#144: How I Succeed and Fail at Self-Discipline

In the Deliberate Freelancer Facebook group I asked listeners: What questions do you want to know about how I run my six-figure freelance business? 

One listener replied: I know you achieve an incredible amount in a relatively short period of time. What’s the secret to this? Do you use a timer? Do you have to shut down distractions? 

So, in today’s episode, I talk about self-discipline—how I achieve it, how I strive to achieve it and how I often fail at it. 

I think self-discipline is critical to making it as a freelance business owner. My husband, also a business owner, likes to talk about the need to overcoming inertia and then building momentum from there. 

Self-discipline is an executive function. It’s a cognitive process. Some people are fantastic at it. Some people have to work at it—or are great in some areas, not in others. And then some people are horrible at it and need to work on it first before they can achieve great things. 

To achieve self-discipline, you need to first know what your business goals are. Scroll down for four episode links in which my guests or I have talked about how to set goals. These might make a good “podcast package” to listen to one after the other. 

Self-discipline means controlling our impulses. It means doing things you don’t necessarily want to do—or maybe don’t want to do in that moment. It means delaying gratification and doing the work instead. 

In this episode I confess one area of self-discipline where I’m failing and need to correct ASAP. 

Overcoming procrastination is also a struggle sometimes. But if I can learn to maximize my self-discipline, I can cut down on the procrastination. I outlined several techniques and tips in this episode:

1. Know thyself. There’s a fine line between knowing yourself and making excuses. 

2. Create a startup routine to your work day.

3. Create a daily task list—not a long, unachievable to-do list.

4. Learn how to focus. 

I do this by starting each period of “deep work” or cognitive  work with a “highlight song.” I light a candle, put on my noise-canceling headphones and then switch to Mozart. 

5. Set up multiple processes and structures that will eliminate distractions.

Do a distraction audit over a few days to see what gets you off task and how you can correct it. 

Try out various versions of the Pomodoro method. Stop multitasking! Start time tracking—even if you only do it for a week in order to analyze your self-discipline and distractions. 

6. Improve your health. Make sure you’re hydrated, getting exercise and sleeping well. 

7. Set small, achievable goals for your day. 

8. Give yourself grace. Work on improving your self-discipline and thus maximizing your efficiency, which means earning more money in less time. But then, give yourself grace. We and our businesses are all works in progress, and not every day is going to be a banner day.

Biz Bite: Sort your email follow-ups by day.

Biz Bite-related article from Inc.: “Seven Productivity Secrets From the Female Founders 100

The Bookshelf: Tin Man” by Sarah Winman


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