Question – do you have desirable goals or even big dreams?
Now, are you achieving these ambitions or at least making steady progress?
Many of us, despite repeatedly setting new intentions, fail to follow through, falling into predictable inaction.
If you want to start seeing results, it’s time to harness the power of the daily discipline checklist.
Why it works
When we go to school, we take it for granted that our days are structured.
Registration is at a set time each morning and our attendance is noted.
We have a timetable to attend our classes at allotted hours and breaks are set throughout the day.
If we start missing classes, punishment results, normally in the form of detention.
It’s a very structured, disciplined system and on the whole, works well.
Children know what’s expected of them and follow the rules.
Such a setup also helps prepare us for the expectations of the working world.
We sign contacts to attend our jobs on agreed days and times.
We have meetings booked in our schedules to ensure we’re working towards common goals.
We also have regular reviews with our employers to maintain our performance and set new objectives.
The common reality
So how does our personal life compare to our professional existence?
On a typical day off, many of us sleep late, before waking up to doomscroll through social media.
Instead of going to the gym as we planned, we have a breakfast of champions.
In the afternoon, rather than researching that idea for a new company, we watch the weekend sport instead.
Then it’s early evening and time for the first beer.
Those intentions to get fit and start your own company die another day and you beat yourself yet again.
Time slips by in such a haze, causing a cognitive dissonance as our intentions and behaviours misalign.
There’s nothing wrong with rest and recuperation, which are essential components of high performance.
However, it’s when we want one thing and act in opposition of that aim that problems start.
If any of this resonates, it’s a good time to ask yourself if you truly want to achieve your goals or whether they simply sound good in theory – a comforting little fantasy when you’re down in the dumps.
If you prefer your current lifestyle, there’s nothing wrong with that. Enjoy it.
If you do want to achieve your goals, however, it takes sacrifice.
Relinquishing easy things and replacing them with hard things you don’t want to do.
This is where we need to go back to school and create a daily discipline checklist.
Daily discipline checklist
Much of my own personal growth can be tracked backed to this practice.
- When I wanted to change careers, I had to dedicate my evenings and weekends to study. The website you’re reading now formed part of learning how to build blogs.
- When I felt anxious and overwhelmed, I implemented a daily meditation habit.
- When I suffered from a health issue, I overhauled my diet and developed a regular exercise routine.
These endeavours were tough to implement at the time, but in reflection, well worth the effort.
When starting, it’s advisable to split your life into categories. Example below:
- Physical health
- Mental health
The ultimate aim is to improve all these areas, achieving your goals along the way.
However, don’t go for too much too soon.
Identify your most impactful aim and focus on that first.
Next, break your big goal down into the most basic step you can imagine.
Let’s say you want to lose weight.
Divide it down into one core component of taking a daily walk after dinner.
That’s it. Keep it extremely simple.
Every day you walk, you tick your daily discipline checklist box. Otherwise, it’s a fail.
Like school and work, get strict with yourself. Increase the odds of staying disciplined by:
- Adding the desired behaviour to your calendar
- Organising accountability partners
- Publicly announcing your aim
- Instigating a punishment for non-compliance
These are all common tools used art school and work, so let’s utilise them for our personal development.
Only when you’re showing up consistently is it advisable to either increase the difficulty of the activity, say by going for a run, or tackling a different life area.
This obviously depends on your starting point.
If you’re already reasonably disciplined, you can add more items to the daily discipline checklist.
Eventually, you should be able to perform a nourishing activity in each area, forming cornerstone life habits.
To make outsized progress in one, you might have to enter maintenance mode in others, and if you’re wondering how to allocate your resources effectively according to your aims, check out my life planning article.
As far as ticking items off the list, you need a system.
You can either go old school and use pen and paper, which is fine, or utilise the wonders of modern technology.
I’ve tried a variety of habit tracking apps in the past, but my current favourite is Nomie, an open-source logger, which allows you to track a plethora of actions and behaviours.
The benefit of using an app is that you can see your habit streaks, monitor behavioural patterns and uncover any insights, allowing you to adjust your actions as necessary and maintain motivation for your daily disciplines.
My own checklist
Although your daily discipline checklist will be unique to you, here are my current non-negotiables, for what it’s worth:
- Wake up by 6am
- Write for 1 hour a day
- Exercise – either a walk or a run and strengthen or stretch
- Intermittent fast, using a 16-8 schedule
A daily discipline checklist is vital if you want to hit your goals.
Otherwise, you’re leaving your most important projects to the vagaries of emotion, which are notoriously fallible.
Set your intentions and utilise a pass or fail system to keep you accountable to the process, until you achieve your ambitions by default.