022: I Have Had Huge Issues With Consistency. Here Is How I Tackle It.

This article is a 19 minute read.

 

 

Over the years, I’ve been well aware of my issues with consistency (or really, lack of it). From posting on social media, to daily routines, I find myself having to actively engage in self-discipline and awareness in order to follow through and build new habits. In this episode, I give you a 7-step method for what to do when you also recognize your issues with consistency, and how to create better habits around it.

Discussed In This Episode:

  • Why denial is our biggest enemy when it comes to consistency
  • Why knowing your why and your working style is crucial in understanding your self-discipline
  • How using habit-forming triggers can help with consistency
  • Why rewarding yourself is important
  • The 7 steps to daily self-discipline

Mentioned in this episode:

Other Helpful links:

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Welcome to Coffee Powered Systems, equipping women with actionable steps to overcome, overwhelm and streamline business and life. So grab your favorite drink and come hang out with me. I'm your host, Miranda Merten. Happy Friday. Welcome back to another episode of Coffee Powered Systems. Go ahead and grab your favorite drink and join me today for our Friday episode.

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I am having a water today. What are you drinking? I haven't asked you that in a while. It's a matter of fact. Why don't you take me on Instagram or comment on one of my most recent posts and let me know what you do while you listen to your favorite podcasts. Are you working out? Are you working or are you sitting and having a drink? Tell me what you're doing right now. I want to talk to you about consistency and self-discipline.

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I have had huge issues with being consistent. And I want to talk to you about this today because I have seen a lot of this come up lately with not being able to be consistent with what you're putting out or posting on social media. This is coming up a lot. And maybe it's because it's getting towards the end of the year. We're already halfway through Q3. We'll be going into Q4 soon and usually towards the end of the year, we start to get a little bit more lax.

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Maybe we re-evaluate what we've done so far in the year. And we have to realize that we have been consistent and stuck to our plan and what we've done or what we set out to do since the beginning of the year, or we notice that we've dropped off a little and now we want to start ramping up again and figure out a plan of how to be more consistent and granite. Twenty twenty has been quite a year. No one saw this coming.

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And it seems like every month there's something new. Beirut just happened. I mean, every time you turn on the news, something big is going on and no one saw any of this coming. So if you haven't been consistent this year or you haven't put your plans into action the way that you wanted to give yourself a little grace and re-evaluate and then kind of decide what you want to do as we finish up this year, as we wrap up these last four to five months.

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But I want to let you know what I have been doing to tackle or handle my inconsistency over the last years and give you this seven step method for daily self-discipline, because really being consistent is just all about self discipline. Right? It's really hard to be consistent if you are not holding yourself accountable. So the two go hand in hand for sure. So if you're one of the ones who found yourself this year getting a little bit off track, not being as disciplined as you would like, what we're going to do today is walk through some steps that you can do to maybe help increase your self discipline a little bit.

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So as I walk through these seven steps with you, if you have been having issues with consistency, take note or jot something down or, you know, make a mental note and see if some of these might help you out or might help you kind of get back on track.

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So the first step is admitting that you do have a problem. Denial isn't going to help you in this case. You do have to understand yourself and you have to know when you do have a problem with being consistent or being disciplined. I know exactly the times when I am going to be a little bit more lax on my schedule. It's usually a certain time of day or a certain time of the week.

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You know, when the weekends start rolling around Thursdays, Fridays or middle of the day, like middle of the afternoon, I get a little lull where I don't want to do as much. So take note of those times and make sure you're not doing things or scheduling things around those times that it's going to be really hard to follow up on.

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If you can say to yourself, I have a problem getting things done and it's because I lack self discipline, then that's taking responsibility for the problem. And that means you're ready to take action and do something about it. So that is going to be your first step. And not everyone has the same problem with self-discipline. We're all different. We all have different reasons for doing things. We all have different reasons for functioning the way that we do. So it's important to not only understand the problem, but also understand why you and your personality is giving you this perspective.

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So here's the three things you need to consider on that front. You have to know your why.

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And it sounds super generic because everybody says it. But it really is true. You also have to know your working style. You might be trying to force yourself to work in a way that doesn't fit your personality because you think it's the right way to work or you. That's how you should be working or that's when you should be working, if you think being a morning person and getting right to work at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. is what you should be doing.

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But don't try to fit yourself into this box. If it's not actually working for you, it's OK to change. It's OK to evaluate what's working and what's not working.

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So once you figure out your working style, that's going to help as well. You know, some people like to work in silence with the office door closed. Some people like to turn music on. I have a productivity playlist. You can get that for free on my website. It's inside the productivity pack. It's a link to a Spotify playlist. I listen to that sometimes because sometimes I do want some music in the background. Now, it depends on what I'm working on, whether or not I put music on or whether or not I can listen to a podcast or, you know, sometimes I'll put TV on in the background.

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But it depends on the task. Right.

