Seven key ways to create iron self-discipline
Those starting out in a new venture have great intentions of accomplishing big things each day, but the truth is that working alone can be extremely demotivating.
If you’re working from a home office and are faced with the distractions of family, chores and social phone calls, retaining focus is a particular challenge.
But if you’re lacking the self-discipline required to get through your daily tasks, there are seven simple steps you can take that will ensure you stay on track.
1. Have a routine
Make sure you stick to a regular work routine, just as you would if you’re working for someone else.
Elisa Limburg, founder of events and marketing agency elevents, says it’s vital to stick to core work hours when working in your own business.
“This way people know when they can contact you, will take you more seriously and find you more reliable when they know you’re contactable when they’re most likely operating as well,” Limburg says.
Hazel Theocharous runs virtual assistant business Assisting U Virtually and says business owners should have a “to do” list that’s updated every day.
“I recommend updating the list at the end of each day so that you’re prepared for the new day in business,” she says.
“Diarising time is also an important factor for any business owner.”
Also bear in mind that most people work better either in the morning or the afternoon, so recognise when you’re at your best and do the most important jobs then.
And if you’re working from home, set up a separate room in your house that’s exclusively used for work.
2. Structure your day
Aim to conduct and complete tasks within time limits and within specific time allotments throughout the day.
So, if you have a deadline or need to get tasks finished, block time out in your diary and don’t take calls or check emails in that time, Limburg says.
“Managing your own business involves juggling lots of different tasks and different clients.
It’s important to be productive with your time and by setting limits you’ll work more effectively and strive harder to achieve and finish tasks,” Limburg says.
She also recommends that you don’t fall in to the trap of constantly checking emails.
Instead, allot specific times to check emails, unless you are expecting something urgent.
“You can easily get distracted by checking and responding to emails all the time. It also sets a trend that you’ll immediately respond to people, which at times can generate more work,” Limburg says.
Craig Broadbent agrees that emails can slow you down. He was initially running his Sydney content management business, StoneBridge Systems, from home and says he learned early he needed to be disciplined with email.
He set up his email so that everything from news sources was sent to a folder called “Read Later”, and only allowed himself to read anything in that folder three times a day.
And Broadbent could only read anything in that folder once there was no unread mail in his inbox.
“Setting up systems around email has been one of the most important tips for me,” he says.
“I tended to use ‘interesting’ emails that came through as a way of procrastinating.”
3. Push yourself
To get ahead and run a business, you need to push yourself harder than you would if you were an employee.
“You basically have more to manage, so every piece of time matters, especially when building up your business, so use time wisely,” Limburg says.
It’s also important to regularly meet friends and family, exercise or do something just for you, or you’ll end up stressed and unhappy.
“Work extra hours every now and again rather than go on a social outing or watch TV, but don’t overdo the sacrifices.”
“While work-life balance is very important, and although you tend to spend more time on your business than other aspects of your life, it’s very important to find some balance,” Limburg says.
4. Write your goals down
Those starting out need to be extremely goal orientated, says Lisa Phillips of Amazing Coaching.
Indeed, while business plans are ubiquitous among start-ups, specific goal-setting is often overlooked.
“The goals you set need to be inspirational and centred on the types of clients you want, details of your cashflow or the size you want your business to be by a particular point in time,” says Phillips.
Once the goal is written down, read your goals every day.
“Look at the goal you’ve written down and imagine it’s the day after and consider how that feels. Every time you achieve a small task toward achieving that goal, give yourself a reward,” she advises.
“Also, make sure you tick off tasks throughout the day to keep the passion coming in.”
A reward could be a massage, a couple of hours off, time at the beach or a meal out with friends, she says.
Richard Kuipers turned Two Men & A Truck from a small two-man operation into Australia’s fastest growing family-owned removal and relocation business.
He says it’s vital to reflect on where you want to take your business and how you plan to do it.
“They say that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there. Draw a map for your business’ journey and set targets.”
Also make sure you look after yourself, so that you eat when hungry and sleep when tired, he says.
“Nurture yourself and you nurture your business as well.”
5. Ask for help
Whether from a friend, business advisor, your partner or family, make sure you ask for help, Kuipers says.
You may spearhead the business, but getting professional advice and reflection from others can be invaluable for your sanity and your business.
“Often we take our business on by ourselves thinking it’s all up to us to manage alone, when there are times we are not actually qualified to do that,” Kuipers says.
6. Pay yourself
Particularly in the early days of running a business, it is important to pay yourself, Kuipers says.
“It’s easy to get lost in paying bills and staff and contractors, outgoings and taxes and end up with little or nothing, which can be disheartening.”
A good rule is to pay yourself 10% of everything that comes in to the business first, and then pay everything else, Kuipers says.
“If you have more left over – great, that is profit,” he says.
“Seeing money build up in your pocket gives you the drive to keep going, feel valued and have a sense of achievement.”
7. Accept failure is part of the process
It’s important to remain positive so negative thoughts don’t take over, says Phillips.
But, at the same time, you need to accept that failure is part of the process, so don’t beat yourself up about it, she says.
“Sometimes people will fail you or you won’t reach your goal, but it’s your job to be positive and push through this and keep reaching for the next goal.”
Emma Grey, who runs work/life balance consultancy WorkLifeBliss, agrees.
“Fear of failure is commonly behind procrastination,” she says.
“Imagine you’ll definitely succeed and plan out the steps you’d take if that was going to be the case. Then take the first step.”
Kelly Brough is the owner of start-up eCommerce site Oola.com.au, which stocks fun toys that teach.
She says it’s important to learn quickly from mistakes and then banish them from your mind.
“Every small business owner will make some wrong choices. It is frustrating, but harping on negatives only eats away at the positive energy that drives us forward. Find the lesson in your mistake, but don’t harp on the bad stuff,” Brough says.
Five essential steps to keeping iron start-up discipline:
- Make a list of tasks you need to complete the following day at the end of each day.
- Write down your goals and read them regularly to remain on track.
- Set some limits around how often you check and respond to emails.
- Allot specific time in your diary to complete urgent tasks.
- Have a work routine and ask for help when you need it.