How to be disciplined at work
Last updated on: May 24, 2023
Doing a task that’s simple or enjoyable is easy. But, dealing with a task that you have to finish even when you don’t feel like doing it can be tough. What can help you get through such situations? Your self-discipline. Developing self-discipline will allow you to push forward with your daily tasks, which will ensure your overall success in the long run.
In this article, we’ll show you how to be disciplined at work, by exploring the qualities of a disciplined person, followed by handy tips to improve your self-discipline. We’ll also cover some tricks for all of you who work from home and need some encouragement when it comes to discipline.
Table of Contents
The difference between self-control and self-discipline
Before we look into the qualities of a disciplined person, let’s first clarify the difference between self-discipline and self-control. These are two quite similar terms but have slightly diverse meanings.
Self-control allows us to control our behavior and avoid temptations. In a way, self-control delays gratification, so this term works on a primal level. Self-discipline encourages us to do activities we should be doing, even when we don’t feel like doing them. That way, self-discipline helps us be more consistent so that we can achieve greater goals. While self-control takes care of our short-term goals, self-discipline gets us through our long-term goals. Self-control and self-discipline are like two buddies who always work together.
For example, you want to get up early in the morning every workday. Self-discipline is the one that will make you get up every morning, even when you’re sleepy and grumpy. Self-control is the one that will prevent you from hitting a snooze button.
Or, at work, you have to finish an important task by Friday. Self-discipline will help you work on that assignment from Monday to Friday. Self-control will stop you from watching YouTube videos of cute dogs.
What are the qualities of a disciplined person?
The most significant qualities of a self-disciplined person are:
- strong work ethic, and
Let’s dive deeper into each of these traits.
How strong is your sense of responsibility? To be able to answer this question, you’ll need to think about whether you get to work on time and whether you give your best efforts to complete tasks on time. A sense of responsibility also means that it’s up to you to start your assignments and finish them before the deadline.
Once you develop a sense of responsibility, it’ll be much easier to move, deal with your workload, and complete everything you need to do. As you can imagine, nobody’s going to take your hand and force you to start doing your tasks, so you’ll have to do it yourself. That’s why being responsible for your work is important if you want to be a self-disciplined employee.
Have you ever thought about how marathon runners manage to run so many miles? They train in order to build endurance.
In a workplace, endurance is called persistence. As a self-disciplined employee, you need to build your persistence. Therefore, you’ll be able to motivate yourself to work not only 30 minutes per day, but longer. Persistence also helps you stay focused on your assignments for prolonged periods.
Now, apart from time frames of focused work, you should always remember to take frequent breaks. There’s no point in working for 10 hours without any rest because this routine will drain your energy. Instead, train yourself to work for eight hours (or as many hours as your employment requires you to) and include lunch and other brief breaks to refresh your mind.
Strong work ethic
When it comes to being self-disciplined at work, it’s vital to mention a trait such as a strong work ethic. In a way, you can say that responsibility plays a key role in creating a strong work ethic. Here’s what work ethic should look like:
- Showing up for work on time.
- Dealing with all tasks, including both more complex and less complex ones. An employee with a strong work ethic will tackle less interesting assignments, as well.
- Getting the job done. When people have a strong work ethic, they deliver all tasks on time.
As you can see, having a strong work ethic isn’t always easy, which is why you’ll need to be self-disciplined. Besides, you’ll sometimes have to deal with distractions and stay strong when interruptions occur.
Being self-disciplined also means taking care of yourself. When it comes to self-care, we have to emphasize the importance of sleep. Since sleep deprivation can weaken your self-control, people who are disciplined make sure they get enough sleep.
Apart from sleep, self-care equals making healthier choices regarding smoking, diet, and exercise. That’s why researchers have proven that people who practice self-care are healthier in the long term, thanks to making proper choices about their health.
How do you improve self-discipline at work?
Are you struggling with self-discipline at work? Developing discipline takes time and effort. If you don’t know where to start, here are some invaluable tips to improve your self-discipline.
Start with small self-control exercises
Roy F. Baumeister is a social psychologist and the co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. In his opinion, we should understand self-control as a strength.
“It’s like a muscle that you exercise,” Baumeister further explains.
In the aforementioned book, co-authors recommend starting with small self-control exercises:
“Pick one fairly easy improvement in your life and execute it. For example, you could make your bed each morning. Or make sure to clean up all the dishes right after meals.”
Baumeister also points out that we should use self-control to break bad habits and form good ones. For instance, by starting a regular daily practice of exercise, or meditation. Here’s why he believes this is important:
“Once something becomes a habit, it is no longer a self-control exercise. When I started jogging, I had to push myself to do it, and so it strengthened my self-control. By now it is a long-established daily habit, so doing it no longer qualifies as self-control building.”
Moreover, Baumeister adds that jogging itself may require self-control, such as keeping going when tired. Therefore, you’ll need self-discipline as well, to continue with a habit when you don’t feel like doing it.
How can you try this routine at work? Here’s one way: pick a task you don’t particularly like, such as checking your inbox in the morning. Even though you don’t enjoy it, do this task first thing you get to the office. Then, make yourself a cup of coffee, as a little treat. After a week or two, you’ll notice how this assignment has become your daily habit, which you might even enjoy.
Parse one large task into several small assignments
When you have one complex task on your plate, you may feel confused. You probably won’t know how to start and what segment of your task to tackle first.
