The jobs with the highest earning potential often come with a lot of freedom. You can start and stop work when you want. You run your own schedule. No one is telling you what to do. That’s great news if you have the discipline to stay focused and consistently follow through: You can have unlimited earning potential. But if you lack discipline, all that freedom becomes a detriment.
Maintaining the discipline it takes to be successful doesn’t just happen naturally. You’ve got to develop it like any other skill. If you don’t, you’ll get derailed by distractions or plain-old complacency, and your income will reflect that.
Many people get stuck in the first phase of success when they acquire that new client or land that account. But this is only the beginning. Building a career is a process that is made up of a-million-and-one tiny little steps devoid of glamour and excitement. You have to keep pushing forward anyway. If you haven’t built up your discipline, you won’t.
How can you build up your discipline (and your pay)? Follow these tips:
Know your weakness.
People often attempt to cover up any vulnerabilities or pretend they don’t exist. Until you can acknowledge your shortcomings, you won’t be able to overcome them. Are there habits or daily behaviors that you know slow down your momentum during the day? Are you surfing the web too often? Do you chat on the phone a little too long? Address these distractions and weaknesses so that you can approach your workday in the most efficient and streamlined way possible.
Keep it simple. Dream big but plan small. The best way to get big things done is by focusing on and accomplishing the smaller steps along the way. There is no need to get bogged down and ultimately overwhelmed by the “bigness” of the end product. Do keep your eye on the prize, but don’t let it paralyze you from getting it done!
Combine something you want to do with something you need to do.
For tasks that you are tempted to put off, combine them with something you enjoy. For example: Listen to your favorite music while organizing your files. There is a reason why long-distance runners will play their favorite playlists while training for a long race. Think of yourself as a long-distance achiever; give yourself fuel and rewards along the way.
Remove temptations and distractions.
The best strategy is “out of sight, out of mind.” Toss the junk food, remove the clutter, turn off distracting media, and create an environment that best allows you to get your work done and serve your clients efficiently.
Prioritize tasks. Complete the hardest and most pressing tasks first. By getting the big stressors out of the way, you will be more productive and less stressed the rest of the day. By winning the big victories first, you will give yourself the momentum to knock out everything on your list one after another.
Don’t wait for it to “feel right.”
Once you dedicate yourself to a new disciplined routine, know that it will not feel comfortable right away. It takes on average 21 days to form a new habit, and during that time period, don’t expect that you will feel comfortable in your new healthier approach to your daily work. Changing up your routine and habits can be uncomfortable and awkward at first. Embrace the feeling of “wrongness.” If you’re having trouble getting used to it, change a few things at a time.
Stay on top of your goals and track your progress. Review your goals each morning before you start the day. Pick a quiet time or place to meditate on what you want to achieve in the short- and long-term. You can also write down your progress each day and acknowledge the victories along the way. This is a perfect way to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished so far and figure out if you need to adjust your course in order to get to the finish line on time.
Prepare a backup plan.
Know what you’ll say and do if temptation arises. Don’t just give in the very first time you have the urge to return to your old ways. What are concrete ways you can address these inevitable moments when your old self creeps up and asks you to check your newsfeed? Having a clear, solid approach to resist your impulse to return to the old ways will make it easier to nip these bad habits in the bud and stay on course.
Get the right support.
Surround yourself with people who are like-minded and supportive. There is a saying that you are a reflection of your environment. If you surround yourself with efficient and disciplined people, you will be much more apt to stay on course with your own commitment to efficiency and discipline. Take a moment to identify some blockers in your day-to-day commitment to discipline. Are there people or situations you can remove from your environment to stay on course?
Forgive yourself and move forward.
Things won’t always go according to plan. You’re going to have ups and downs. When you have a setback, acknowledge what caused it and move on. Use the setbacks as learning experiences. Are there ways you are slowing yourself down by holding on to resentments and unaddressed feelings? Face these directly, address your shortcomings by taking actions to fix them, and forgive yourself.
No matter where you are in your career right now, you can become more valuable by staying relentlessly engaged in your work. With enough discipline and passion, even dull day-to-day tasks become meaningful and inspiring stepping stones that fuel you to surpass your goals.