Just over a week ago I decided to put myself on a leash. Not literally of course, but figuratively. I decided that I wanted to push my own limits and spend 7 days focusing on only the very important things that matter to me and my business.
I took drastic action and was very critical about the areas of life that waste my time. I cut things out of my schedule that are very habitual and things that sometimes feel like a necessity. The challenge is now over and today I'm sharing the results – if any of you joined me on the day I posted about it, you should also be finished your challenge by now.
The reason I decided to set myself this pure self-discipline challenge is because I realise that I have been slipping in areas of my life. My business and finances are going well but if I'm being totally honest, things could be going a lot better.
A lot has been going on around me recently and quite a few events have really forced me to put life into perspective. Because of this, I want to start taking responsibility for my actions and more specifically, the results. In essence, I don't want to take my opportunity on earth for granted, and it is only me who can make sure that doesn't happen.
The challenge was something I decided to do in order to push my limits and definitely think it has been a success. Before I share my overall thoughts and what I've realised thanks to it, I want to look at each area I have worked on and how I think I handled the discipline.
I eliminated five main things from my life. Some things were a lot harder to remove from my schedule than others, but they each tempted me to slip up during the 7 days. Here is what I stopped and how their absence during my week-long challenge affected me (in the order I originally wrote them).
No Twitter, Facebook or Instant Messaging
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had to use MSN Messenger every single day to talk to the freelancers I hire in order to track the progress of the projects they were working on. Once their jobs were completed however, I had no need for MSN, yet I would still be using it to chat to friends and ex-colleagues fairly often.
The same goes for Twitter and Facebook. They don't really have a need or purpose in my life right now but I use them regularly. This won't make sense for people who don't use either site but whenever something cool happened in my life (everyday, obviously ) I would instantly think of Tweeting it or updating my status on Facebook.
I honestly think this a bit pathetic and it is certainly not how I want to live my life. As far as cutting these things out goes, I strangely had no problems eliminating them from my daily life. I definitely won't return to them as often as before. My only concern with this is that some people sent me multiple messages on Facebook because they thought I was ignoring them.
I spent over a year in South Africa and in that time I watched less than 30 minutes of Television. I also watch no more than an hour of TV per day in the UK, despite the fact that I'm working from home, so I didn't think this area would pose any problems.
I was so serious about this challenge that I said no to going to the pub and watching my football team (Newcastle United) play their last game of the season. It worked out as a small blessing in disguise – my team lost and they ended up being relegated.
I “slipped up” once on the last day of the challenge because I wanted to watch the finals of Britain's Got Talent which is a very popular TV show over here. Besides that one incident I managed to stick to this successfully and again, didn't find it too difficult.
No Waking Up Late or Staying Out Until 2-3 am
The staying out late part of this caused me a bit of a problem. On Friday I went out with my friends to Town for most of the day and then hit up a few nightclubs. In order to really push myself, I ended up leaving them at 12 and took a taxi home. Of course, I just told them I was tired and not on a self-discipline challenge.
I think the latest I woke up was 10:30am and the earliest about 6am. My average was about 9am which is fairly good seeing as I can set my own hours. This part of the challenge also made my days feel much longer and helped me to get a lot more done.
No Sex or Anything Related
This was not as bad as I thought it would be, but definitely the item I found giving me the most temptations. I don't want to be stereotypical but I also think it is much harder for me as a 20 year old male than any other age or gender combination.
I didn't tell my female “friends” (I don't do girlfriends, long story) about this and literally just cut off all communication. I knew if I was in touch with them this would be almost impossible so I disappeared off the radar for a week.
If I was going to fail on any item of my challenge then this definitely would have been it. I did manage to pass this as well and I'm going to spend the next 7 days making up for it.
No Email or Website Stats Checking
I run an internet based business so these are fairly important to my success. That being said, I knew that I could go a week without checking my email and things would not crumble in my absence. On the first day of the challenge, I turned on my PC and just caught myself about to open up my inboxes (I have five) but managed to stop. This was not deliberate and purely habitual.
After that, I decided to remove most of my bookmarks so that I couldn't accidentally slip-up and ruin my challenge (which, if you can't tell already, I took very seriously). I didn't find it difficult not to check my website stats which is quite strange as I usually check them multiple times per day using real-time analytics.
In all honesty, this was a lot easier than I thought it would be. As I expected, the last few days were much harder than the first two or three, probably because my motivation was dying down and I knew the end was in sight.
One of the realisations I am going to share below did help to make this a lot easier. What I'm really happy about is the fact that I have completed more work in these last 7 days than I have in the last 3 weeks. I have finished a new eBook for another audience, written about 10 blog posts, set-up two new websites and finished some tasks that I have been putting off.
It's great to see how much you can get done when you really put your mind to something.
When I stated what I hope to get out of this self-discipline challenge, there were three items on my list. The first was that I want to test myself and push my own limits. The second was that I wanted to dedicate more time to productive activities and the third was simply curiosity as to how I would react after the challenge and what I would learn.
I definitely succeeded in the first two items on my list, I pushed myself hard and I had a very productive week. As far as my reaction goes, I think I need a bit more time to see if I slip into old habits. I am happy to say that this challenge led me to two excellent realisations that I would probably never have had otherwise.
1. It's Only Hard When You're Free
I noticed that every time I wanted to check my email, call my friends or do something related to another item on my list, I was free. What I mean by that is that I had nothing else going on, nothing else was taking up my attention.
It was only when I let my mind wander and wonder “what now?” that it was so easy to procrastinate and want to break my own rules. My solution for this was, quite simply, to keep myself busy. When I start writing I literally get so absorbed in it that I forget about anything else and minutes can quickly turn into hours. When I'm writing a blog post I don't care about the TV, my emails or anything else; I just focus on what I'm doing.
This immersion that I experienced is also one of the reasons that we love TV and Sex so much. We get so absorbed by them and stay so focused in the moment that everything else just fades away. If you can keep yourself busy, with anything, then the likeliness to slip up decreases and you'll find that procrastination disappears naturally.
2. Focus on the Tasks' End Result, Not Something Else
When you're looking to improve your self image using visualization, it's good to focus on the end result and let your brain worry about the rest. As far as motivation goes, I've also realised that focusing on the end result can really spur you into action.
A few weeks ago, when I noticed my productivity was slipping, I created a video for myself. The idea of the video was for it to show all the things I could enjoy after the months of hard work I have in store before I start travelling. It had pictures of my friends, my family, and my dream car which transitioned into each other while the song “High” by the Lighthouse family played in the background.
I watched this video every single day for weeks. It didn't help, nothing changed.
I used the free time I had gained from waking up earlier in this 7 day challenge to read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. His writing made me realise that everything I have achieved in my life has been because I had a real desire to do so. And, all of the things I've quit shortly after starting, didn't really matter to me that much.
Therefore, I looked at how I could build this burning desire for the projects I'm working on and, although I rarely recommend it, I appealed to my ego. I created a video about the things I was working on and where I want them to go, rather than my life without them in it.
The result? I no longer see procrastination as something I need to work on avoiding. Instead I have a strong focus to make my projects successful and useful. It is this desire I have built to succeed with them which makes me want to spend time on them. Once this was the case, procrastination just seemed to disappear on its own.
I can see that this idea is going to help me massively throughout life.
All in all, this has been a massively successful challenge for me and one I won't hesitate to do again if I feel it is necessary. I would love to hear from all of you who have followed along on how it went or is going for you. If you are interested in trying it out, make sure you check the original post.