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I can't have Survivor watching in the background if I'm trying to write a blog post. In those cases, I do need a cup of coffee and some silence because I need to get in a certain zone. So you have to also know your work style. So step two, after you have admitted that, yes, here you've got a problem and yes, you are ready to move forward and take action. That's when you are going to create and maintain your daily rituals.

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And we've all heard of having daily rituals. Some people have rituals for business and personal. Some people have morning rituals, nighttime rituals, maybe even midday rituals. And whatever you call them, you don't have to call them rituals as long as you determine that there are certain triggers and habits that you do every day to get you in a certain mindset, then these things soon become super automatic and they require less energy for you to complete because it becomes a habit forming trigger that enables you to work better.

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If you've tried switching your routines for more productive ones and it's still not working. Here's a few things you could try. Number one, you're probably trying to do too much at once. The thing is, when we start deciding that we're going to switch things up and start doing new things and implement better habits, we try to throw them all in there all at once.

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Like I'm going to read before bed. I'm going to drink all the water. I'm going to go for a walk and I'm going to do some yoga. I'm going to do some meditation.

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And you try to incorporate it all at once. And what happens? You do it for a couple days. You incorporate Hal Elrod's morning SAVERS routine and it takes thirty minutes to do this ritual that you just started. And it becomes too much when you're trying to incorporate new things. Just try to incorporate one thing at a time. If you're going to drink the water, try to drink the water for two weeks. The problem is that we are impatient, right?

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For me to say I want to start five new habits, but I'm going to incorporate one habit as I'm for three weeks at a time. So you're telling me it's going to take me three months before I even get all of my habits taking care of that sounds like such a long time. Right? So that's why we tend to throw everything at it all at once, because we think we've got the willpower and we've got the self-discipline. We know what we want to do.

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So we think we can absolutely do it.

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But at the end of the day, we're not used to doing all these things all at once.

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So something falls off and it becomes too much to remember. You haven't added the correct triggers so it becomes harder to maintain. A good trick is to do you have it triggers if you want to incorporate, maybe drinking a cup of tea every night before you go up to bed, make your cup of tea, that's going to be your trigger, like when you turn off the TV or whatever. The last thing is you do for the day. When you get up off the couch, that's your trigger, that between the couch and upstairs you're making the tea.

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OK, so you make the tea and that's your trigger as you're drinking your tea. Maybe that's your downtime to either plan for the next day or read a chapter of the book you're reading. And when you incorporate these triggers together, then it becomes easier to form the habit. Another example might be if you want to add push ups to your daily routine, you want to do ten push ups a day. You don't like doing push ups. So for you to just say, oh, as long as I do ten push ups sometime during the day, that's easy, right?

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I can do ten push ups sometime during the six hours I'm awake. What happens is you don't like doing the push ups, so you keep putting in. Off instead, maybe try a trigger. If you step out of bed, you know, once you once your feet hit the ground in the morning, that's your trigger to now drop down to your hands and do your 10 pushups.

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Or when you take your lunch break before you eat your lunch or before you have your lunch break and sit down at the table, drop down into your 10 pushups, pair it with something that you're already going to do and that's going to make it a lot easier to remember to do it.

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Another reason that you might not be maintaining your rituals is you just don't want to change. And that's an OK thing to admit.

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Some things we don't want to do. Right. Going back to the push ups, maybe you don't want to do the push ups, but it's one of those things that you know is good for you.

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It's better for you. It's just more fun to do something else. It's just more fun to scroll Instagram instead. So you've got to recognize that, though, and recognize that those might take a little bit more time and a little bit more work and discipline if it's something that you do actually want to incorporate, if you decide that even though you don't like to do this thing, but it is something that you want to incorporate, you can try the Kaizen method.

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Now, the Kaizen method just says do something for 60 seconds at the same time every day. That's the two keys to this. It's the same time every day. And also just start it, do it for 60 seconds. Typically what happens is we get started and we'll keep going. So if you're an author and you want to write a thousand words a day, that's a lot. But you want to write a thousand words a day and you sit down at your desk and you want to start writing for 60 seconds.

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Just get some words on the page. I want to write 10 to 20 words. Usually what happens is when we get started with something, we're just going to keep going, keep going until we're done or until time's up. If you go back to the push up scenario, if I just do push ups for 60 seconds, you could probably do 10 by then.

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But let's say you were shooting for more.

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Let's say you were shooting for 50 and you just do it for 60 seconds. Chances are you're going to keep going longer than the minute. So that's the key do at the same time every day and just get it started.

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Started.

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Say you're going to start for a minute and if you continue to go, then you can keep going. That's a good trick to incorporate.

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All right. So step three is you're going to have to eliminate distractions. Now, like I said before, this will depend on your work style. Some people can have distractions and work. You know, you can have music on. You can be in the middle of the park while people are running by and playing Frisbee. Typically, you're not going to get in that deep workflow.

