It seems like the battle of today is motivation vs. self discipline. In past years there have been growing numbers of books, articles, podcasts and you name it types of content and products promoting ways and hacks to stay motivated. We have to call BS. We have to. Motivation is just as delusional as happiness. It’s an abstract idea that has zero method and zero predictability. It also has zero scalability and zero replication power.
Really now, how many times in a row could you successfully use the same trick to stay motivated? Be honest. Not many, right?
You can’t stay motivated daily
But you need to get shit done daily, especially in the beginning. This is even more true for future freelancers and digital nomads. Guys, you’ll be motivated in the first months, yes. You will be excited when you find your business idea. And you will be so happy when those first people subscribe to your content or buy your product. But you won’t stay this way for too long. And this will not get you going on a daily basis, all day. It just doesn’t work like that. We dislike this truth as much as you do. And when we took it up with God and nature, their customer support didn’t answer our angry e-mails. But we weren’t discouraged and you shouldn’t either. We can in fact work with what we have. We just got to be sneaky.
Bottom line: Don’t count on motivation. Build self discipline and rely on that.
Self discipline is habits
Sorry. We have some bad news. There is no experimental drug you can bribe someone for in order to wake up one morning and have everything done. You’ll need to do the work. We wish we could sell you a “5 oh-so-easy-even-a-3-year-old-could-do-it tricks to build self discipline” cause that would bring much more traffic, but we’d rather be honest and support you through the process.
The process involves building habits that help increase your energy and consequently your productivity. Hooray! We have a winner combo here. The cool thing is that once you get going, it becomes much easier. And eventually you’ll feel the need to do all those little things you’ve struggled with in the beginning. That’s the wonder of habits.
Here’s how we started building self discipline
Small habit 1: waking up early
We’re aiming for the 5 am club, yes. It’s the thing now. Kidding. We’re not changing our lives just because someone says we have to. But mornings are when we are most productive so it’s a shame to waste our best hours sleeping just because we are lazy. One of us is already in the 5 am club, the other is more in the 6 am club. No, we won’t tell you who. What’s important is that we get things done. Everything else is a process.
Like any respectable freelancer starting a new venture, we were struggling with finding the time. And we just realised one day that in the evenings we were a bit too tired and too charged with things that happened during the day to actually work efficiently and effectively. Everyone is noisy, everyone calls or sends e-mails and messages, something is always going on. And most importantly we can’t work because we don’t have tomatoes.
Oooof course most of them were excuses. But a big truth there was that evening just isn’t our time. So we decided to give mornings a try. Honestly now, there was no other option because quitting is.not.an.option. Not when you want to build an independent life.
We started waking up earlier gradually. One of us, again we won’t tell you who, has a problem with sudden shifts in lifestyle so we just adapted. Our usual waking hour went from 8 am to 6:30 am. We stuck to this for one week, weekend included. The first mornings were horrible. We could have bet all our money that we’ll end up killing each other. Good thing we didn’t make the bet cause we’d be dirt poor right now. The following week we set the alarm for 5:30. Another tough week there. However, we managed to stay motivated and support each other and now, almost a year later, we get up before the alarm goes off.
The downside: We have to go to bed pretty early. The latest is midnight. Otherwise we don’t get our rest and there goes the energy and productivity right out the window. When do have to stay up late, we adjust our waking hour too. But these are exceptions.
Small habit 2: yoga
This was a must for both of us. One is very tall and has back issues because of that, the other has some genetic joint error and has back issues as well. Both sit on our behinds to work, read, relax, travel and others. Sports is a huge must for us. But which one would be right for us and take as little time and resources as possible? Yes, yoga @ home.
As with any new habit, it took some time. We decided to start yoga at home one day. So we started. But again, evening was not the greatest option as we are pretty beat and just want to sit and unwind. It got moved to mornings. Also, we knew if we dove right into the 1 hour programs, we’d just be overwhelmed and quit soon after. Consequently, we started with short and easy workouts. And as you might have assumed already, it all happened after implementing the new sleeping schedule.
It came first in the name of Nike Training the app. It offers some cool workouts ranging from endurance to yoga. We used it until we got bored of the yoga workouts there and moved on to a yoga dedicated app. Still, it wasn’t smooth sailing. We worked out for 2 continuous months then stopped for 3 weeks. Then tried again and were successful for 3 weeks, then took another break. The problem was that we got over excited and pushed to work out every single day. Instead we chose 5 days per week on which we do yoga. These are mandatory. The other 2 are optional. Now we can’t take a break longer than two days because our backs punish us. Our bodies adopted the habit and they are now actively asking for it. How cool is that?
The paradox is that you need motivation when you start building self discipline. But you only need to stay motivated for short periods of time, until what you do becomes a habit. Once it’s a habit, it’s tougher to skip it. That cliche saying was right. Old habits die hard. But if they are good habits they must be kept alive forever.
You can find more habits worth building in our Discipline rule list article.
Check out the Talks with mavericks section for info from digital nomads themselves and the Resources section for more tips, tricks or advice on discipline, independent living, freelancing and digital nomads.
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May the discipline be with you.