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21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Discipline Demands Focus

Missed the first posts in this 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life series? Read them here.

If you want to succeed at discipline, you have got to be focused. You’ll never hit the bull’s eye if you’re aiming at multiple targets.

Here are three keys for maintaining focus:

1) Remove Distractions

If you are struggling to follow through with your goal(s), step back and examine if there are things that are serving as major distractions:

::Are you on Facebook or reading blogs instead of cleaning up your kitchen at night like you’d committed to? Set up Leechblock on your computer for the hour after dinner so you can’t get on the computer.

::Are you giving in to the temptation to eat two brownies every night, even though you’re trying to lose five pounds? Get rid of the brownies and don’t make anymore! Seriously, it’s better to throw them in the trash if they are keeping you from sticking with your goals.

2) Break Your Goal(s) Into Bite-Sized Pieces

If you look at your goal(s) as a whole, you can quickly get overwhelmed. But when you break it down into small pieces, it becomes much more manageable. In addition, it’s much easier to stay focused if you are only looking at the next few steps ahead of you than the huge mountain you’re aiming to climb.

Trying to lose 50 pounds can be daunting unless you break it down and focus on losing a half pound at a time. Successful marathoners can’t get hung up worrying about how they are going to finish, they just have to pace themselves for this mile or half-mile that they are currently running.

If you have a home piled with clutter, you won’t be able to overhaul it in a day. If, however, you set the timer for 15 minutes every day and work faithfully on it for three months, you’ll see some real progress.

3) Set Yourself Up for Success

It’s easy to make excuses for a lack of discipline, but excuses don’t get you anywhere. Instead, invest the time and effort you’d usually take to make excuses to consider what you can do to set yourself up for success in achieving your goals.

For instance, if you’re trying to get up early but you find that you always fall back to sleep or hit the snooze button, don’t just give up and make the excuse that “I’m not a morning person”. Maybe you’re not, but until you’ve put forth significant effort to try getting up early on a regular basis, you can’t make that statement.

Start winding down for bed at least an hour before you plan to go to bed. Make a point to go to bed an hour or two earlier than you usually do. Buy an alarm without a snooze, set multiple alarms, or have a friend call you at 6 a.m. every morning. Make yourself get right out of bed and jump in the shower to wake yourself up. Or, put your shoes on and go out for a morning run. Even if you’re dog tired, you’ll probably feel wide awake by the time you get home!

Practical Application

1) Consider what is distracting you from staying focused on your goal(s). How can you remove these distractions?

2) If you didn’t do so earlier in this series, take the time to break your goal(s) down into small bite-sized pieces. If applicable, set a specific timeframe for accomplishing each of these small pieces.

3) What things are hindering your success in following through with your goal(s)? What steps can you take to set you up for better success?

How are you doing on your current habit? I got up at 5 a.m. again this morning. I practically had to drag myself out of bed, but I was glad that I did later. And after a brisk run, a shower, and a cup of coffee, I felt quite energetic. However, I’m going to bed an hour earlier tonight, because I’m beginning to feel low on sleep!

photo credit

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  • Tammy says:

    Seriously?! I made brownies tonight to take to a chaplain’s appreciation tomorrow and TOTALLY caved and ate one right before reading this! 🙂

  • Monica says:

    I know a lot of friends and family who use social media all day, that I can’t help but to wonder if their house is clean, or how big the pile of laundry is getting. This is a great article! So glad I already limit my computer/social media/blog time to 1 hr. a day. =) Thank you for sharing!

  • Each night I have been reading your posts, deciding on tasks, goals, etc. but not following through on anything. I was all over the place, trying to “fix” too many different problems,without any real focus. Then, yesterday, I found out that I wasn’t managing my gestational diabetes as well as I thought I was and the midwife wanted to put me on medicine. I had to face the fact that I need discipline when it comes to managing my diabetes. I need to pay more attention to my diet, and I need to exercise.

    Long story short- I now have focus. For the past two nights I have focused on eating the way I’m supposed to and not cheating. I also added exercise this evening. Since I started managing my diabetes with more discipline, I have kept my sugar where I needed to be.

    Thank you for these posts. It took me a while to figure out where I need the discipline- but now that I know, I’m hoping that this will help to keep me on track!

  • Blaire Ruch says:

    I’ve been focusing on just washing my face every night, as well as the rest of my typical bedtime routine (teeth/contacts). It’s something I rarely did before, so I’m excited that this is truly becoming a habit. It is giving me a lot of motivation to think about my next habit I want to focus on. It’s either going to be exercising or getting up early, something I also pretty much never do.

