How To Get Started on Your Productivity Journey

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Podcast 76

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about getting started once you have created your system.

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Hello and welcome to episode 76 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have an excellent question about actually getting started once you have a system in place. I know I produce a lot of content that concerns setting up a system, but there’s not a great deal of content out there about actually getting started once you have a system in place. So I will change that this week. 

The answer to this question will also help you if you have fallen off the wagon, so to speak, and will help you get back on and get started again. We all fall off from time to time and so having a few strategies that allow you to get back when it does happen is always a good idea. 

Don’t forget if you have taken my FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD system course you get a huge discount on the 2019 Your Digital Life course. Details of the discount are in the COD course. Your Digital Life takes you to the next level by showing exactly how to build your goals, projects and routines into daily activities so nothing gets missed. AND… You also get a FREE workbook, a FREE copy of Your Digital Life 2.0 book as well as FREE access to my Email Productivity and Ultimate Goal Planning courses. That’s excellent value for money, it’s almost like giving away a whole productivity course. Details of both courses are in the show notes.

Okay, onto this week’s question and so it is time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Frank. Frank asks: Hi Carl, I have just read your book Your Digital Life and I have read GTD. the problem I have now is where do I start? I have everything in place inbox, projects and areas of focus, but there seems to be too much for me to do. Can you help? 

Hi Frank, thank you for your fantastic question. 

 The first thing we need to understand is that our to-lists are never going to stop filling up. Life will always throw up far more than we can ever do. I think most people begin to realise that after a while. It’s why inbox zero only lasts for a few minutes. As soon as we get our email inbox down to zero, pretty soon more email will begin arriving. It just isn't going to stop. 

So that’s the first thing we all have to accept. Zeroing everything out is temporary. Clean everything out, take your dog for a walk and when you get back you will have stuff accumulating again. 

So where do you start? Well, just start at the top and keep going. That’s really all there is to it. Of course, things are a bit more complicated than that. Some things will be more important than others. Some tasks are time sensitive, others less so. 

Part of becoming more productive is developing skills that will help you to prioritise. Which of all your collected tasks need to be done sooner rather than later? Which tasks, if you did right now, would take a lot of pressure off you? And which tasks have your attention right now? All those should be dealt with first. These tasks will be taking up a lot of mental energy and so the sooner you either do them or make a decision on when you will do them the better. 

Quite often all you need to do once you have everything in your system is to go through all your projects and areas of focus and decide what needs to happen next to get things moving forward. It’s surprising how by spending an hour or so doing a weekly review you soon get everything moving forward and you begin to relax. 

But before that, The primary objective when you start using any kind of productivity or time management system is to build trust in your system. If things get missed and you are not seeing what you need to see when you need to see it, you will not trust your system and when that happens you stop using it and you’re back where you started. Blaming yourself or the system for you not being able to be productive. Having trust needs to be objective number one. When you trust you are collecting everything as it comes to mind, you are collecting your great ideas and all events are put on to your calendar—that’s when you begin to relax and great things happen. If you don't trust your system you will have tasks in your to-do list and they will still be in your head. You’re duplicating. When you trust your system, your mind can let go knowing everything is collected and is either processed or will be processed very soon. 

Now, where do you start? Well once you know what has your attention you need to establish what is time sensitive and what tasks will have the biggest impact on your projects you can begin doing the work. Start with those. As you complete those tasks you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment. You will feel yourself relaxing, becoming less stressed because the things that are most pressing are getting done. 

At the end of the workday, spend a few minutes organising what you collected. Deal with the most urgent, process the rest so you will see them when you need to see them and enjoy the rest of the day. 

What I have found is we become more stressed and feel more overwhelmed when we don't get whatever is on our mind out of there and into a place we know we will check later. Being more productive isn't about doing a lot of work in less time, being more productive is about doing the work that matters and discarding the stuff that doesn't matter. To do that takes courage. 

It’s very easy to think everything that comes our way is important. It’s much harder to make decisions about whether something really is important or not. But if you really want to get control of your time so you can spend more of it doing the things you want to do, that is something you are going to have to do. 

