I remember the first time I tried to create workout routine. I focused on running.
Day one… this is new, it’s hard, but it’s fun.
Day two… this is just hard, I’m sore and slow.
Day three… I need a day off. It’s Winter, I don’t have time for this.
Day four to seven… Running, what running? Where’s the beer?
Week two… why am I so unfit? Oh yeah…
These days, I train six days a week with the help of the Whoop fitness tracker, but it took a year or two to cement this routine. Now, I can’t imagine a productive day that doesn’t include a workout, which is why inspired this week’s article.
Training consistently taught me some valuable lessons about committing to long-term creative projects like writing a book or even cultivating a meditation habit.
The Power of Self-Discipline
Much like building muscle, self-discipline demands training consistently and with intention.
Your reps could include a word-count, sales calls, pitches, client meetings, laps at the track or sessions at the gym.
Get into a habit of sleeping late, avoiding work, or skipping training, and you’ll loose skills that took months and years to acquire.
It’s easy to feel motivated after eating a nice fillet steak, drinking a beer or watching a commencement speech from Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Gilbert or Jeff Bezos on YouTube. If they did it, so you can you.
Now I wonder what’s on Netflix?
It’s harder to feel motivated early on Monday morning in November when your alarm sounds, and it’s time to hit the gym before a long day in work. A warm bed is much more inviting than a cold bar-bell or a demanding email from a boss or client.
When that happens, remember this quote from Marcus Aurelius (pictured below):
“On those mornings you struggle with getting up, keep this thought in mind — I am awakening to the work of a human being. Why then am I annoyed that I am going to do what I’m made for, the very things for which I was put into this world? Or was I made for this, to snuggle under the covers and keep warm? It’s so pleasurable. Were you then made for pleasure? In short, to be coddled or to exert yourself?”
Procrastination Is Part of the Process
It’s natural to procrastinate before a big project. In fact, little moments of procrastination can offer insights into a troublesome creative project or give you time to reflect. Many writers find their best insights when they’re arguably procrastinating by going for a long walk, in the shower or talking with a friend.
Procrastination becomes a real problem if it stops you doing the most important task on your to-do list. It becomes a problem if you put off finishing and shipping your work because you’re insisting on perfection.
The other morning, I’d to prepare slides for a 60-minute webinar. I wasn’t tired, I’d slept well the night before and eaten a bowl of porridge. I was just reluctant to begin. I drank two cups of coffee, cleaned the counters and emptied the bin. I just didn’t want to start.
That said, avoiding work is usually harder in the long run than actually doing it. If I didn’t prepare the slides, I’d have to cancel the webinar. This would disappoint people who registered for the class and probably hit revenue for the month. That’s more painful than an hour or two of work on a random, dreary Wednesday morning.
The same applies to other areas of your life. If you avoid exercising over the long-term, the pay-off will be worse than the effort. When we don’t exercise, we look worse, sleep poorly and feel generally unhealthier.
Consider a difficult task you’ve been putting off. Are you putting in your reps?
What’s the one thing you can do to advance it in some small way. Once you’ve figured that out, work on it for just 120 seconds. In most cases, that’s more than enough momentum to keep going.
Cultivating self-discipline in one area of your life can improve other areas too, much like the investor who folds his or her money back on itself and builds their wealth.
The podcaster and former US marine Jocko Willinck often says discipline equals freedom.
If you’re disciplined with your money, you’re free to choose how you spend your time.
If you’re disciplined with your health, you’re free to choose how you spend your energy.
If you’re disciplined at work, you’re free to choose your next job.
And so on.
When I started long-distance running, turning up at the running track after work felt hard and alien. The cold, dark and wet Irish winter evenings didn’t help. After a few weeks, I found running for five or ten kilometres a good way of running off stress.
After running three and four times a week for a few months, I slept better. It took a few weeks to create that habit, but it was worth it. I’d wake up with more energy, which in turn led me to get more done at work.
Spring had arrived
What I’m Reading
What I’m Writing
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” - Abraham Lincoln