Self-Control: the Leader's Freedom

Leaders have to learn to maximize their talents, time, and energy. Work smarter, not harder, right?

How does one do this? The argument today is that leaders maximize their efforts through discipline. 

Discipline is undoubtedly one of the most difficult things to master. After all, we want freedom. Especially creatives, we want to be doing something we love on our own terms in in our own way and on our own time. Why would you control that?

Oddly enough, taking up discipline and self control might be the best way to actually free yourself up more.

Think about weeks when you had no set schedule, just a couple hundred things to do. If you put it off, then you're cramming last minute. If you try to tackle it right away, you might be unfocused or burn out. Especially if you don't have a plan.

The lack of a plan may seem like freedom, but it usually just keeps you more slave to all the things you have to do and time you have to put in. So how can you implement a plan in order to tackle things in the most efficient and effective way possible, thus freeing yourself up in the grand scheme of things?

Here are a couple tools that might help you practice discipline, and consequentially make you a better leader, and a much freer person.

1. Schedule Your Time

Especially for people who work for themselves or have a very loose schedule, it can feel amazing to know you ultimately get to do with your time whatever you want.

However, if you want to be successful, efficient, and progressive, you may want to consider scheduling your time.

Those who run their own businesses will often tell you the best advice they could give you is to set your hours and show up to them.

This seems arbitrary. What stops you from skipping out on a shift you set for yourself? After all, no one else is going to hold you accountable for work only you are dependent on.

You have to keep yourself accountable. If you know you want to spend a certain amount of time working on your projects, business, or other endeavors, pick a few times and call them your work hours. Non-negotiable.

Then show up and work, just like you would if you had a boss who would fire you if you didn't show up. I guarantee you will be more productive and consistent in the work you are doing. 

Additionally, you'll feel much more focused and less scattered.

The best part of scheduling your works hours is that you're essentially scheduling your non-work hours as well. Before I scheduled my non-mandatory work time, I found that I could not enjoy my down time at all because there was always something else I could be working on. I always felt guilty!

But when you schedule your work hours, once you're done, you're done. Yes, there will undoubtedly be things left to do. Always. But if you showed up when you said you were going to, once you're done, you can really be done, without feeling guilty about it.

2. Learn to Say No.

Leaders have so much to do. So many projects, so many meetings, so many deadlines and responsibilities.

It can be easy to want to say yes to everything, out of pride or habit. Most leaders genuinely just want to do as much as possible.

But you have to learn to say no. This is about intentionality. If you're spread paper thin because you've agree to 17 different responsibilities, you'll most likely not be able to do any of them decently well.

When you say no you're not being lazy, you're being intentional. Ask yourself, do I really have time for this? Am I the best person for this job?

A good rule of thumb is not to do anything that anyone could do. If it is a task you know you can accomplish better than anyone, or if no one else can do it, then go for it. But is there someone else you know that could take on the project just as well and leave yourself for more of the things you care about?

Also, get better at saying no to social things. Especially for outgoing people (you go, I wish I could be more like you), it's normal to want to hang out with everyone all the time.

But are all of these social events actually bringing you joy? And even if they are, is there a healthy balance you can achieve that allows you to have much needed alone time and enough time to work? Try to find that balance.

3. Take Time to Do the Hard Things.

Some things are just no fun to keep up with, especially when you're busy.

But are you healthy? Physically, spiritually, and emotionally? Are you improving your craft through practice or education? Are you taking care of the people on your team? Are you tending your close relationships?

All of these things can be difficult. When you don't have much free time, it's easy to want to just veg out once you get a moment. But are you taking care of the things you have to in order to be the best, most effective you?

This could look like going for a jog a couple times a week. This could be calling your mom or your brother every now and then. This could be picking up a book to learn more about what you're doing and how to do it better. 

This takes discipline and it falls right in with the first two tools, scheduling your time and saying no. We have to learn to be efficient with our time and to create enough space to do the things necessary for us.

Discipline is difficult, no one will deny this. And you won't be a master as soon as you start. But don't let the mountain of work discipline requires cause you to never start. 

Think about it like climbing a mountain. No one expects you to reach the peak in one giant step and you shouldn't expect yourself to either. It's impossible.

But you have to take one step at a time. You take one step today and the next tomorrow. Discipline means taking the step available to you today so that you're ready for the next step tomorrow. But without today, you'll never be ready for tomorrow.

What ways can you work on discipline this week? Did one of these tools stick out to you? Let's work to be better leaders by taking a step in the direction of discipline this week.