    I have been really good lately about keeping the house tidy and completely clutter-free. I do one or two loads of laundry from start to finish each day. And one big physical household chore each day. Today was cleaning the kids’ bathroom. And one desk “chore” a day. Today was planning the grocery shopping trip I’ll make tomorrow morning. And I baked cookies for my son’s preschool fundraiser. And I got to take a 2 hour nap with one of my sons! And we had Awana at church tonight! It was a great day!

  • Nicole143 says:

    Oh, my, am I too late to get in on this?!?

    My one goal for these 21 days is to eat between 1,200-1,400 calories each day, with the long-term goal of losing 15lbs. I have no problem exercising each day because I LOVE running with a passion, but I really should be more self-disciplined in what I eat.

    • Crystal says:

      SparkPeople really helped me track my calorie intake back when I was trying to lose weight after my pregnancies. I found I was always eating more than I thought I was and making a simple change in calories always resulted in weight lost.

      • SparkPeople helped me lose 50 pounds. Just like budgeting, if you don’t keep track of everything that is being consumed (food or money) you cannot make progress towards decreasing it.

      • Rena says:

        I’m currently on SparkPeople’s pregnancy site, BabyFit (since I’m 6 mos. pregnant), and I really need to be better about tracking my food intake. Especially since I just found out I have to take the 3 hr. glucose test, since my 1 hr test results were “a little high.” But I don’t have to do it till after Thanksgiving. But then there’s X-mas…:-/

  • Crystal says:

    I know my scrapbooking goal is somewhat odd but it is about taking time for myself. I cook, clean and do for everyone else and don’t give myself time to do something I love. The baby takes a nap for two hours each day and that is when I get almost everything done. However, I was spending my last few minutes before going to get my other child from school on FB and blogs as my way of resting. This week though I have scrapbooked for at least 10 minutes a day!

    • Crystal says:

      Yay! I’m so glad you’re getting a little time to scrapbook every day!

    • Monica says:

      I haven’t scrapbook since earlier this year. I think it’s time I add it to my to do list and attempt to scrapbook or at least journal daily. I am 3 years behind and it’s driving me crazy! Thank you for re-inspiring me to get back to my albums Crystal!

  • Jenna Tracy says:

    This blog series has been fantastic – thank you so much! I put my kids down for a nap today, and instead of heading straight for for the sewing machine, I went out and cleaned my back porch {which has been on my to-do list for nearly a week}, did the dishes, picked up the toys, and then sewed {guilt-free ha!} Follow along with me here:

  • Lucky says:

    This series has been great for a time of year when it has typically been very hard to motivate myself (when I think of Nov-Dec I think of early, dark nights and eating).

    I was just thinking this morning how much easier it is to begin my day at 4:45 when I’m not faced by a pile of dishes first thing, I’ve already showered, and everything is ready to throw all of our lunches into bags.

    This morning I’m working on planning a Thansksgiving feast from mostly pantry ingredients. No reason other than I’ve met with crazy people every time I’ve gone to the grocery store lately and I’m kind of over it. Because I feel someone organized and I have time set aside to plan this, it’s not going to be a problem at all.

  • su says:

    You’re doing great. Do you remember the Dunkin Donuts commercial(I’m old, I know) when the guy would drag himself up and say “Time to make the donuts”? Well, that’s what I seem to say every morning when I don’t “feel” like getting up. We just do it anyway. So….time to make the donuts! Sounds more inviting than time to do the laundry 🙂

  • Meredith says:

    I found out spark people had an app so I found a really easy way to stay focused yesterday! I only ate 1300 cals and even had a small piece of cake last night!

    Thanks for the info on the website blocking your time. My daughter has a bearenstein bear book, computer trouble, where it goes into how much computer time ruins your life. I actually took all of the blogs and things that suck out time on Facebook (no offense) I made it family and friends only. Now I spend about 5 minutes or so on there a day and I give myself 30 minutes for blogs and searching and keep them in computer favorites. I have so much more time during the day. However, I still could use less time online so thanks for the site info!

    Yay for you for getting up early, you beat me by a little over an hour and I’m on eastern time.

  • #1 is so important for me, not just with meeting goals, but with goal-setting as well! It’s so easy to turn on the TV or to check Facebook or the news and have time slide right by.

