Daily interruptions are inevitable. Acting on a fear of missing out, we allow the beeps, dings and vibrations to interject, to assure us that we’re connected, and subconsciously we tell ourselves that that constant connection has no impact on the amount of work we can accomplish. But, in reality, we’re so bombarded with outside noise, it becomes almost impossible to avoid—and our productivity suffers because of it.
It takes a real effort—a conscious choice—to separate ourselves from that mindset. But when you adopt and practice the disciplines of high achievers, you will be better equipped to set goals and go get them, without losing focus or direction.
1. The Discipline of Believing
Most of us think about doing great things. The difference between the average person and the high achiever is a commitment to belief12—because possessing the unqualified belief that you are capable of doing something is the first step to achieving it.
I like the way Will Smith put it: “There’s a redemptive power that making a choice has. Decide what you’re going to be, who you are going to be and then how you are going to do it. From that point on, the universe is going to get out of your way.”11
When you commit, really commit to a choice, then everything else will fall into place to make it happen for you. Your decisions will be guided by your mindset.
2. The Discipline of Eliminating Interruptions
The world around you is structured to interrupt you. If you already struggle with focus, you are fighting a losing battle from the moment you wake. If you are normally a focused person but don’t control your environment, your day will become a series of interruptions. To combat this, you need to turn off everything that could attract your attention. Everything.
My phone never makes an audible noise, I keep it face down most of the time so I can’t see the screen light up, and when I install new applications, I disable notifications. And that is exactly the way I want it. I lived a great life before text messages, and life will go on if I miss one now.
Learn to be comfortable with silence and focus. The quality of your work will drastically increase and you will be more productive, and the depth of your thinking will increase because you will have long periods to dedicate to your thoughts.
3. The Discipline of Time Management
Some might say time management is a myth because we have no control over time—it marches on with or without you. I don’t buy into that. But you should consider the limited amount of time you have to get things done. I know when you are sitting at a desk staring at a project all day, the eight hours ahead of you can feel like 100.
Most people build their lives around getting everything else done before getting to the fun stuff. I’m going to propose something crazy to you: Start with the fun stuff. Schedule them on a recurring basis and work the mundane around it.
I lay out my high priority items as recurring weekly appointments. The appointments are with nobody but me, and nobody will know if I miss them. My exercise time is scheduled three days a week at 6 p.m. Because health is a priority to me, I’ve made these nonnegotiable in my mind. When that time of the day hits, I stop everything, change and go to the gym. Any work or other tasks will be there when I return.
Start doing the same on your calendar. It could be writing a book, spending time with a loved one, practicing piano or learning a new programming language. Nobody is going to knock on your door and push you to do it. It has to come from you. Be stingy with your time. Protect it.
4. The Discipline of Being Healthy
If your body is not capable of handling your goals, you will become physically and mentally exhausted.
To keep yourself healthy and ready to achieve your goals, you need to allocate regular, recurring time in your calendar to take care of your body—like I do with my gym time. Ideally this should be multiple times a week and it should be nonnegotiable. Exercise, done correctly, trains your muscles, heart and lungs to withstand larger levels of stress. So if your body is used to the stress from regular exercise, it will have an easier time managing the stress in other areas of your life.
The better you are at managing your stress and energy, the better you will be at accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself.
5. The Discipline of Ignorance
Ignorance is the epitome of focusing. You can’t possibly know everything, and you don’t need to. Once you are willing to live with not knowing everything, the things you choose to pay attention to will get more of your attention and you will produce better results.
If you want to achieve a higher level of skill at any venture in life, use this list to help you get started on your journey of being disciplined.