It’s often said that we are our own worst enemies. This is especially true as a leader, as how well you can make yourself stay on top of difficult or boring tasks can mean all the difference in how successful a project turns out.
So what is the best way to overcome those moments of poor motivation in order to stay on top of the things you need to be doing, especially when those tasks, while important, feel onerous, routine or easily put off? To find out, we asked a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members how people can improve their willpower and discipline in the face of difficult tasks or duties. Here is what they said:
“I’ll do this tomorrow” is the easiest way to get behind on your goals. If you’re feeling tired one day, it’s easy to just save something for “later,” but that always increases the stress and workload of what you’re trying to accomplish. Every time you find yourself making an excuse to finish something later, just buckle down and finish it then — you’ll thank yourself “later.”
Make your actions consistent and they will have a better chance of becoming a habit. It’s important to schedule tasks that you need to complete and have some sort of a routine that works for you. If you stick to this routine, it should become a habit after 30 to 90 days. If it’s a habit, it’s already a discipline and you won’t need as much willpower to want to do it.
Define a clear goal and then take small steps every day to reach it. Without a clear vision or goal to reach there is no driving force to maintain discipline, you must be working towards something that you see clearly has an outcome. Define this vision and then focus on small, attainable tasks each day to complete. Build this habit and discipline will become a powerful skillset in your toolbox.
To increase your willpower or discipline, the most effective route is to change your belief about those concepts. Most people feel “constricted” by discipline, but that misses the point. In reality, discipline is the fastest path to freedom. When you live with discipline, your goals are accomplished faster, you live with congruence and improve your inner state. These lead to a sense of freedom.
As a serial entrepreneur, running multiple businesses keeps me busy. On top of that, I compete professionally in Natural Men’s Physique Bodybuilding. I make no excuses when it comes to my physical health and fitness goals. It takes a whole lot of discipline to train every day, regardless of how tired I am. The process that keeps me going is by rewarding myself consistently with food I love to eat.
Setting goals or writing down plans means nothing without follow-through. However, we are all too quick to abandon and forget these dreams. Adding accountability will significantly increase the likelihood of success. If you are serious about accomplishing something, find a friend, family member or co-worker who will follow up with you on your progress on a regular basis.
Like muscles, willpower can be trained to get stronger. Exercise your willpower by practicing good habits daily, such as making your bed after waking up, eating breakfast on time and keeping to your daily workout routine. But willpower can also be exhausted when you overwork yourself, so you must give it time to recover. Exercise your willpower but don’t overdo it.
Create deadlines, even when they’re not necessary. You can start with the stuff that you’re currently putting off. You can do this with daily tasks as well. Once you’re used to this strategy, you’ll find yourself with much fewer distractions, a much higher level of productivity and enhanced willpower.
How you think and talk has a direct correlation to your attitude. Pay close attention to “I am” statements because they are defining statements. Avoid negative statements like “I’m not able to do this,” and replace them with “I’m going to find a way to get this done.” When I stopped my negative language and self-talk, I saw a tremendous change in my energy and focus.
The more you try to pretend your shortcomings don’t exist, the more trouble you’ll have overcoming the problem. The first step is admitting what the issue is so that you can figure out why you do it and how to do better. Improve your discipline by recognizing which willpower you lack so that you can take the steps to move past it.
Self-affirmations can help boost your willpower, especially during times when it feels very low. Self-affirmations help you recenter your mind so you can get back to focusing on your goals. Choose a self-affirmation that’s meaningful to you, it could be something like, “I am strong and resilient,” or “I learn from my mistakes.” Saying these phrases to yourself will put you in the right mind frame.
If you want to improve your willpower or discipline, remove temptations. For instance, if you’re trying to use social media less, take Facebook, Twitter and Instagram off your phone. Trying to eat healthier? Get rid of all the junk food in your house. Removing temptations will naturally help you boost your willpower.
We all have a habit of thinking three steps ahead of our current task. I’ve found that it’s possible to improve willpower by simply taking the time to consider what’s happening while it is happening. If you’re thinking about doing something for a future benefit, take the time to consider the impact it will have on you right now. Before long, this decision-making process becomes automatic.
When you don’t feel like doing something, that’s your brain trying to keep you in the comfort zone. Frankly, nobody feels like waking up at 6 a.m. or getting down to work immediately after lunch (or whatever it is for you). They don’t feel like it but do it anyway. Just know that your brain is not you. Remind yourself what’s the bigger goal behind a certain action. This will help you keep going.
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.