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So if you're looking to get in deep workflow, then you want to eliminate distractions. Now you have to know what kind of distractions are pulling away your focus. Some people are distracted by social media. Some people are distracted by, you know, other websites or news channels or news websites. You've got to know what your particular distraction is in order to combat it. So there's a couple apps that you can use, you know, website blockers, you can use Procrastinator, which blocks Facebook and other sites that you include on their strict workflow, YouTube, blocker, all those kinds of things.

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And I'll drop some links in the show notes so you can check those out. If you tend to get distracted by things like Facebook and YouTube, you want to turn off those websites and maybe even if you have your phone nearby, you want to put it in airplane mode or turn it face down so you don't see the notifications. If you do still have notifications on, just want to set yourself up for success.

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Step four is going to be set a timer and set your timer. Whether that's twenty five minutes. Thirty minutes, forty five minutes, whatever it is. And the thing with setting a timer, why it works is that we know we have this finite amount of time to do some work. So if you say I'm working on client A's material and I have 30 minutes to do it and you know exactly what you're going to be working on, that's going to motivate you to finish it in that 30 minutes.

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If you are just willy nilly. I am sitting down to work from eight to 12 until lunch.

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I have to do client A, client B, and then work on my website. There's too much free time and your time will expand. So you have to really compress your time and really compress your activities into certain timers so that you know exactly what you should be working on.

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Step five, you've all heard it, eat the frog, eat that frog means do the hardest thing first. If you do the hardest thing first, that's the worst thing you're going to have to do all day. So you do that one first, get it out of the way. It probably will take the longest amount of time. So once you've kicked that off of your list, you can go on to everything else. Some people don't work well with the eat the frog.

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I tend to like putting some quick wins in as well. Some days I'll switch it up, put some quick ones in early if I have a few things on my list. I know it's you know, some of them are going to take ten or twenty minutes. I might knock them out first just to kind of get my head flowing, get in the zone and then I'll go into the hole, eat the frog scenario. So it's up to you again.

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It goes back to what is your work style.

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You want to know how you work best if you put that frog at the top of your list and yet you're still looking at it and then 45 minutes goes by and you're just going, I don't want to do this or you're going really slow. That's something you have to know about your personality. So a lot of this is going to be a trial and error before you kind of 100 percent get it right. But the key is going to be to decide what you're going to do and get it in motion.

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So whether that's going to be eating the frog first or eating it in the middle and putting in some quick wins for yourself, you just have to know what you're going to do and just do it.

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And it goes back to creating a finite amount of time to do those things. So if you have a small, quick win, make sure you say this should take me ten minutes and let it take ten minutes. Don't let your time expand septics reward yourself.

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And this is a hard one for me because as a creative, I'm always thinking I've always got ideas in my head. I'm always thinking I have to work and I'm always on the computer. Tinkering with something and rewarding yourself can be anything right. It runs the gamut from as little as taking a break to walk outside to taking a bath later that night, to going to a spa or spending some money on yourself. So reward yourself can be anything that's up to you.

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It could be as simple as I have this huge chocolate bar in the refrigerator that I have been trying to get into. And once I finish this big giant task, I can have a few squares.

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You know, it can be as simple as that. It can be a glass of wine, it can be you want to watch your favorite TV show that you haven't seen in a while, or you allow yourself to watch one hour of TV a night after you've finished everything.

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And you are so looking forward to it, but only if you finish everything.

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So you're going to have to determine what your rewards are. But I do recommend put those little rewards in there every once in a while.

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And the last tip I want to give you today for dealing with self-discipline is plan your day the night before you hear it all the time. I say it all the time, but it's a game changer. And if you're not already doing it, you need to be planning your day the night before. There's nothing worse than getting up in the morning, getting out of bed, getting ready for the day, and then going over to your desk and sitting down and then going.

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Now what? It wastes a lot of time. It's going to waste a part of your morning. It's going to waste the first part of when you get to your desk and start getting in the zone because you're starting to do the planning and figuring that out. That's going to take you twenty or thirty minutes, and that's twenty or thirty minutes that you could have already gotten into it. And if you've already made your tea or coffee, you want to be getting started at that point.

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So the night before, you want to sit down with your planner or your calendar or even just a notepad and just kind of dump out, what are your next steps, list out what your next steps are for whatever projects you're working on.

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If you're working with clients, what are you currently doing for your clients right now and what the next steps are? Also, keep in mind that you just want to work on a few things. So I recommend one big thing, three medium things. And you can do like five small tasks. You shouldn't have more than ten things on your list, because when you think about it, the huge giant project usually will take you about two to three hours of your day.

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And that's probably your frog.

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You don't want to be doing that. And then you still have some other big, huge things to work on. So those are the seven steps to increasing your self discipline and tackling your consistency. So remember, again, first, take responsibility for the fact that you aren't being consistent and find the ways to examine either how to get past it or how to work with your personality and your work style to incorporate more consistency.

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OK, that is my Friday episode. Have a lovely rest of the week and I'll see you next time.

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Thanks for listening to Coffee Powered Systems. You can find links to everything mentioned in the episode. Down in the show, notes are on the website at Miranda Merten dotcom. If you enjoyed this episode and would love to continue mastering your work flows and processes, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and join me here next time.

