A few weeks ago I introduced you to my friends Feel Like Doing and Need to Do (check that post out here!) To kick Feel Like Doing to the curb and give Need to Do the attention she deserves, we’ve got to have some discipline.
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. — II Timothy 1:7
Discipline is doing what you should do even when you don’t feel like it. It’s what kicks in once the initial fuzzy feelings of motivation wear off.
Sometimes we need discipline to simply carry out the responsibilities of our everyday lives. Like keep up with the laundry. Or stick to a budget. Or exercise like we need to.
But then there are times we need discipline to do something unconventional, or even scary, but deep down we know we’ve been called to do it. Like start a business or a ministry. Or change careers.
In either case, here are a few very doable, practical steps to help keep you focused so you get results.
1 – Define It
You’ll typically get more done when you have a plan that defines exactly what needs to get done. I find it’s helpful to take a few minutes to prayerfully plan out what I need to do for the day, week or month.
There’ve been many times when I’ve gotten to the end of the day and realized all the things I could’ve gotten done but didn’t simply because I hadn’t planned to. When I had free moments during the day, I filled them with Feel Like Doing things because I hadn’t charted out any specific Need To Do activities.
What goals do you need to define in your life? You probably already have some sort of mental list of tasks like fix the broken light in the bathroom or call the plumber. But is there anything else that you’ve felt a nudge or leading to do that you’ve been putting off for one reason or another?
Take Brooke, for example. She’s a working mom of two, creating a new normal after a messy divorce. She works as a nurse but has always dreamed of getting her real estate license as it’s something she’s passionate about and it would allow her to work a more flexible schedule. She’s held onto this dream for the past eight years but has yet to take any steps toward making it happen.
Have you fully allowed yourself to tap into the gifts, talents and passions you have and determined what you should be doing with them during this season of your life?
Sometimes we’re so busy being moms, wives, girlfriends, sisters, aunts, daughters and friends that we forget to reflect on “stretch goals” that will give us an even greater sense of purpose and accomplishment. So take a leap of faith and begin to define those goals too, even if you don’t have all the answers just yet.
2 – Master the Small Win
Now that you’ve defined for yourself all the things you’d like to see happen in your life, from washing dishes all the way to saving the world, you’re probably experiencing a variety of feelings – a little hopeful and eager mixed with a little anxious and overwhelmed.
If so, allow me to introduce you to the small win.
Small wins are the kinds of the things that might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but since they’re a step toward a goal of yours, they’re a win.
For Brooke, her first small win might be researching the real estate license requirements in her area. Her next small win might be looking up classes or programs that will help her fulfill the requirements. Next, it might be downloading the application to the program. Then, it might be filling out the application. After that, it might be submitting the application.
See what I mean? Brooke’s insurmountable, lofty pipe dream is coming closer and closer into reality by taking small steps in that direction. Each time you accomplish a small win, it creates momentum and confidence that keeps you moving forward and combats the feelings of “I’m not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, I might fail, what will so-and-so think,” blah blah blah.
Try setting a timer for 15 minutes and using that time to work toward a small win. It could be folding a load of laundry, making a business related phone call, reading a devotional, starting a monthly budget, or exercise.
At the end of 15 minutes one of two things will happen: You’ll have accomplished 15 minutes’ worth of valuable work or you’ll have built up enough momentum to work beyond the 15 minutes. Either way, you win.
Begin to define your weeks and days by small wins. It’ll help direct your energy toward what you can do with what you have right now.
3 – Build a Winning Team
Your team represents those people that influence you on a regular basis. A winning team is comprised of those that will encourage you, challenge you and hold you accountable while you do the same for them.
A losing team consists of people that are habitually negative, lazy, pessimistic, apathetic and unmotivated. They are consumed with what other people are doing rather than what they’re accomplishing themselves.
It’s really hard to win on a losing team.
Take Porscha, for instance. She graduated from high school last year. While many of her former classmates now have their first year of college under their belt, Porscha wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do after high school. She worked a few odd jobs here and there, but she spent most of her time searching for direction. She’d like to enroll in a four year university, but she feels a little unsure about being somewhat of a nontraditional student, knowing that she’s already missed a year.
At this stage in the game, Porscha’s team is critical. If she’s surrounded with people who lack motivation and direction and who make her feel comfortable staying stagnant, it’s likely she’ll find herself in the same spot five years from now – wanting more but not making it happen.
Conversely, if she can connect herself with people who will encourage her, help her silence the voices of self-doubt, pray for her, and who are action-oriented in their own lives, she’ll be much more likely to step forward and reach her full potential.
What kind of team member are you? In what areas of your life are you not making the forward progress you’d like? Is it because of the company you keep?
Your team should also include some mentors. Some of our goals go unmet because we haven’t seen someone up close and personal who has gone where we’re trying to go, so what we want to accomplish seems unattainable.
