Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Respect the Schedule and Follow Through On Plans

It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Over the past few days, I have noticed a failure to execute scheduled activities. It started with my deliberate  avoidance of the dissertation and then it included a missed evening at the gym. With each new day, the number of missed events simply grew.

Thankfully, this quiet slipping of follow through was caught early. It means that I have an opportunity to correct my behavior before it gets out of control.

In review of my current situation, I am still following my time budget process. This means I have activities on the calendar and fully aware of what I should be doing. However, the symptom now includes a loss of excitement for the planned activity.

If I continue to use my dissertation as an example, I know that I have 2.5 hours a day scheduled for writing. Unfortunately, when it comes time to write, I call an audible and make new plans, which does not involve writing the dissertation. Assuming I continue this behavior, I may never finish the dissertation and therefore forgo the doctorate. That is simply unacceptable.

Therefore, if I want to lose weight, finish the degree, keep a clean house, stay out of debt, or grow a successful business, I need to strengthen my will power and self-discipline.

Definitions of Will Power and Self Discipline
Borrowed from Ramez Sasson, the following definitions help us understand the difference between will power and self-discipline.

Will power is the ability to overcome laziness and procrastination. It is the ability to control or reject unnecessary or harmful impulses. It is the ability to arrive to a decision and follow it with perseverance until its successful accomplishment. It is the inner power that overcomes the desire to indulge in unnecessary and useless habits, and the inner strength that overcomes inner emotional and mental resistance for taking action. It is one of the corner stones of success, both spiritual and material.
Self-discipline is the companion of will power. It endows with the stamina to persevere in whatever one does. It bestows the ability to withstand hardships and difficulties, whether physical, emotional or mental. It grants the ability to reject immediate satisfaction, in order to gain something better, but which requires effort and time.
Tips on Following Through to Success
Changing one's behavior is not easy, but it is not impossible. In the following section, I provide a list of ideas devoted to following through on scheduled plans and personal goals.

Create an environment for success
One of the most important tips for following through is creating an environment that supports your goals. This can be accomplished by understanding yourself first and then adjusting your house, car, office, or dorm room to either encourage or discourage behavior.

If you are trying to lose weight, for example, remove any unwanted food from the house entirely and replace it with fruits, vegetables, and other healthy snacks. Making this small change will empower you to work with what you have at your disposal.

Remove excuses
Part of following through comes by way of removing routes of escape. While the mind can create some interesting excuses, you need to stay one step ahead of them.

For me, working out is fun, but there are moments when I lack the motivation to go. When this happens, I find myself making excuses like, "Aw man, I forgot my workout clothes" or "I don't have the energy because I didn't sleep enough last night." Whatever the excuse, there is a resolution.

For me, it means packing my clothes in the gym bag and placing it in the trunk of my car. On days that I don't get enough sleep, I will still go but agree to only do a few exercises. Typically, that is all I need to initiate a full-blown workout, anyway.

Avoid temptations
Knowing that I love a good movie, I refuse to even turn on the television when I am supposed to be working on something. Not knowing what is available to watch, means I have more control over not watching at all. Therefore, to help usher in successful adherence to plans, I try to avoid those places where I am easily attracted.

Prepare at least the day before
Many of the tips listed here require preparation. During my Body for Life workouts, I learned the value of planning ahead. Knowing that I get hungry throughout the day, I made meals and brought them to work with me. As a result, I curbed my appetite and ate a sensible dinner.

The rule of thumb is to make preparations for tomorrow, today. Ways to practice this include:
  • Setting out clothes the night before.
  • Place tools, supplies, and project plans on your desk before you leave work.
  • Create a grocery list and post it on your refrigerator a day before you go shopping.
Publicly announce your plans
One of the most motivating things you can do to ensure success is to announce your plans to others. Publicly notifying your friends and family about a task, goal, or event applies pressure to achieve it. Failure to complete said goal would reflect badly on you, which may be the right kind of motivation you need.

Build new habits
Creating new habits is like putting your schedule on cruise control. Through small changes, you can dramatically adjust future outcomes.

As an example, instead of jumping into a five day workout routine, try doing a single exercise one day a week. As you find that doable, add another day. Eventually, you can do five days a week without even thinking about it.

Strengthen your will power and self-discipline through daily exercises
The last idea is to beef up your will power and self-discipline through daily exercises. According to Ramez, both will power and self-discipline can be trained like we train our muscles. Below, you will find a few easy exercises to build up your personal power.
  • Go to sleep one hour earlier than you normally do
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator
  • Cut one hour of television from your evening routine 
  • Schedule a blog to post tomorrow instead of today
  • Eat an apple over potato chips
Discussion
In the comment section below, let's explore will power, self-discipline, and one's ability to follow through. What are some tricks you use to get stuff done? What are some of your challenges? Weaknesses?

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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