Listener Q + A – Have a question you’d like me to answer on a future episode? Send me a message!

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Even the term ‘self-discipline’ is unpleasant. Westerners equate the word ‘discipline’ with ‘punishment’. Being self-disciplined is seen as forcing yourself to do stuff you really don’t want to be doing, day after day. And often that is the truth.

And if you’re like most of us, you’ve tried just making yourself do it. You’ve tried little tricks, and making to-do lists, and putting the hated problem task first (eating the frog) and next, putting the problem task last (procrastination). And nothing seemed to work.

We’re going work our way through seven steps to getting back on track and finding workable solutions to increasing self-discipline – and feeling good about it.

 

Step One: Admit There is a Problem

Have you tried several strategies already? Or are you just telling yourself you’ve ‘tried everything’ because it feels like you have?

If you’ve got a guilty conscience about not possessing enough self-discipline, you’re likely listening to voices from the past (particularly voices from childhood). You’ve got yourself into the typical perfectionist ‘shame-and-blame’ mind trap. You may be the type of entrepreneur who is absolutely aware of this, and how futile shame is as a motivator (shame makes people want to hide); but still you find yourself stuck in that trap.

Even if you’re not a perfectionist, none of us want to feel like we’re slacking off (even though we all do it sometimes). But before you can transform your self-sabotaging habits, you first have to acknowledge what is not working for you. And why.

If you can say to yourself, “I have a problem getting things done and it is because I lack self-discipline”, then you are taking responsibility for your problem, and you’re in the right place to do something about it.

Too often, however, we say things like “I have a problem getting things done, but it’s because I’m looking after a sick mom”. Or maybe it’s because you’re working two jobs, or you have children to drive to soccer practice or whatever. 

The key word to watch out for is that insidious ‘but’. 

Yes, your reasons may be sound, but that doesn’t negate the fact that what you want to accomplish is not getting done – for whatever reason. So instead of hiding from that, or blaming someone or something else, realize that the reason nothing is getting done is nothing more than an important clue toward what needs fixing.

Only when you are ready to face up to the fact there is a problem – when you’ve stopped saying things like, ‘this week I’m snowed under with family events but next week, I’ll get back to my routine’ – will you finally be able to take focused action.

That being said, not everyone has the same problem with self-discipline, nor the same reason for the struggle. It’s important to bring your unique situation, personality, and perspective to your custom solution.

Here are three important factors you need to consider:

1. Know Your Why

You stand a much better chance of overcoming self-sabotaging behaviors if you know why they are happening. 

And it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to dig for some deep, dark trauma to get over: Why you struggle with self-discipline could be as simple as you hate what you’re doing, and you’re only doing it to pay the bills. 

Knowing that particular ‘why’ instantly points at the right solution, which probably involves outsourcing or even dropping the parts you really hate; or changing your business model (drastic but sometimes necessary); or making a change that could be as simple as doing podcasts instead of webinars.

2. Know Your Working Style

Are you trying to force yourself to work in ways that fight your personality? For example, do you continue to make YouTube videos but hate being on camera? In that case, maybe you should be doing a podcast. Are you just not a morning person, but you force yourself to get up at six a.m. every day?

If you work online, at home, the solution is easy: Sleep in till noon, work later into the evening (if you don’t have other responsibilities to take care of in the mornings, i.e. kids).

Are you working in silence, alone at home … and missing the energy generated by the busy office you left along with your day job? 

Then rent a cooperative-type office space with other people (you’ll find these sorts of spaces in almost every major city). Or get together once a week with other entrepreneurs to have lunch and a brainstorming session. Or even just put the TV on while you work.

And don’t force yourself to make “To-Do” lists if you’re more of an auditory learner. Record notes for yourself instead on your mobile. Set audio alarms. 

If you’re a visual learner, then use an app like Ayoa, which looks more like a mind-map, but allows you to sort and organize your daily tasks” in separate “bubbles” that you can color-code to your own liking.

Apps like this are usually available for Windows, as well as for iOS and Android.

The point is: Knowing why you procrastinate or find yourself confused and overwhelmed is a necessary part of finding the right solutions for you. One size does not fit all.

Realize you are unique, and work with yourself, instead of against yourself!

 

Step Two: Create and Maintain Daily Rituals

Perform the same tasks in the same order at the same time every day, and they’ll soon be so automatic that they require less energy to complete. Not only that, but the thought of not doing them will become inconceivable. This is exactly how we end up wasting time on social media every morning. It becomes a ritual. Self-discipline demands you change those non-productive rituals for better options – like content creation.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “But I’ve tried changing my behavior and it doesn’t work!” Trust me, it’s not just you! Entrepreneurs typically bite off more than they can chew, and end up multi-tasking and distracted, feeling like they are completely ineffectual. This is especially hard if you’re a perfectionist on top of that – something that entrepreneurs in general and women in particular are prone to being.