Find some people who have been there and done that to help you map it all out and assist you in navigating any roadblocks you face. You can find mentors for things like marriage, singleness, motherhood, career growth, financial responsibility or any other area you’d like to grow.
One word of caution about the whole mentoring thing. When you come across someone you think might be a good mentor for you, walking up to them and asking, “Will you be my mentor?” isn’t always the best approach.
I’ll tell you why: It’s scary. The person you’re asking will undoubtedly be flattered by the invitation, but they might also feel uneasy because they don’t know exactly what you’re asking them to do. Do you expect to meet weekly? Talk everyday? Is this additional commitment something they’ll be able to (or want to) fit into their schedule?
Instead, consider a simple,” I really like the way you’ve been able to [fill in the blank – develop your walk with God, navigate your career path, etc.] and I’d like to learn more about it. Can we meet for coffee sometime?” This way, you’re defining and limiting “the ask.” This request is a lot easier to say “yes” to than the weightier “will you be my mentor” question.
There’s another benefit to this approach. It gives you the opportunity to find out if you actually want to continue to meet with this person. An initial coffee meeting will help you determine if the two of you feel comfortable with one another and if your time together was mutually beneficial. You don’t always click with everyone (Amen somebody?) so this will give you a chance to find all that out before you schedule monthly meetings for the next six months that both of you come to dread.
So meet for coffee. If it goes well, ask about the next time the two of you can get together. Then, keep asking. Before you know it, you’ll have a mentor.
Also, remember it’s more blessed to give than to receive. If someone is gracious enough to mentor you, consider how you can be a blessing to them and enhance their lives. If they give you sound advice, take it! Report back how what they’ve shared with you has affected your life.
4 – Routine, Routine, Repeat
The people I know that are the most successful in making their dreams and goals a reality are people of routine. Depending on your personality type, this one might be a little tricky, but you’ll need to build in some level of structure and carve out specific time to complete certain tasks.
Your prayer life isn’t going to grow by accident. You’ll need pre-allotted time to cultivate it. You can’t exercise in your sleep (at least not yet, but I sincerely hope modern science is working to change that). You’ll need to set aside some time to work out during your waking hours if you want to see results.
Build in time in your schedule for your non-negotiables. These are things that must get done to keep your life in balance, no questions asked. My non-negotiables are prayer/Bible study time and exercise. Now don’t get me wrong. There are some days that I negotiate myself right out of my non-negotiables and I don’t do them. But generally speaking, these things are essential to me and I make a point to set aside time for them.
What are your non-negotiables? Are they reflected in your routine?
5 – Say “No” and Be Ok With It
To say “yes” to the things that truly matter, you’re going to have to “no” to some of the other things. You might have to say “no” to elaborate vacations for a period of time in order to meet your financial goals. You might have to say “no” to social activities to attend a class or study. You might have to say “no” to that extra hour of sleep to establish a winning morning routine for non-negotiables your life.
It’s really this simple: Highly productive people that consistently take action toward their goals know how to say “no.” But they also get to say “yes” to fulfilled purpose and goals, forward progress and a sense of deeper meaning and accomplishment. That’s why I want to be one of those people.
6 – Get to the Point
Sometimes, there are aspects of our lives that feel so monotonous, boring or of such little consequence that it’s hard to see the point of trying our best. Weekly duties of keeping a house clean, working at a job we can’t stand or participating in a ministry we’ve become burned out with can sometimes leave us thinking, “Why do I even bother?”
Take for example, this non-fictional account of a day in the life of Kelly Parker:
Kelly’s days are filled with all the tasks of keeping a household in order and looking after small children: meal planning, cooking, cleaning, laundry, chauffeuring, refereeing, re-cleaning what she just cleaned, and that’s all before lunch. The monotony and predictability is maddening, so much so that her morale is often very low and it’s difficult to see the payoff or impact of what she does.
Some days she just goes through the motions or leaves things undone because she just doesn’t have the energy or see the point.
What should Kelly do? She should try to find the greater purpose and meaning in what she’s doing. She should get to the point.
For Kelly, the point is that God has called her to work with excellence at whatever He has put before her. The point is that she is not just doing mindless, thankless tasks. She is creating a peaceful, orderly home environment that is welcoming to her family where they can flourish and be comfortable. She is raising up members of the next generation that will be launched into this world in just a few short years that need a steady, nurturing atmosphere as their foundation. That’s the point.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. — Colossians 3:23
So whether you’re in a season of doing housework that never ends, working for a boss that drives you crazy or doing volunteer work that leaves you feeling frazzled and unappreciated, get to the point, or the “why” of it all, and let that spur you on toward the excellence and joy that God wants for you.
What will you do this week to stay focused and get more done?