Progress without discipline is a happy accident.  As a small business owner or solopreneur, you can’t stake your success on happy accidents.  That’s why it’s crucial to learn how to develop discipline.  As a result, you’ll get more done in less time, and make more money.

How to develop discipline:  Introduction

I flunked 4th grade math.  And high school freshman English.

Why?  One word:  Discipline.

Okay, 3 words:  LACK of discipline.

My Mom warned me that if I didn’t get my act together, I’d have to go to summer school.

She let me fail, and that’s a lesson I’m eternally grateful for.  Out of those two failures came the seeds of my own discipline.  Now, just about anything I put on my schedule is as good as done, because I can trust myself to remain disciplined and take action.

Today, I’m sharing 5 ways that you can develop discipline as a small business owner or solopreneur.  They worked for me, and at least one of them will work for you, too.

Understand the larger “why” behind your goals & tasks

As you’re learning how to develop discipline, It’s important to remember the reason behind the things you’re asking yourself to do.

Everything on you calendar is (hopefully) there for a good reason.  However, some tasks are boring, intimidating, or ask you to step outside of your comfort zone.  Those kinds of tasks sometimes inspire resistance in the form of procrastination, overthinking, or just skipping them altogether.

Remembering the bigger “why” behind day-to-day tasks (and the goals they align with) can help overcome that resistance and develop the discipline to take action.  For example, let’s say that you’ve decided to make cold outreach part of your prospecting plan, but you find yourself blowing the task off each time it’s on your calendar.

  • Ask yourself:
  • Why is doing this task important to me?
  • Why is it important to achieving my goals?
  • How does it align with my longer term vision for my business and my life?

Hopefully, you’ll find some good answers that will help you develop the discipline to take action, so you can work toward fulfilling that bigger “why.”

Take whether you “feel like” doing something out of the equation

I flunked 4th grade math and high school freshman English because I didn’t feel like doing the homework.  We know where that got me:  Summer school.  Twice.  All because I made decisions based on how I felt in the moment. I chose to procrastinate, and it came back to bite me.

Whenever possible, take whether you “feel like” doing some thing out of the equation.

See, there’s a part of your brain who wants to keep you safe, maintain the status quo, and expend as little energy as possible.  Doing a task sounds a whole lot like exerting energy!  When you “don’t feel like” doing something, it’s usually that part of your brain kicking in.

Here’s the problem with that:  That same part of your brain doesn’t have the ability to consider the long-term consequences of your decisions.  It’s only concerned with your short-term comfort and safety.  It dissuades you from taking action now, without considering how that choice will affect you down the road.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to take whether you “feel like” doing the thing out of the equation.  When you do that, you give decision-making control back over to your prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain that CAN consider the long-term consequences of your actions.  More often than not, when you take how you feel in the moment out of the equation, you’ll decide to take action.

One quick note

I’m not saying at all that you always have to take action, or that you should never listen to your body or give yourself a break.  Sometimes, it’s okay to reschedule a task.  That choice is up to you.  Just be sure you’re making that decision from a place that serves you – now and in the future.

Practice discipline in small ways

Discipline is a skill of the mind.  That means that discipline in one area of your life can help support discipline in other areas.  One of the best ways to start strengthening your discipline is by practicing it in small ways.

Maybe that means making your bed each morning.  Putting your dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink.  Reading for 10 minutes each day, no matter what.  Washing your car each week.  All those little choices will help build your discipline over time.

Another great exercise is to consider the ways you’re already disciplined.  Do you get up at the same time each day?  Take your kids to school consistently?  Feed and care for your pets on a regular schedule?  Exercise regularly?  Pay your bills on-time?

If you believe that you aren’t disciplined, finding (and creating) evidence that you DO have some discipline can help you both build the skill, and knock down that old belief.

See each item on your calendar as a promise to yourself

When you don’t want to take action on an item on your calendar, you have an opportunity to get curious.  You can ask yourself:

  • Why did past me (or “I,” if that sounds better to you) put this on my schedule?
  • Why was it important at the time?
  • What about it made me promise myself that I’d spend time and energy on it?

Notice that question of “why” coming up again.  It’s always an amazing question to ask, especially as you’re figuring out how to develop discipline.

If you schedule something because you believe it’s important, and then you choose not to do it, who are you letting down?  Mostly, you.  Developing discipline means knowing that you can trust yourself to do the things you say you’ll do.  That trust is built one completed task at a time.

If you make a promise to yourself by putting something on your calendar, do your absolute best to keep that promise.

Develop a caring relationship with your future self

My biggest secret in figuring out how to develop discipline?  Developing a strong, caring relationship with my future self.

When you’re inconsistent, who suffers?  Not in-the-moment you.  The current version of you doesn’t suffer at all.  Rather, future you suffers.  Your inconsistency today is setting future you up for more work and less success.

When I feel like working on my business, I work on my business.  When I don’t feel like working on my business, I work on my business as an act of love for my future self.  Even though I didn’t feel like writing this article today, I did it anyway.  I didn’t want future me to have to find time to do it later in my already-packed week.

Next time you’re feeling undisciplined, check in with future you.  How will that version of you feel if you take action, and if you don’t take action?  At the end of the day, discipline is an act of love and caring for your future self.

How to develop discipline as a small business owner:  Conclusion

Discipline is an essential skill for successful small business owners and solopreneurs.  While it takes time and effort to build, it will pay dividends long into the future.  Here’s a quick summary of my 5 tips for learning how to develop discipline:

  • Understand the larger “why” behind your tasks and goals
  • Take whether you “feel like” doing a task out of equation
  • Practice discipline in small ways
  • Choose to see each item on your calendar as a promise to yourself
  • Develop a caring relationship with your future self

Developing discipline can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone.  My clients learn how to build and flex their mindset muscles to develop sustainable discipline.  Ultimately, that discipline enables them to get more done in less time, so they can make more money.  Sound good to you?  Let’s talk about how I can help.

About the Author Amy Schield

Amy Schield, MBA is a time management and productivity coach for small business owners. Using a mix of simple tactics and neuroscience-based strategies, she helps clients manage their time successfully, set and achieve goals for business growth, and navigate the mental and emotional side of owning and running a small business. Acting as a personal trainer for the brain, she teaches clients how to get out of their own way, so they can finally build the business they want.

Follow me