If you’ve tried switching your daily routines for more productive ones, and failed miserably, it’s time to take a hard, objective look at why you can’t push through.

You’re trying to change too much at once.

This is the most common reason people don’t succeed in changing daily life habits. All of a sudden you decide you want to drink 8 full glasses of water daily, go to bed at 10pm, walk the dog for 30 minutes each day, post to Instagram 3 times a day, and learn Spanish. If you weren’t doing any of those before, there is no way you will stick to all of those new habits. Try one at a time for a month and see how that goes.

You hate what you’re trying to do.

Human beings are like any other member of the animal kingdom. They do what’s easy. They avoid things that are hard, or that bring pain. If you hate eating veggies, chances are it’s harder to work those into your lunch everyday. You’ll have to think outside the box to trick your mind into doing the not so enjoyable thing. With the veggie example, find different ways to cook them so they become more palatable, or if that doesn’t work, substitute a flavorful green drink or supplement that only requires 1 portion to get your daily intake.

You don’t really want to change.

Face it, it’s far more fun to hang out in your Facebook Group than it is to pick up the phone and make cold-calls. But again, it’s all part of knowing your ‘why’: It could be that you’re suffering from business burnout and hanging out in the Facebook group feels safe; something that fortifies you emotionally for the tasks you’re dreading. You beat yourself up for being ‘lazy’, when you’re actually afraid. 

The same if you secretly feel inadequate for a task. You don’t want to prepare that webinar talk because you know you’re not a writer, or you don’t want to tackle your tax preparation because you failed Math 101 in high school.

Feeling inadequate or overwhelmed is the number-one cause of procrastination. (Again, it’s linked back to perfectionism, in many cases.) If this last reason applies to you, realize that the only true failure is avoiding what you feel inadequate to perform, and just do it.

But there’s a science to creating new daily rituals – and that’s the great part. It’s not your own failure or your own weaknesses that is the problem; it’s more likely not understanding how creating new, successful routines really works.

It all has to do with neural hard-wiring. What happens when you cut across a field on your bicycle every morning? After a while – not after the first day, or even the seventh, but definitely after a couple of months, you’ve worn a visible, recognizable path across that field.

You tend not to deviate from your route precisely because you HAVE worn a path. It’s far easier to roll your bike along that nice, smooth, bare-earth path than it is to wrestle your way through the deep grass that grew up during the summer months.

It’s the same with your brain. Most of the time, we don’t change our routines because they provide us with the path of least resistance. It becomes far easier to do things the way we’re used to doing them, rather than try something new.

Combine that with trying to replace the old, easy, safe habit with a scary and perhaps unpleasant new one, well, it’s no big surprise that before you know it, you’re back in that Facebook Group with your morning coffee. And your coffee-break coffee. And – whoops! – it’s lunch time.

Don’t believe me? Do one simple thing. Make a note of the time every day for a week when you finally get to your work tasks. Ten-to-one, you’ll find that happens at the same time every day; for example, half-an-hour before lunch. That’s because you have hard-wired your brain – worn in that neural pathway – to get started at that time and no earlier. Result? It ‘feels’ right to start then. It feels safe to start then. And not before.

The human brain is a wonderful and devious organ, but you can easily hard-wire it back again. Sometimes, knowing what you’re doing to yourself and why you’re doing it is all you need to exert that self-discipline muscle. But sometimes, you need to be a little trickier.

Here are two easy solutions you can try, to help yourself get into new, productive routines.

The Pomodoro Technique

Here’s how it works:

Choose your task

Set the Pomodoro timer for twenty-five minutes (others have found other work/break times that are effective. Use the one that’s right for you)

Work on the task till the Pomodoro alarm goes off

That’s the basic principle, but before you can say, “Anyone can do that”, the short video on Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro page shows you how to tweak the process in six easy but specific steps to make it not only foolproof, but more fun too. And you can sit down for Pomodoro sessions – online and off – with your team members, and all accomplish more in less time.

The Kaizen Method

The Kaizen Method, properly speaking, is widely understood as a technique for analyzing your performance on any task and refining it until you’ve squeezed maximum productivity out of it – but the Bright Side blog has a different take on it. In the article, A Japanese Technique for Overcoming Laziness, Bright Side advocates doing a new task for sixty seconds only at the same time every day.

Everyone can manage to do something for sixty seconds a day, even when they can’t face half-an-hour.

Bright Side specifically recommends this tactic for people who lack confidence in their ability to successfully perform a task, and what it does is create those new neural pathways. The length of time you do something new isn’t important: What is absolutely vital is whether or not you do it at the same time every day.

So, if you’re trying to break the habit of starting your morning by playing Candy Crush on your iPad, all you have to do is postpone it until you have taken sixty seconds to do the task you really want to accomplish but are feeling intimidated by. No, you won’t finish it … but you’ll find that actually taking sixty seconds to open up that Template will have you starting the morning much more easily … if you do this every day for a few weeks. Gradually, it will become easier and easier to open up a Template and actually start writing those emails you want to write, or that product review. And after a while, you won’t experience that overwhelming, guilty compulsion to play your mobile game.

