Last week I wrote about what it is like to be a disciplined leader. Today I want to continue focusing on that topic by showing how you can develop that discipline in your own life.
Step One: Determine where you lack discipline.
Know your strengths and your weaknesses. If you have no problem showing up to work on time, count that as a strength. If you are always struggling to meet deadlines, that is a weakness. Choose only one or two weaknesses to work on at a time. If you are really brave, you may ask a colleague what some of your weaknesses as a leader are and work on those.
Step Two: Clarify your motivation.
As you consider the weakness you want to work on, what is your motivation? Why do you want to become more disciplined in this area? Is because someone else told you improvement was necessary? Or do you recognize the value discipline could bring to this area? If you are struggling to meet deadlines, your motivation for more discipline may be to have less anxiety or to have time to do a review of the project before the deadline so you do better work. Make sure you are convinced this is an are where you actually want to improve. Then your possibility for success will increase greatly.
Step Three: Sort out the problem.
Why is this an area of weakness? For example, why are you not meeting your deadlines? Are you procrastinating and putting in little effort until just before the deadline? Is it because of an inability to accurately estimate the the amount of time it will take you to work on the project? Once you figure out what the problem is then you can develop steps to improve.
Step Four: Develop a plan.
Let’s say you struggle to meet your deadline because you procrastinate. Develop a plan that gets you working on the project as soon as you take it on. Work back from the deadline and establish your own deadlines. You could also create your own deadline a week before it’s needed to give you time to review it. When reviewing your deadline, you can also break the job into smaller steps and set personal deadlines along the way that get you working on it sooner and keeps you going. These dates can lead up to your personal deadline and help you stay on track.
Another strategy is to actively develop better habits and create rituals that keep you on task. This could be creating more shorter deadlines for smaller parts of your projects. Maybe it could be working on your task first thing in the morning and checking emails or engaging in other tasks only at noon or at the end of the day.
Step Five: Remove distractions or temptations.
Why are you procrastinating? Are you always on you phone? Are you taking too many coffee breaks or constantly chatting with co-workers? Maybe set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to get back to work after a coffee break. Or leave your phone in your coat. Don’t check personal emails at work. Turn off notifications on your phone that continually remind you to check I through the day. Sometimes, it may be beneficial to close the door and pull the blinds so that you are not distracted by others who are walking by your office or chatting with each other. Find ways to remove distractions.
Step Six: Find an accountability partner, coach or mentor.
It helps to know that someone will be checking in on you. Ask someone on your team to check in with you occasionally to see how you are coming along. If you are the one in charge, maybe you have a secretary or personal assistant who can check in and remind you of deadlines you have set. Or hire a coach to check in with regularly.
Step Seven: Just keep on keeping on.
One who wants to learn discipline will continue to push through an try again and again even if they fail occasionally. Keep reminding yourself of your goals. And as you make progress, remind yourself of how far you have come. Did you meet that last deadline? Then celebrate it. If not, then figure out if some adjustment is needed and get back to the next task at hand. Don’t get down on yourself if you fall short. Forgive yourself and recommit to the plan.
Becoming a disciplined leader takes hard work, but you can do it as you work on one or two weaknesses at a time. As you do, you will become the disciplined leader you want to be.
Keep looking up,