Discipline Day by Day

This is the fourth installment in a seven-part series on being disciplined. We all would like to be able to think a little clearer, feel a little better and enjoy the things we need to do in life a little more. No matter where you are when it comes to being disciplined, these thoughts can help you better achieve your goals and continue along your path of being disciplined.


If you take a look at the publish date below this post, you’ll see it arrived four days later than promised. Taking it day by day, it turns out, means, “Not this day.”

How often have you too heard yourself saying that? “Oh, not today. I’ll do it tomorrow.” The problem with promising yourself you’ll do it tomorrow is that you can ignore your project indefinitely while technically keeping your promise. There will always be a tomorrow.

Daily despair

Discipline is a despairing thought. It’s despairing because it’s painful and we’ve already looked at working through pain sessions. But it’s further depressing because being disciplined is a continuous state. This means you’re going to be suffering for an indefinite period of time. And that is a sucky thought your brain is going to make an effort to keep as deeply buried as possible, somewhere, maybe, next to that 15-year-old memory of accidentally farting next to Amber J. on the bus ride back from the science museum. Or some other equally as vague and hypothetical repressed memory.

So leave those thoughts be and try this one instead:

You don’t need to be disciplined forever. You just need to be disciplined until the end of today.

Discipline is not about the finished product. It’s not the castle; it’s the laying of stones. It’s not the article; it’s jotting some words in a notebook. It’s not your English lesson for tomorrow, it’s a clarifying objective.

You don’t need to learn all of the Russian language. You just need to study one hour today.
You don’t need to lose 50 lbs. You just need to eat healthier and eat less today.
You don’t need to write a 20 page paper. You just need to get to the library this afternoon and check out some books on your topic.

Don’t try to stuff the whole castle in your head—it will quickly fill with the enormity of it all until it pops and your brains ooze down you shoulders rendering you useless to lay even a single stone.

T.E.A.M. up with Today

Here’s a look at what I call “T.E.A.M.ing up with Today.”

This is a three step thinking process to help you coordinate what you can accomplish before your head hits the pillow.

It’s based on your:
T ime
E nergy
A nd
M otivation

Time and today’s discipline

If the paper is due tomorrow and you haven’t started writing it yet, you need to limit what you’re able to do based on time. You don’t have time to read 2 books, take notes, write a rough draft, run it by your professor and then write a final copy. It would be nice if you could do that, but you’ve found yourself in the situation you’re in today so you have to approach it as it is.

Count the minutes or hours. Now mark off a relative amount of work you can expect to accomplish in that time frame.

Energy and today’s discipline

Like our friend “PP” in the previous post on Doing the Minimum, you don’t have unlimited energy levels. How much sleep did you get last night? What time do you need to go to bed tonight so that you can have the energy to do another day’s work tomorrow?

If your energy level is currently lower than normal, it’s going to take you longer to complete the task ahead of you. You may need more breaks. You may need to cut back the scope of what you think you can accomplish.

Make sure you consider your current energy level when scribbling down the long list of things you think you can accomplish today.

Motivation and today’s discipline

Finally you need to consider your motivation. “But I already took my motivation out back and shot it!” I hear you saying.

Then good! You learned something!

You just need to make it today

Remember that it’s just one day that you’re doing this. And then when tomorrow comes, it’s just one day again. The great thing about thinking day by day is that it is always today! You always have the opportunity to get part of your project finished—to lay a stone. You don’t need to buckle down and stay disciplined forever. You just need to make it through today.

And then one day, before your head even hits the pillow—you’ll discover, ah! the project is finished! The castle is built. The day is done. And there’s still tomorrow.

IMG_4099One step at a time


This is the third installment in a seven-part series on being disciplined. You can read each of the posts by clicking below:


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