes followed by five minutes of break time. If you hold yourself accountable, you can be laser-focused and watch your productivity shoot through the roof.
12. Get Rid of Temptations
We all have our own Achilles’ heel when it comes to distractions, favorite junk food, or sleeping habits. The first step is figuring out what these temptations might be.
For example, let’s say you have a habit of binge-watching Netflix into the night. One approach could be to get rid of your Netflix account completely. Or if you’re not quite ready to take that leap, set rules for yourself like not watching Netflix after 100 p.m.
13. Don’t Underestimate Willpower
It may sound cheesy to say you can do whatever you put your mind to, but there is some truth to the statement. You’d be surprised by what you can accomplish if you truly believe you’re capable of whatever task or obstacle is at hand.
If you don’t think you have the self-discipline to successfully meet a goal, then you’re likely to fall short. Try changing your perception of what you’re capable of accomplishing. If you tell yourself you have the willpower and set expectations accordingly, you’re more likely to succeed.
14. Have a Backup Plan
Arming yourself with a backup plan can help you navigate difficult situations. If you develop techniques to help yourself deal with adverse scenarios, you can diffuse a difficult situation and come out on top.
For example, let’s say you’ve been trying to eat healthier and you’re on your way to a party. There will be snacks galore which will test your willpower. Before you arrive, you can tell yourself that if you have the urge to go for junk food, you’ll instead drink a glass of water. Having a backup plan locked and loaded will help you make easier decisions that align with your goals.
15. Get an Accountability Partner
Having a friend to share your goals with can help you hold yourself accountable. If you’re ever struggling with staying disciplined, you can lean on your sponsor for support. You’ll also have someone to relate to, whether you’re discussing successes or failures. And while you’re at it, you can help your friend hold themselves accountable, too.
Success Starts With Self-Discipline
Now that you have 15 new strategies to develop self-discipline, it’s time to determine which ones will work for you. You may have already mastered some of these techniques, so they won’t apply to you. But where do you see opportunities to implement new tactics in your life?
Pick a few and give them a shot. See what works for you. And remember, you don’t need to inject all of these into your routine at once. Take baby steps, and you’ll be reaching your goals in no time!