    Love the idea of setting yourself up for success by having a wind-down period before bed. I do that and it helps immensely.

  • Loving this series! It’s so easy to get off track when there’s a major change in your life (i.e. new baby), which is totally necessary & understandable during that time frame, but it’s hard then to get back into being disciplined! I’m working on it….currently getting up at 5:30 every morning, as soon as night feedings are over it’s going to change to 5 (at least that’s my goal)!

  • This series is great! Sometimes it is tough to remember to take small steps towards you final goal. Breaking off more than you can chew is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for failure. As far as setting new routine’s goes, a little repetition goes a long way. Once you’ve done something for a couple weeks, it won’t be nearly as difficult!

  • Merrilee says:

    Baby#5 is due in six weeks, and it’s been hard for me to tell my elderly neighbors that I could no longer offer them the help they need. But after 4 straight days of one crisis after another, it became obvious that my own family’s needs were being neglected, and I needed to be firm. I did start using my chore charts two of the last three days as well, and was amazed at how well they helped me get back into the groove. I know we are heading into a huge re-adjustment period, but this series is really helping me in the meantime.

  • Lynn says:

    Thanks for the leechblock tip. FB, blogs and online time is sucking my life away from me. It’s gotten worse since I got my iPod Touch for my birthday in Sept. The sad part is that I really have no clue how long I’m online … I’m always like, 5 more min., and then am scrambling around last minute trying to get ready to leave the house or nothing gets done. DH is starting to make comments about it and I just have no focus or discipline (or desire) to turn off the computer. So, leechblock looks like it might be a good start. It’s frustrating that I have let the computer get so out of control when everything else in my life is so in control.

    • sarah says:

      Yeah, having my husband say something about my internet time, ESPECIALLY through mobile sources was a big kick in the rear for me.

      • Virginia says:

        Many of us want to be respectful to our husbands and in baby steps by intentional time management we can say I respect you to my husband by doing things that he sees as a blessing in the home first. I’m not good at this yet but working on it. God help us do better.
        Pray, plan, do.

  • Bethany says:

    I wrote this post last January to encourage people to reach their goals, in specific regard to new years resolutions:

  • I just wrote a post about struggling with motivation and focus and then I read your quote about chasing two rabbits…perfect timing!

    I do find myself letting the computer steal my attention and before I know it I have done nothing productive. I need to start limiting my facebook and blog time to a set amount. “I will allow myself 30 minutes in the evening to surf the net.”

    I also seem to be lacking focus more than usual since I have 8 weeks left before my son is due. I 100% need written goals and lists at this point, much more than usual!

    Loving this series!

  • Kara says:

    You motivated me to start keeping up with my sink full of dishes. I have been going to bed with a clean sink for almost a week now and it feels great to wake up to no mess. Now I plan to sit down and plan out some other goals I’d like to accomplish. Its really motivating having this series and all the comments everyone is leaving. Snacking at night is a problem I share as well and right now 35 weeks pregnant with #3 I’d really like to nip it, so I can lose the baby weight. Thanks for the great tips!

  • Jodi D. says:

    I feel like you are talking directly to me. 🙂 My goal is to get the Kitchen cleaned before bed, but that stinkin’ computer is always calling me name. It is hard because I am chasing three little ones around all day and once they are in bed, I just want to crash! You are right…it is all about discipline. I know that it would only take 15 or 20 minutes to do. Thanks so much for this series. I really need it!

  • I have recently stumbled upon your blog. You have been challenging my whole attitude lately. I worked for 10 yrs full time before having my kids and being a stay home mom. I have had a difficult time staying disciplined in my homelife now because unlike a job I can fudge my way through alot. I dont get up earlier than I have to. I dont meal plan regularly I love getting a deal but I dont consistantly search them out. My grocery bill is atrocious. I dont exercise regularly. And we eat out way too much. My house is pretty clean and I dont have a ton of clutter or laundry piles. But, I have known for awhile that pretty soon I was gonna have to get with the program. I have unsubscribed to a ton of blogs and getting myself ready for some slow and steady changes for the long term. Thank you!

  • Rena says:

    I tend to be really bad about too much time online. So lately I’ve been making an effort to not turn the computer on until after lunch has been cleaned up. So I’ve been spending the mornings doing more cleanup, etc. I feel like I’m being at least a little more productive. Also I’ve been making more effort to plan meals so we don’t eat out so much. My husband has definitely noticed a difference and doesn’t know what to think!

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