There are other daily rituals this can help with: For example, praying in the morning, or remembering to meditate; or even practicing your piano, if you’ve decided you’re going to practice every day. What happens – especially with entrepreneurs – is that we put the good stuff, the self-care stuff, on the back burner, when we’re focusing on work. And the sad part is, at the end of the day, we’re too tired or too stressed to practice that piano piece or we send our child out to walk the dog, or we’re too grumpy and edgy to meditate.

Taking sixty seconds in the morning to do that ONE thing you never remember to do – even if there’s only time to plan it for later – will help you make it part of your life, guilt-free.

Another simple trick for getting really important things done – especially self-care routines – do it first thing when you get out of bed or even before. Opening your eyes in the morning and recounting three things you’re grateful for is a wonderful way to start the day on a positive note. And drinking that glass of water BEFORE you reach for the coffee pot is the easiest way to get yourself in a daily habit of drinking water, for example. The key is, with whatever you want to add, to keep it simple and short until you’ve got the habit, the routine, firmly established.

If you truly want to defeat bad habits and build new, healthy routines, start small. But make sure you do it every day … even if it’s only for sixty seconds.

Step Three: Eliminate Distractions

It’s hard to ignore Facebook or unread emails, and notifications can keep you checking them more frequently than needed. Consider putting apps in place to prevent yourself from succumbing to these and other distractions. You can also adjust your notification settings so you don’t get them on your phone at all.

If Chrome is your main browser, there are a variety of add-ons you can install that all basically work the same way – by blocking you from your distraction websites for specific periods of time, set by you. Simply search Google using keywords like “Chrome distraction extension” or “stay focused Chrome”, and you can select from the add-ons offered.

You can find apps specific to certain websites: For instance, Procrastinator by benrowe.info will keep you from Facebook and any other site you specify, and others include:

Strict Workflow

Block Site – Website Blocker for Chrome™

YouTube Blocker by michaeljhsiu.com 

Not Now YouTube by oasisweng

Productivity InFocus by Danny Cho

Some simply allow you to specify the website (for example, Facebook) and select the time period, but others add extra twists that can make your period of banishment feel less punitive and more fun.

Take the Forest: stay focused app, for example: It’s great for visual thinkers: You “plant” a tree, which grows to maturity after a thirty-minute period. If you visit one of the sites you’ve blocked, the tree withers and dies.

The Boomerang extension for Gmail allows you to not only manage your Gmail more efficiently, there’s also a nifty feature called Inbox Pause, which stops Gmail from interrupting you with any but the most important emails (designated by you). 

And you’re not just limited to Chrome extensions and add-ons. There are SaaS sites like RescueTime that run in the background, monitoring your website visits and tracking time you spend on each one. RescueTime also delivers reports and breakdowns, so you can see exactly where you are losing time; and whether or not you’re spending more or less time on particular sites than you think.

And finally, there are Pomodoro-type distraction blocking extensions (complete with the graphic of little tomato timers) if you want to run your own easy Pomodoro experiment. 

 

Step Four: Fire Up Your Kitchen Timer

And, of course, there is always the low-tech solution – a real, live kitchen timer that makes an ungodly noise when the period of time you set is finished.

Use your kitchen timer for breaks – timing the amount of time you spend doing fun activities – as well as timing work periods.

It’s often easy to lose track of browser timers – for example, if you’re busy working away in MS Word or Excel, you don’t physically see little browser countdowns, and keeping an eye on your countdown can be actually helpful in spurring you on to work harder. 

If something is not ticking beside you, or a digital display is not sitting there, being hard to ignore, you’re more likely to lapse and get totally absorbed watching YouTube videos and TikTok. 

You can set your timer for lunch breaks too, so you can wander off to the living room or even out into the garden to eat your spinach salad. Just pick up your handy-dandy kitchen timer and take it with you. When the bell goes, lunch is over. Time to get back to work!

 

Step Five: Eat the Frog

Self-development guru Brian Tracy was onto something when he advised us all to get the least pleasant task out of the way first thing in the morning. If you can do it, the rest of the day will be smooth sailing after the elephant has left the building.

Start with the task you hate the most; the one that hangs over your head all day and makes you procrastinate. (The problem with leaving the hated task till “later” is that avoiding that task can also make you procrastinate so much you leave other tasks undone too – particularly if you are losing yourself in a pleasant addiction like Facebook or YouTube or your Killer Zombie game.)

If it really is a daunting task, combine two techniques. Eat your frog – but only eat it for twenty-five minutes. Or ten minutes. Or even just five minutes. This can be an effective way to help you tackle it; not just on one particular day, if it’s a repetitive task, but EVERY day. 

Have you ever made yourself do something you hate, and need to repeat on a daily basis, but the next day, you tell yourself you’re still recovering from wrestling with it yesterday? So, it becomes even harder to tackle again?

This often happens when you’re taking on a learning curve. 