To prevent such situations, it’s best if you break that assignment into several smaller ones. That way, you’ll find it easier to complete the first task, and you’ll be motivated to continue with others. Besides, this motivation will help you improve your self-discipline because you’ll manage to complete all assignments on time.
We tend to believe that juggling several tasks at once will help us finish our work faster. But, in reality, when we switch between tasks (multitasking), we can only focus on task 1. At the same time, task 2 is just a distraction to task 1.
As we mentioned earlier, self-discipline helps you maintain your focus on work assignments for a longer time. Therefore, to aim your attention on one task at a time, you should avoid multitasking.
If we perceive our self-control as a muscle, as Baumeister suggests, we can train our self-control. But, there should be limits here, too. When you train your self-control and self-discipline without any break, you’ll feel exhausted.
The solution is quite simple: take regular breaks from work. By doing so, it’s more likely that you’ll regain your focus after a brief period of rest.
Moreover, you should schedule your breaks to ensure that you don’t miss any. This is especially important on the days when you have to tackle a complex task, after which you’re tired. In these situations, you can schedule a longer break after you finish that dreadful task.
Try to fight distractions
Another way to build your self-discipline is to avoid workplace distractions at any cost. Whenever you’re dealing with tedious tasks, it can be very tempting to pick up your phone and scroll down your social media accounts for 15 or 20 minutes. But, when you manage to fight this urge in order to finish your task on time, you’ll enhance your self-control (short-term win) and your self-discipline (long-term win).
So, how can you stay focused at work in a world full of distractions? If you usually lose focus because of various noises, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Or, if your mobile phone is your number one distraction, be sure to leave it out of reach when you’re working.
You can also write down what distracts your attention the moment you experience it. Keep a notebook nearby to note down various distractions, and you’ll notice some patterns. Thus, it’ll be easier for you to figure out how to predict these interruptions and create order in your daily work tasks.
Create a productive environment
If you’d like to improve your self-discipline at work, you can also make a productive environment. That way, you’ll send signals to your brain that it’s time to focus on work tasks. It doesn’t even have to be anything too demanding. For example, you can go get a glass of water or brew a cup of coffee before you start working on an assignment. Then, once you begin your task, be sure to aim all your attention at work. After several days, this ritual will become a habit that your brain will associate with deep work. Therefore, you’ll upgrade your self-discipline levels as well.
The best way to motivate yourself to keep doing your tasks is to celebrate little wins. Whenever you finish a task, remember to reward yourself. It can be taking a brief break to make lemonade or eat a chocolate bar. Building self-discipline by doing demanding work and being persistent is almost painless when you know rewards are waiting for you.
Developing self-discipline when working from home
When working from home, you have to nurture your self-discipline. In work environments such as this, it’s only up to you to get up on time every day and give your best to complete your tasks before the deadline. Sounds scary? Don’t worry, you’ll be fine as long as you incorporate some kind of structure. Here’s what you can do.
Choose working hours and stick to the schedule
If you don’t have fixed working hours, you get to choose when you’ll work during the day. To develop self-discipline, you should select working hours that are suitable for you and your lifestyle. Then, try to stick to that schedule as much as you can. Of course, it won’t be a problem if you start your workday at 9 am on Monday, but at 9.30 on Tuesday. Allow yourself some flexibility on the days when you have personal errands to run before or after work.
In addition, if you live with your spouse, siblings, or roommates, remember to inform them about your schedule.
Choose work attire that helps you stay productive
Now, this is a subject of many debates. When you work from home, should you dress like you’re dressed in an office? Or should you do the opposite and stay in your PJs the entire day? Some studies have shown that dressing up can enhance your performance at work.
But, does it work for all people? Probably not. Some employees will likely enjoy wearing a suit, or a pencil skirt with a cute blouse when working from home. For them, this can have a positive effect on productivity. On the other hand, some workers will prefer comfy clothes when telecommuting. From my work from home experience, wearing the clothes that I usually wear at home works perfectly. Plus, it doesn’t hinder my productivity, so I manage to complete my tasks on time.
The bottom line is: choose the outfit that works best for you. Opt for clothes that you feel comfortable in and that help you stay productive. Thus, you’ll be able to maintain your focus at work for longer periods, which will improve your self-discipline.
Bonus tip: You can keep an elegant shirt nearby for any unexpected Zoom meeting.
Finish your workday by preparing for tomorrow
To ensure you’ll leave your work on time, you should spend some time at the end of the day thinking about tomorrow. Since self-discipline means being able to get the job done, you should reflect on what you’ve accomplished throughout the day. Then, write down if there are some urgent tasks for tomorrow morning. Moreover, note down all priorities for the day ahead of you and parse larger projects into smaller assignments.
Apart from work tasks, you should also take care of some house chores, like washing the dishes, or doing laundry. So tomorrow, your attention to work won’t be disrupted by a pile of dirty dishes.
💡 Creating a to-do list for tomorrow can help you organize your time at work better. If you need additional tips, we have an in-depth article on 58 Time Management Tips For Work.
The most significant traits of a self-disciplined person are responsibility, persistence, strong work ethic, and self-care. Even if you don’t feel like you check all these boxes, be sure that developing your self-discipline is possible. This process starts with self-control exercises. Besides, other ways to enhance your self-discipline are avoiding multitasking and distractions, as well as creating a productive environment for yourself. Furthermore, making sure that you’re disciplined is especially important when working from home. In that case, you should try to stick to your working hours at home, and always make plans for the day ahead of you.
✉️ What’s your secret of being a disciplined worker? Send your answers, suggestions, and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may include them in this or future posts.