I must write. Though I’m not in the mood for writing. I’d rather read my Peter F. Hamilton book. But still, I write.
It is called self-discipline.
I’ve been wondering today what enables people to keep discipline. And this is what I came up with:
It all starts with the realization that something is important. If you don’t understand the value of something, you will never have the discipline to start doing it.
Second, you have to work on your time management skills. If you’re not able to fit something important into your busy weekly schedule, it will simply never happen.
Third, when understanding and time management have been tackled, you have to make sure you don’t forget. (I don’t know why, but for me this is the hardest one.)
Fourth, and this may be most important, people have to be motivated to do it. No motivation, no discipline.
These are the four reasons for people showing lack of discipline. The reasons will vary per person and per subject. But there are solutions for every one of them:
You can help people to understand the importance of things. Teach them that refactoring is important. Teach them that version control is important. Teach them that face-to-face communication is important. If you teach people well, you will have solved 20% of all their disciplinary problems.
Second, you can help people by teaching them some time management skills. Tell them how to distinguish importance from urgency. Tell them how to reserve time slots for certain activities, and how to create fixed weekly schedules. And tell them how to cope with distractions. This will solve another 20% of your people’s disciplinary problems.
Third, you can help people by teaching them tricks so they won’t forget. Show them how to organize tasks, and how to set reminders. And show them how to create daily routines and mental checklists. That will solve yet another 20% of the self-discipline problem.
Fourth, you can help people to be motivated by making the work more enjoyable. Chris Spagnuolo talked about that in one of his earlier articles. And it’s also what the best-selling book Fish! is all about. When mundane tasks are made more enjoyable, people will be better motivated.
But… what about the last 20%?
Even when people understand the value, when they have the time, when they don’t forget, and when they are motivated, they still might skip an important activity, when they come to realize that they’re the only one!
Therefore, the last 20% is you! It’s you who must start leading by example. You must show self-discipline if you want people to follow with similar behavior. Never be late for a meeting, or else people will think that it’s OK to be late. Don’t deliver code that is neither refactored nor versioned, or other people will do the same. And never forget to answer an email message, or people will stop answering yours.
And that’s how I came to write this blog post today, even though I actually wanted to read my book. Fresh content on my blog is important to me. I organize my other activities so that I have time for writing. And I have a checklist that guarantees that I don’t forget to run the spell checker.
Plus, maybe, by setting an example, I might have inspired some others to follow…