The key lies in reminding yourself that every single day you do it, the task will eventually start becoming easier. Focus on the rewards you’re getting now – for example, think about how you’re already at Lesson seven and there are only five more to go. And remind yourself of the ultimate reward: How you’ll be able to write your own contracts and save oodles of money when your lawyer has nothing more to do than skim over them and approve them; or you’ll be able to invest wisely; or whatever is motivating you to tackle something you find hard or simply don’t like.)

And if you are tackling hated tasks, put your wizard hat on and get creative about how to get rid of them. There is no law cast in stone that says you are the only person who has to perform that task or take care of that area of your business.

Every single task or area of your business can be:

Automated

Delegated

Outsourced

The general rule-of-thumb is that you should only take care of those areas of your business that directly bring in money. One example: You save all your energy for one-on-one coaching and writing content. Your VA takes care of all admin tasks, and you hire a freelance Ad Manager to handle your advertising.

In fact, even if you’re strictly a solopreneur right now, you need to be planning for a team, as soon as you can afford one. After all, where would YouTube be if only one person was running the site? Overwhelmed and out of business; that’s where. With a lot of unhappy users.

Planning to create your future team is planning for success.

And before you dismiss outsourcing with “I can’t afford it right now”, consider how much money the right person can not only save for you, but actually make for you. Here’s how it works:

You outsource to contractors all the tasks that drain your energy and don’t actually bring in money 

You free up your time – which is your most valuable asset

You fit five more clients a week into the weekly time slots you had previously delegated for website maintenance, admin tasks, bookkeeping or social media management.  Since you’re charging clients one-hundred-and-fifty dollars per hour and your VA only costs twenty-five dollars an hour, and she does the stuff that used to take you twenty-five hours in five hours, you make an extra 750 a week, minus the 125 you pay your VA. That’s still a clear profit of six-hundred-and-twenty-five dollars a week – more than you ever made before, PLUS you got rid of the hated tasks. And you have more energy, more confidence, and you’re in love with your work again.

That’s ideally how outsourcing works.

Right now, you can plan to have a team of five people but start small. Start with one contractor. If overhauling or setting up your website is the most urgent task – and the one that’s been making you feel inadequate and confused for weeks – then outsource your web design.

If your shopping cart is giving you a headache and you’re actually using the easiest shopping cart there is, time to call in a Virtual Assistant who specializes in that particular shopping cart (and get her to handle your email and your autoresponder uploads too).

When you’re interviewing a contractor, do these two things, even if you do nothing else: No, not just check references – that’s an absolute, non-negotiable ‘given’ – but this:

Make a list of the exact tasks you want him/her to do

Ask toward the end of the interview and after you’ve gone over the tasks, “Is there anything else you think you could take off my shoulders?” 

That’s how to get Virtual Assistants – VAs – to tell you what they’re best at performing and identify areas where they could help you – ones you may not even know you need to tackle. 

Check out business coach Melissa Ingold’s site, Time Freedom Business, for plenty of help and information about effective outsourcing. You’ll find free resources such as concise blog articles, videos, tool recommendations and tips – as well her handy, free time calculator, so you can figure out your own ideal pricing formula.

You’ll also find paid products such as project kits, workbooks and her Goddess Boss Academy, if you’re interested in acquiring complete, ready-made packages to give to your VA or team members. These packages deal with different areas of your business, and provide you with instructions so you can do minimal customizations and give directly to your contractor, making you look like an outsourcing pro.

Half the time, we put off outsourcing because we feel “too busy” to stop the world and figure out what to tell our contractors. The Goddess Boss Academy packages make spending hours figuring out what to tell your contractor unnecessary. 

But you need to “eat the frog” on that one too. Don’t perpetually put off hiring a VA or a web designer or a copywriter: You’re not saving money when you do that – you’re actually losing it!

Decide what you’re going to outsource and set that in motion – even if it’s only one small but annoying task – today.

 

Step Six: Reward Yourself

No one wants to work for a demanding boss – even if that boss is you. What would you feel like, if you worked for a tyrannical boss who moans about your breaks, makes you do overtime and miss movie night with your daughter, and who doesn’t care if you work for twenty hours in your pajamas because you don’t have time for a shower; let alone getting dressed?

You’d feel resentful. You’d feel de-valued. You’d feel used and burned out.

 

Well, don’t do that to yourself, either! Taking time for self-care not only positively affects your health and mental alertness, it also boosts your confidence and self-respect, and puts the fun back in life.

The trick is to keep it balanced. Yes, here you are, thinking you’re non-productive and lazy, when in fact, what you’re doing is working yourself to the bone. Because make no mistake about it, even when you’re cruising Facebook out of pure procrastination, you still feel like you’re working. Because you know there are a ton of things to be done. 

You don’t come out of that morning on Facebook rejuvenated. You come out stressed, frazzled, depressed and feeling like there’s a big weight hanging over you. 