I get a lot of requests to review apps from hard-working app developers. I feel for them because I know it’s incredibly hard to come up with the idea, develop the concept and to them build the app. That takes a lot of time and hard work. I also love looking at and trying new productivity apps. But I am not an app reviewer and I really don't have the time to review an app properly. I am very clear about the things I want to spend my time doing. So I politely decline any offers that come my way. The truth is there are people out there who would do a far better job reviewing apps. So although I really want to help these developers get noticed, I know reviewing apps is not my thing and so I say no. 

It’s hard to say no, but it is better for me and for the developers that I do. That way I don’t waste anyone’s time. 

And that’s the way you need to become. Understand what is important to you so you can spend more time doing that and less time doing stuff you don’t enjoy or don’t want to do. 

Of course, I know that isn’t always easy when the stuff you don’t like doing is given to you by your boss or customer. But we also get a lot of opportunities each day that look very attractive, but at the end of the day are just going to suck time away from you and prevent you from doing the things that really matter—those time-sensitive tasks that do need doing today. 

So go through your task list, decide what has your attention and what is time sensitive and prioritise those tasks. You can add a date, add a flag or create labels or tags that tell you whether something is important or not. You can decide to focus on one project and get that project completed by the end of the week. You do have a lot of freedom about where you want to put your attention. The thing is, once you have made a decision about where you want to put your focus you need to stick to the plan. There’s no point in having a plan for the day and then making it easy for you to change that plan just because you received an email that looks more attractive. You do not want to have too many tasks assigned each day, you do need to keep some flexibility in your day for those urgent requests from your customers or boss. But you do need a plan for the day. If you don’t have a plan, someone else will give you one and their plan is not going to be a very good plan for you. 

The secret is really all about knowing what has your attention and making sure you have made a decision on what you are going to do about it and when. When you have instilled that practice and it becomes a habit, then you will find everything slips into place and you start getting a lot of very important work done and at the same time your stress levels fall and you start to feel much more relaxed about doing what you are doing. 

So, make sure you are collecting everything that has your attention. Then when you process that stuff, ask yourself what you need to do about it and when and if you decide it is not important and is not going to contribute to your overall life plan then get rid of it. Being more productive is all about saying no to a lot of things and sousing all your energy on the things that you decide is important. 

If everything is out of your head and into a trusted system and you know what needs your attention will show up when you need it to show up, then you are well on your way to becoming super-productive. 

I hope that has helped, Frank and thank you so much for your question. 

Don’t forget if you have a question about productivity, time management, GTD or goal planning, get in touch either by email ( or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. All my contact links are in the show notes.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 53 | How I Plan The New Year

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how I plan my new year goals.

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Hello and welcome to episode 53 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s episode, I finally answer a question I received during the summer, but I thought it would be better to answer the question now as the year draws to a close. And that is how do I plan my year. I should also point out that I will be doing another episode on this in the coming weeks with my good friend and super amazing positive guy, Kevin Blackburn, so keep your eyes (or ears) open for that episode, I know it’s going to be a very special episode.

And if you really want to learn how to set and achieve your goals I have a couple of courses on my Learning Centre that will not only show you how to create achievable goals but also take you through the steps on discovering what you really want to achieve in life. I’ve linked to both courses in the show notes and I would highly recommend you have a look at them. Those courses could really change your life. 

Okay, let’s get on with this week’s show and that means it’s time to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This week’s question comes from Michael. Michael asks, Carl could you tell us how you go about setting goals. I know you’ve written a lot about it, but hearing it in your own words would be very helpful. 

Okay, Michael, you asked for it so here it is. 

I begin my planning season around the middle of October when I create a note in my Evernote with 6 headings. These headings are:

  1. Ideas - this where I dump anything that comes into my mind

  2. What would I like to change about myself? - This question allows me to think about my character, habits and interactions and see if there is anything I am not happy about. If I find anything I will add it here. 

  3. What would I like to change about my lifestyle? - This question is all about the way I live. Am I active enough? is there anything about my home I would like to change? Anything like that.

  4. What would I like to change about the way I work? This question obviously is about my work. Is there anything about my work routines I would like to change. This year, for example, I focused more on making sure I did any creative work in the mornings and did admin and editing work in the evenings. 

  5. What can I do to challenge myself? Challenging myself helps to stop me from stagnating. I like to have at least one thing each year that is going to be incredibly difficult. This always gives me a huge buzz because often the challenge seems impossible at first. 

  6. Goals - Finally, I have a place to add in the goals I want to achieve next year. These can come from anything I have written to the questions I have in the list and it’s a good way to help me build the final list of goals for the year as I am developing my ideas. 

