Discipline: Three Steps to Productivity

Ever have one of those days where the whole world just seems to be falling down around you and you don’t even know why? I have felt that way for the last few weeks.  If productivity was a currency, I would be over my head in debt. Each day, I wake up planning to get a thousand things done, yet somehow the day ends with my to-do-list lying on my desk with empty boxes still waiting to be checked off. Somewhere along the way, I got so overwhelmed that I just stopped trying altogether.

I am normally a fairly productive person, so I have spent the last few days trying to figure out what caused my motivation to run, in a panic, off the battlefield. I could blame it on any number of things: a cold I am fighting, the changing weather, too many distractions and interruptions…but I really think that it comes down to one thing – discipline. I pride myself in being disciplined. I have never been a procrastinator, and I tend to keep myself busy and productive without the need for supervision. This all changed over the last few weeks. It started by my being undisciplined to my number one rule: “Take each step, one at a time.” I somehow forgot that and bogged myself down until I could not think straight.

The funny thing about discipline is once you let one rule slide, the rest of the rules are quick to follow. It is like a deadly rockslide caused by the movement of one strategically placed rock. Once the foundation is gone, the whole mountain can come down. Because I was stressed, I was not sleeping well at night, which threw off my routine during the day which added fuel to the fire by combining drowsiness with a lousy attitude and a panicked demeanor. Needless to say, it was not a pretty sight.

I have started to pull out of my slump but it is taking a lot more effort for me to get back on track and start being productive again. As I examined the cause of my odd behavior, I have come to realize a few simple steps that could have prevented my momentary lapse in productivity.

One Step at a Time
As I already mentioned, it is too easy to get caught up in the panic-stricken realization that you have too much to do. As a small business owner, I have to put on many different hats at any given moment. The key to staying sane is simply focusing on one activity at a time.

Time Management
The trick to focusing on one activity at a time is time management. Create a schedule that defines when and where you are going to wear each hat. If you go out in public trying to, literally, wear multiple hats at the same time, you would look crazy and no one would take you seriously. This is really no different figuratively. You cannot operate at peak performance trying to multitask. Give each task the attention and time it deserves then move to the next activity on your to-do-list.

Maintain a Routine
Lastly, the only way that you can master time management is to be purposeful and consistent with your daily routine. Once you have scheduled out your to-do-list, stay firm in following it; planning only works if you follow the plan. It is too easy to ignore our schedules, excusing the planning away by proclaiming that some big emergency or unexpected crisis got in our way. Unless your building is on fire, most “emergencies” can wait their turn. A consistent routine helps keep us focused and productive, but if we try to just flow with wherever the day takes us, we will end up lost more often than not.