That’s not a reward, and you know it. Because you didn’t do the work first. You didn’t set a goal, and reach it – even if that goal was, “I’m going to spend twenty-five minutes writing a 300-word blog post on ‘Finding Your Ideal Potting Soil’.”

That’s when you take a reward-break: Not BEFORE you do the work!

So be sure you are giving yourself fun breaks throughout the day – but know in advance:

What goal you have to reach first, before you allow yourself that break

How long you’re going to take the break for 

What you’re going to do immediately after your break finishes

By setting and meeting goals – especially small ones – and pre-planning your breaks, your time playing Zombies or looking at funny dog videos on YouTube will really feel like a delicious little reward. And you’ll feel accomplished. 

And you can use your kitchen timer or your Chrome app to help ensure you don’t blow your resolution for keeping your breaks – and your work periods – to specific time frames.

So, once you’ve put in your two hours, or even just completed the yucky task of the day, go wild. Browse your favorite Instagram accounts or search Pinterest for new recipes. Just don’t let it turn into an all-day event. By allowing yourself short (timed) sessions of your favorite distractions, you’ll be less likely to wander over there when you should be working.  

Of course, the best rewards are usually away from your computer, if that’s what you work on all day. Walk the dog. Go for a latte. Spend twenty minutes in the garden. Listen to your favorite album on iTunes while lying on the couch in the sunroom. 

How to Stop Rewards from Going Wrong

That being said, rewards can sometimes go wrong. You promise yourself you’ll phone your best friend in San Diego for twenty minutes – and the next thing you know, two hours have gone by.

Or you decide on a twenty-minute nap and, because you never hear alarms, you wake up five minutes before the end of your work day and have to work all night instead.

You know what the answer is, don’t you? Two minutes reflection should have told you that it’s almost impossible to talk to someone you really love and haven’t talked to for a while and limit it to a rigid twenty minutes – particularly when she’s all excited about her new house and wants to tell you about the problems she’s having with her new job and her idiot supervisor. 

That’s the sort of reward it’s best to keep for the END of your work day – or maybe the weekend. The same with taking naps, if you habitually sleep through alarms!

Keep your breaks to things that energize you; or things that relax you, but not to the point of putting you into a deep, blissful coma.

Because if you keep scheduling naps knowing that you won’t hear the alarm and will wake up five hours later, well, that’s true self-sabotage! Escapism at its finest.

 

Step Seven: Plan Your Day the Night Before

Knowing exactly what you need to focus on from the minute you sit down in your chair every morning helps keep you from losing focus and will help ensure you stay on task. But too often, even when we do this, we end up distracted and not accomplishing our goals. 

What happened?

Why This Doesn’t Work:

It’s not enough to decide what to focus on. You need a strong motivation and reason to do whatever you’re assigning as a top priority.

Doing it strictly because it’s your most-hated task of the day isn’t likely to have you jumping out of bed, yelling “Yippee!”

You also need to know what your motivation for tackling that task is … and what the consequences will be if you (A) do it or (B) don’t do it.

You can make yourself a little worksheet, like this:

ACTIVITY GOAL MOTIVATION CONSEQUENCE
Good Bad

 

A goal is simply what you want to achieve. Example: “I want to have my inbox cleared by the end of the day”.

A motivation is your all-important ‘Why’. 

Example: Your goal might be “to lose twenty pounds”. Your motivation might be “so I can fit into the red dress for my birthday”. Or it might be “so I will stop wheezing when I climb up the stairs”. Or “so I can reward myself with a Spa day”.

It doesn’t matter what the motivation is … as long as it is a motivation that really impels and compels you to go for it with dedication and determination.

The consequence of not doing the task or taking the action needs to be serious enough to add to your motivation: Plus, you also need to make sure that the consequence isn’t actually a reward. For example, if – no matter what – you procrastinate in working on your emails every day because you’d rather play Collect the Sparkly Jewels on your iPod, you’re rewarding yourself for procrastinating! 

You need to be clear ahead of time that the true consequence of playing that game instead of working is that you will wake up depressed and disorganized the next morning, feeling like a failure. 

No wonder you can’t seem to break that habit! Realize that the only game you are playing is really with yourself. And what’s at stake? At the very least, your dreams.

So, plan your day the night before, when tasks are still singing loudly in your brain and you know what has to be done. Decide ahead of time on your top three priorities, as well as which task or activity you’re going to start with. 

Assess these by checking each one’s goal, motivation, and positive and negative consequences.

Finally, decide on how and when you will reward yourself. (It’s okay to play the Sparkly Jewels game, if you play it for ten minutes after eating lunch; or at the end of the day, for example.)

Make self-discipline a game: Look for ways to make it challenging, motivating and, above all, rewarding. 

Do that, and you’ll soon find that achieving your daily goals can actually be fun.

Self-discipline is not all about beating yourself up. It’s not about feeling shame. It’s not about berating yourself for what you ‘ought’ to be doing. 

Self-discipline is, first and foremost, taking responsibility for your own actions, and finding ways to get maximum performance – and satisfaction – out of your day and in life.

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