I’ve put a link in the show notes so you can download this worksheet and use it for yourself. 

So how do I take all these answers and turn them into goals for the following year? Well, the first step is to empty my head of ideas and I have found over the years that trying to write a full list in one sitting is pretty much impossible. Instead, I treat most of October and all of November as an open planning session. By that I mean this note in Evernote is with me everywhere I go, so wherever I am I can add to the list anytime. And ideas can pop up at any time. Often I can be on the subway minding my own business and something I see or hear will spark an idea and I will immediately collect it on my phone. If I have time I will put it under the right question, if not, I just add it to the bottom of the list and move it to the right place later. 

I’ve found if I allow myself 4 to 6 weeks of this I will have a wonderfully long list of ideas. The “collection” phase of my planning stops on the 1st of December. By then I know I will have collected everything I would like to achieve. 

Now, there is one final step in this process I do. On the first of December, I will take a look at last years list—and this is one of the many reasons why it’s a good idea to stick with one app for each area of your productivity system. Because I have been using Evernote for over nine years now, I know exactly where last year’s note is and can pull it up with a very simple search. Switching notes apps all the time means there’s a good chance you will lose stuff like this in the switchover—What I am looking for are the ideas I had last year that I decided at the time was not the right time to do. Often I find there are one or two items on that list that will I transfer over to this year’s list. 

Now, the 1 December is the cut off time. I will not be adding anything else to the list. What I have on the list now is everything. So, the next step is to slim the list down to two things for each question and to have five goals for the year. 

I will go through each part of the list and use Evernote’s highlighting tool to highlight three things from each question. Then every day for that two weeks I will spend a few minutes looking at the list and checking that I am still happy with my selection. I find almost every day I will change something. Often I will change the highlight to another item and then change it back a few days later. It’s all good fun, but by doing this you will have evaluated everything thoroughly and when the 15th of December comes around that is your final selection. 

Why two things and 5 goals? Well, if you try and do everything you will fail at most things. Experience has taught me that if I am focused on only a few things there is a much better chance of accomplishing those few things. It also means that the things I do choose to focus on next year will be things that are really important to me. Forcing myself to prioritise this way means my choices are important and the desire to accomplish them will be very strong. 

Why only 5 goals? Again this is so I am not trying to do too much. As the year goes, other things will come up, there could be family emergencies, your employment situation may suddenly change in a way you did not anticipate. All sorts of things could happen. So a limited number of goals allows me to stay focused on what is truly important to me. 

Okay, so now it’s the 15th December and I have my final selection, what happens next? Well, now it’s time to create the necessary action steps and timelines for these changes and goals to happen. Let me give you an example from this year:

On my lifestyle changes list, I had the goal of beginning Robin Sharma’s 5 am Club. This is where you wake up at 5 am, do 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of planning and 20 minutes studying. Now, I prefer to exercise in the afternoon as it breaks up my day nicely, and I do my planning in the evening before I go to bed. That works for me and I didn’t want to change it. However, I also had on my goals list to learn Korean to fluency and I saw the chance to merge the two goals together. So, I developed a plan to wake up at 5 am and study Korean for an hour. 

For timing, I decided the best time to do this was when my wife went off to China for a few months to study. This meant I did not have to worry about waking her up and with the change in my home life, it would be a good time to change my routine. So, my wife left for China on a Friday in early June and the following Monday I began my 5 am club. It was tough for the first few days, but by the end of the week I was getting into it and after a month it was easy. 

Next up on my list of things to do was begin meditation. The question here for me was at what time of the day would I do it. I decided the best time would be early morning, so in September, I added 15 minutes meditation to my 5 AM Club routine. So, now I study for 45 minutes and finish off with 15 minutes of meditation. And I should say, I really look forward to my 5 AM starts now. 

I knew at the beginning of the year I needed to first get into the routine of waking up early and studying. So I gave myself 3 months to get into that habit before starting the meditation habit. There was no rush and this slow development has meant that as I acquire a new habit I can then move on to developing that habit into what the final goal was to be. Wake up at 5 AM study and meditate for an hour. Now we are into November I can confidently say I have acquired both habits and it has become one of the highlights of my day!

So there you have it, the way I plan the year. It’s a fun way to do it, it allows you plenty of time to really evaluate what you want to accomplish and more importantly anticipate difficulties so you can develop strategies for overcoming those difficulties when they do happen. 

