The Secret to Discipline No One Ever Talks About

I was recently talking to a business owner who was struggling with time management. No matter what he tried, he still couldn’t get all the things done on his to-do list. Over the course of our 20-minute conversation, he said the word discipline probably a dozen times or so. If only he had the discipline, he would be able to help his business get to the next level. If only he had the discipline, maybe he wouldn’t have to work 80 hours a week and miss out on all his family’s events.

He blamed himself for his inability to do the things he wanted to do and wondered if he would ever be able to grow his business. He equated discipline with willpower, and felt that being more disciplined would be painful and difficult and he worried that he didn’t have it in him to make the necessary changes. So, I shared with him the two secrets to discipline that a lot of people don’t ever talk about, which make a huge difference in your ability to get things done. And I want to share them with you today.

Your Environment

We all know someone who has lost a significant amount of weight. They decided to get healthy, and put in the work to make it happen. To an outsider, it is easy to say that that person was really disciplined and had a lot of willpower. But I can guarantee one of the secrets to their success was controlling their environment. They threw out the junk food. They stopped buying sodas and sweets and they instead stocked up on healthier options. When someone invited them out for burgers and fries, they may have declined the invite or offered up an alternative restaurant that had other options to pick from. They controlled their environment to make it easier for them to stick to their goals.

When it comes to your business, you have the ability to do the same. If you are constantly getting interrupted during the workday, unplug your phone. Move your office to a more secluded part of the building or choose to work remotely a few days a week. If your calendar is constantly overbooked, create a few meetings with yourself to prevent others from claiming your valuable time and energy. The more you control the environment around you, the easier it is to get the things done that are important to you. It’s like instant discipline!

Your Accountability Partners

The second secret to discipline has to do with your accountability partners. It’s one thing to promise yourself something and not deliver, but if you have someone (or a group of people) whom you look up to that are expecting you to follow through, it’s a whole other level of accountability. So one of the best ways to become more disciplined is to find yourself an accountability partner. This could be someone from your peer group, an advisory board that you put together, or even a business coach or mentor. Someone that you respect and want to do your best work for. And if you want to amplify your growth, offer to do the same for your key team members.

Being disciplined isn’t about staying steadfast and avoiding all temptations. It’s about engineering your environment and your accountability structure to where it makes it really easy to reach your goals and take your business to the next level.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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