“So what can we do to maintain our good structure?”, I asked the course participants. To this question they responded ”Discipline. We simply have to shape up and get a better grip” — a response they were fairly unanimous in.
Simply? For me it is quite difficult to be disciplined just like that. Judging by how
often I hear others tell themselves to shape up, over and over again, it seems like I am in good company.
When I tell myself to shape up, I never feel good about doing so. I give myself a harsh reprimand and do not become very motivated to change because of it.
This is exactly why I do not believe in this method. The harsh reprimand is paradoxically too vague and ambiguous; just as vague as telling yourself to ”be better!”.
Choose without hesitation
As I see it, being disciplined is about selecting the preferred option in a given situation of choice, above what we spontaneously would prefer and choose. The discipline is put to the test when it is just as easy for us to choose either one of the two (or more) alternatives. Isn’t it a cruel situation we put ourselves in? We produce two alternatives as equals and tell ourselves to shape up and choose the right one.
What if we instead would be nice to ourselves and make the right choice as easy as possible to make?
To simplify the selection we can:
- remove one option completely
- make the preferred option more accessible and the other tempting option more complicated to choose
- make the preferred option more attractive and the tempting one less so
- guide ourselves through the situation and the selection-process
Allow me to illustrate my point.
- If you think that you need to become more disciplined in order to be able to say no to helping others more often for the benefit of your own tasks, then: Clarify what goals you have to achieve in your work and put them somewhere where you can easily see them when someone asks you to help them with something. It will then be easier determine what tasks are important in terms of achieving these goals (and therefore have a higher priority) and which ones are not (those with lower priority).
You might even create a prioritization-guide where you list the typically important tasks you have and write them separately from all other tasks you do occasionally. You then guide yourself towards making the correct choice and prioritization.
Find three ways to say no in when a colleague asks you for help and you would rather prioritize completing your own task first. Practice saying what you feel works best until it feels natural and you are comfortable with saying it. You thereby make the preferred response more accessible and not so unpleasant (or unfamiliar).
- If you think you need to shape up in terms of writing your to-do-tasks in the one location you have chosen to keep them in: Make it difficult to reach the places, tools, applications, and notes you have previously written things on, and which you no longer want to use. Put the PostIt-pad back where you keep your office-supplies, uninstall the program, delete the shortcut, put the notepad in the bookshelf behind you instead of directly in front of you.
Keep the to-do-list-window open on the computer at all times, just a click away. If you tend to make a quick note in another application (such as a text editor) instead, close the program so that you will not be tempted to use it instead. Whatever you no longer wish to choose will now be more difficult to choose.
- If you tell yourself in a harsh, forceful manner to work in that new, structured way which the struktör is promoting: Concretize what it is you need to get better at.
Decide exactly what the habit you want to establish is: is it having one to-do list, consciously prioritizing by using a particular method, get better at planning non-urgent tasks in advance, or keeping a desired weekly rhythm and pace. Only now is the choice you wish to apply greater discipline to clear, and only now can you do something about it.
Lay out the material needed for the task you have previously postponed but which you want to work on first thing in the morning, so that you are not tempted to start doing something else. Crete a parallel calendar that illustrates your desired weekly rhythm and always keep it open in your digital calendar-tool. Change the font and colors of the to-do list so that it appeals to you more. Or, do something else that makes making the right choice easier.
Choosing in advance makes it easier to choose in the moment
If we make a tangible, physical change when it comes to the tools we use instead of telling ourselves off, we need not be so strict. We make the choices we will later want to have chosen more automatic. We will need less discipline and there will be a greater degree of relaxation in our everyday life. We manage to keep the new habits we want to embrace for longer periods of time.
How are you making it easier to make the right choices?
How do you alter your ways and habits without having to become more disciplined? Write a comment and share your thoughts.