It may seem like a lot of work, but the whole process is done in a relaxed fun way. It should not feel like a burden you and there will be days when you don’t think of anything just like there will be days when your brain goes into overdrive and you add a tonne of stuff to your list. Just enjoy the process. The real hard work begins after the 15th December when you start developing your action steps and timelines. 

The key is to remember that 2019 is 12 months, not 12 days. So spread out your goals and tasks. Use the full year to have something new to start every two or three months. You’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of the experience and you will enhance your chances of succeeding at achieving your goals. 

Don’t forget to download my FREE Annual Planning worksheet so you can start this process and then spend the rest of November gathering all your ideas. Have fun, make sure you are challenged and more importantly look at 2019 as an opportunity to really achieve something special. 

Good luck and thank you so much for listening to this episode. Thank you to you, Michael for your wonderful question and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 42 | Building An Extraordinary Life With Kevin Blackburn

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In this very special episode, I talk with Kevin Blackburn of Life Success Engineer about making the decision to change your life, your career and starting your own business. 

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Life Success Engineer:


YouTube Channel



Thank you to Kev for doing this. Listen out for part 2 where we talk about goal planning, productivity and the apps we use coming next on the Working With Podcast. 

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The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

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The Working With … Podcast | Episode 36 | What It Takes To Become A Productive Person.

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about What it takes to become productive.

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Hello and welcome to episode 36 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this episode, I have a wonderful question about productivity. I suppose it’s an obvious question, really, but one we very rarely ask. So in this episode not only are we going to ask the question, we are going to answer it too. 

Before we get to this week’s question though, I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who enrolled in my special offer last week. Now it’s time for you to get down and do some studying and building. So good luck with that and if you have any questions about setting up your own systems, then feel free to get in touch. 

Don’t forget, if you want to discover a system that is flexible and is customisable to work for you, then get yourself enrolled in my FREE beginners guide to building your own productivity system. It’s around 45 minutes long and will give you all the tips and tricks you need to create your own, bullet-proof productivity and time management system. The link to the course is in the show notes. 

And, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, then get in touch. I’m more than happy to answer any question on productivity, goal setting or self-development so send those questions in. You can ask me via Twitter, Facebook or direct via email. 

Right, onto this week’s question, so it’s time for me now to hand you over the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Janet. Janet asks: I’ve struggled with becoming more productive for years and was wondering what you think is the skill needed to become a more productive person. 

Thank you, Janet, for the question. A very good question indeed and a question that had me thinking quite hard.

For me, the single most essential skill required to become a more productive person, if you can call it a skill, is self-discipline. 

You need the self-discipline to keep going with your system even on those days when you don’t feel in the mood. 

You see becoming a more productive person is not a case of cleaning up your desk and tidying up your files one day. Becoming a more productive person is a way of life. If you have spent most of your adult life in a disorganised state where you cannot even remember where you placed your car keys every morning, then that is nothing to do with whether or not you are a productive person, that is more a case of not having the discipline to put your keys in the same place every evening when you return home. And it takes discipline to develop the habit of putting your keys in the same place every time. 

The basics of a good productivity system is what I call COD - Collect, Organise and Do. To collect everything that comes your way into your inbox, to then organise everything you collected that day into its rightful place, and to do the work you planned to do is not a difficult concept. In fact, it is a logical, simple concept. Putting it into practice day after day doesn’t take a PhD degree either. It’s simple. What it does take though is discipline. The discipline to collect everything, to organise it and to do it when you want to get it done, rather than need to get it done. 

We all have those days when we just don’t feel in the mood. When we just want to stay in bed and do nothing but watch TV all day. We are human after all. But what I have noticed in the most productive people I’ve met is they know exactly what they want to accomplish each day and they start the day with that knowledge. It gives them a kind of energy to get themselves out of bed and start the day full of energy. It’s as if they see each new day as a new opportunity to achieve something fantastic. And that’s true. Each new day does give you a new opportunity to create something very special. 

