3 small steps to self-discipline you can start today
As you scrape the remains of your hummus from the edge of its container, the last word you want to hear is ‘control’.
You have edge, you are avant-garde, a scene-setter, trend-maker, a radical.
But creativity and chaos are not necessarily always cosy bed-partners. Chaos is a source of background (or foreground, depending on the source) noise that drains cognitive energy like a leaking battery.
Even a small dose of discipline is helpful for moving a creative project forward, getting started or simply practising your craft. Why?
Discipline minimises distraction, procrastination and creative funks that can interfere with the process of moving from idea to completion.
Avant-garde doesn’t count for much when you’re not creating anything but unrealised ideas.
Here are some discipline-training tips for creators who want to keep moving:
“Avant-garde doesn’t count for much when you’re not creating anything but unrealised ideas.”
1. The art of compartmentalising
Unless you’re Henry David Thoreau and you have the privilege of locking yourself away in a cabin in the woods, daily life contains small stressors that, when accumulated, cause big impacts. Imagine your sources of stress being swept aside by a little broom before you start your work. Let them sit in the corner of your brain until you’re ready to sweep them up completely.
Get to sweeping when the time is right – not in creating time.
2. Lose the long task lists
Long tasks lists can make you feel incompetent because they’re undo-able. Work instead on one do-able task in an allotted time. Use the phrase “I will complete …” before you begin the task, so your mission is very clear.
3. Snack work
Anyone who’s done a PhD or similar project knows it feels like a mammoth task. One strategy is to put aside two years of your life where you do little else.
Or, snack work.
Steal little snippets of time out of your day – get up half an hour earlier, work instead of watching TV, work while you’re waiting for someone, and do just one small task at a time. If you have a blogpost to write, write the outline, if you need to read something, work on a paragraph, read slowly, digest and take four or five significant notes.
Some small adjustments to your discipline habits can cause big shifts in quality and amount of output.