One of the questions I’ve commonly been asked is, “How do you get anything done while working from home?” You see, I was a remote worker well before the pandemic hit this year. To many people, the concept of working from home seemed unfathomable. However, throughout my education and graduate studies, I found that the key to working from home was cultivating discipline.
Simply put, discipline is the ability to have the self-control to act or not to act in order to achieve a goal. Discipline can include honoring time commitments, embracing the will to act, and creating the right mental frame of mind. Not every day will be an easy day. Some days will be easier than others. Discipline is a process and building it will come with its ups and downs, but a large part of building this right mental frame of mind is not letting the setbacks beat you.
Discipline is very much like a skill — it requires work and conscious effort to develop and improve. Much like a muscle that needs to be used over and over to get stronger, discipline requires effort and practice. The more your practice discipline, the stronger it becomes, and the easier it is to be disciplined. As a caution to this though, just in the same way you can overwork a muscle, you can burn yourself out by almost being “too disciplined”. Being disciplined doesn’t have to mean you immediately change every aspect of your life in order to accomplish a goal. Part of being disciplined is also knowing your limits. Don’t try to be overly disciplined right from the start if you know that that is something you might not be able to sustain.
Like any skill, there are certain steps you can take to ensure you cultivate discipline. While these skills can be applied to any goal you want to achieve, I have specifically provided examples relevant to maintaining productivity at home:
1. Know your limits and how you work best: Do you have kids at home? Other time constraints? Best times of the days to work? Figure out your most productive hours and plan your work accordingly.
2. Embrace “small victories”: Getting started is the hardest part. Divide up your tasks so that you have small tasks to accomplish to get you going in the morning.
3. Ensure you’re getting the right help: Sometimes building discipline can be a daunting task alone. Look to those around you for support and seek support from those if you feel yourself slipping. You may need to schedule more check-ins with your boss to ensure you are meeting (and exceeding) expectations.
4. Challenge yourself and others: If you find yourself ahead of schedule, don’t slow down — set higher goals. As well, by challenging others, you help to create a level of accountability around yourself that you can look to use as support or motivation to stay disciplined. Challenge your work teams to be more productive than you were in the office.
5. Be patient: Building discipline is a process that takes time. If you find yourself getting caught up with too many things on your plate or rushing through activities you can often begin to lose your discipline, so be sure to slow down and take your time — don’t sacrifice your quality of work. However, do be honest with yourself and identify areas where you can improve.
Thanks to Nicolas Simard.