You wake up. It’s eight o’clock…at night.
“How did this happen?” You wonder. You must’ve crashed when you got home after another long day fueled by another sleepless night (and some coffee, of course). Now you’ve got work to do—a lot of it. Are you motivated? Probably not. Are you disciplined? Definitely not.
Perhaps this isn’t exactly what’s going on with you, but it certainly was the case for me.
Before I went on to tackle stress and time-management, I struggled to get work done. In fact, I was stuck in an endless cycle of sleeping late, waking up early, trying to get through the day, crashing when I got home, and seldom getting any work done in time. I knew something had to change.
I researched stress and how to combat it, discovering that I didn’t have to resist it at all. I then implemented a brilliant time-management tool to help me maximize my productivity and minimize my time-related anxiety. Yet, I still overlooked one simple concept: Discipline.
So why is discipline a significantly better long-term solution than motivation?
Fundamentally, motivation only works based on one’s mental state, where such a state needs to be obtained in order to work on a task. In contrast, discipline completely separates function from feeling, allowing for the completion of tasks without desperately waiting for a morale boost, which is the very problem with chronic procrastination. If one has to wait until they feel like it to do something, then they’ve already spawned a never-ending loop of needing to get something done, not feeling like getting it done, putting it off for later, and feeling bad about it. And what happens afterward is what bugs me the most: blaming stress and complaining about a lack of time.
Motivation comes and goes, and chasing it is actually quite futile. Furthermore, successfully completing one’s tasks is what allows for that boost of energy—the very stimulus the vast majority of procrastinators think they need to begin working in the first place. We shouldn’t be asking ourselves “how do I get myself to feel good about doing this?” and instead think “how can I get this done regardless of how I feel?”
The reality is, more often than not, there are things we need to do that we couldn’t possibly be enthusiastic about. And that is where this idea of motivation fails the most. In fact, I would argue we are effectively worsening our mental state every time we try to drive ourselves to feel good about doing things we don’t want to do.
The main card pits motivation against discipline and most bets are on motivation. If one desires consistent results, where the main focus is day-to-day functioning and accomplishing goals, discipline is the way to go.
Funny enough, the concept of adopting discipline is in itself a disciplinary action. It is just so much easier for us to turn to motivation, because we always expect it to be there and because we know that we don’t have to spend the least bit of energy to get it; and sadly, this mindset prevents us from doing anything at all. However, it must be said that there are indeed times where motivation is exactly what we need, like with competitions, or even exams.
You see, in my efforts to tackle time-management and productivity, I had actually been implementing discipline the entire time. In order for me to use the Pomodoro Technique, which I’ve discussed in a previous article, I had to be disciplined. What I realized is that this in turn elicited short bursts of motivation when I worked. So, instead of chasing something that wasn’t there to begin with, I allowed it to come to me, which also inspired me to stay true to my habitual nature and have no expectations of motivation sticking around.
Discipline wins by technical knockout (TKO).