Monday, July 19, 2010

How to take on day at a time

It never fails: I post or talk about productivity and, immediately after, experience my least productive day in a long while. Why? Discipline.

I've read before, but I can't find the source now, that discipline is like any muscle in your body. That idea became one of those quick-hits that resonated with me immediately. Of course it is - there isn't necessarily something innately wrong with me or anyone else you has little self-discipline, me or that other person simply hasn't made exercising self-discipline a priority.

I'm Gen Y, guys, I get what I want when I want it, remember?

But how do you strengthen your discipline muscle? Here's what I'm trying.

I'm starting small. During one of my many attempts to Go to the Gym Every Day for Real, You Guys, I'd spend more than an hour working out and loving it. I was totally feeling and loving that burn, you know? Doing circuits after circuits, rocking out, being a gym hero. The gym I went to was totally going to hire me a spokesperson after that day.

Then I'd spend 30 mins at the gym the next day. Then I'd skip the next day. And then next. Then it was Friday and I had plans for the weekend. I'd fizzle out and spend a month ignoring the fact I wasn't going before feeling guilty enough to start all over again.

Not any more. New goal for getting in shape? Just getting up at the same time every morning and going to the gym. I don't even care if I walk on the treadmill and watch infomercials for 30 minutes while I'm half asleep. I aim to just show up and do something.

Same with my other personal goal: eat healthier. The number one thing I'd like to do better in that realm is just eat my goddamn breakfast. I don't even care if its a single piece of toast - the point is I can't say I'm going to go from eating nothing to making a traditional Irish breakfast feast every morning and expect it actually happen.

My other personal improvement goal is to read more. I used to read books like no one's business. Then a little thing called College came in and made reading about speed and counting pages. Lame! I have my list of books and I'm going to start carrying around the first one on that list everywhere I go. And I'm going to read for 10 or 20 minutes every day while I eat lunch. I'd like to get to read a book a week (all the Smart People on the Internet do that, you guys) but if it takes me two months to get through that first book, so be it. I'm establishing a habit through consistent behaviors.

When I won't want to go to the gym or read, it'll be easier to do it because the bar is low. Once it's easy to meet that bar, I raise it a little. But my self-discipline muscle will be all warmed up by then, so it won't see quite so hard.

Or so I think. We'll see how it goes.

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