Another trait I’ve seen with very productive people is they are in complete control of their calendars. They know what’s on their calendar because they put it there. I notice this with my own dentist. She’s an incredibly productive person. All her scary tools are placed exactly where she needs them and she carefully plans out each treatment course with each patient. Her appointments calendar is linked to her personal calendar so she only allows appointment times that will fit into her lifestyle. Even though, as a dentist, her day is made up of patient appointments, those appointment times fit around her schedule and not given at the whim of patients or anyone else. She allows enough flexibility on her calendar to deal with emergencies and I’ve never seen her overstretched or stressed. 

And that’s one of the benefits of being in control of your calendar. You can keep things flexible, and prevent anything going on there that you have no real desire to do. It also means when you do your Golden Ten at the end of the day you can trust that what is on your calendar is what you want to do and not something other people want you to do but you have not desire to do yourself. 

But it always comes back to self-discipline. You need the self-discipline to collect everything that has meaning to you, to organise that stuff into its appropriate place and to just get on with the work whether or not you are in the mood to do so. You need the self-discipline to say no to the things you do not want to do—even if that is saying no to your boss or clients. 

It’s hard, I’m certainly not suggesting otherwise. But although it is hard, it is a skill or trait worth developing. Because when you do have the discipline to do the collecting, organising and doing as well as saying no to the things you feel will not take you or your life further forward, you will find you begin to feel a lot less stressed and much happier. You will feel nothing can stop you achieving the things you want to achieve and you start to get a lot more of your important work done. 

So how do you become more disciplined with your productivity system? 

The best place to start is with your collecting. Take a weekend and have a look at how you have your collection tools set up. Are they apps on your phone, or is it a simple notebook. Ask yourself: is this the best way to collect everything? Look at your general collection system—by that I mean if you have an idea, how would you collect it right now while you are listening to this podcast. Is it easy? Is it fast? If not, find a way to make it easier and faster. Once you are happy with your collection system, try it for a week. Make sure you are not resisting. Make sure that you do it every time every day. Tweak it if necessary but make sure you are doing it every time. 

For the organising part, get that on your calendar. Choose a time at the end of the day when you know you will not likely be disturbed and block a fifteen-minute segment in your calendar. I personally block 10pm every weekday to do my organising. I don’t schedule calls and I don’t allow anything to stop me from taking ten to fifteen minutes to organise every thing I collected that day. I have actually made a routine out of the time between 9:30pm and 10:30pm. I take my dog out for a walk at 9:30pm and when we get back around 10pm I do my organising. I’m usually finished organising by 10:15pm and I then do a little reading or watch a short video before heading off to bed at 10:30pm. Creating a pre-bedtime routine is a great way to build your discipline. Once the routine becomes a habit, you no longer feel you have to push yourself to get on with it. 

Finally, on the doing part, well that is a natural progression from your Golden Ten. (that’s the ten minutes at the end of the day when you organise and plan the next day) once you have completed your Golden Ten you should have a clear view of what you want to get accomplished tomorrow and what your two objectives for the day are. Once you have those written down or onto your to-do list you can go to bed happy knowing that the day ahead is planned and you are ready.

Sure, all this does take time to build up the routines. But before they become a habit and a routine, you need the discipline to follow through and do this every day. After a week or so it starts to feel natural and after two or three months you are well on your way to making being a productive person just a part of who you are. 

Changing old habits is hard. I know. I’ve been there. But change is how we grow into better people. The discipline and effort are well worth it because of what you become. Yes, you will fall down, you will slip into old habits, but the important thing is you get back into developing your routines and habits as quickly as you can. It will feel like hard work when you start. There will be days when you think it’s just not worth it. That’s when you need to tell yourself that the effort will reward you massively in the future and tomorrow is another day with another attitude and another chance to prove to yourself you can change and you can become more productive. 

When you become more disciplined about how you organise your life, you will find there will be other areas of your life you can change too. Areas you are not happy with and with your new found discipline and productivity skills you will find your whole life will change in so many positive ways. 

Good luck, Janet and again, thank you so much for your question. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 17 | How To Build Your Self-Discipline

This week, I answer a question about self-discipline and how to build better and stronger self-discipline so you can get the important things done. 



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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about becoming more self-disciplined.

Hello and welcome to episode 17 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I am answering a question about self-discipline, or rather how to become more self-disciplined, something that is surprisingly easy to do as long as you begin with small steps. 

But before we get in to that, I just wanted to let you know that this month’s online course special offer is my Complete Guide To Creating a Successful Life. This is one of my most comprehensive courses and is designed to take you on a voyage of self-discovery and evaluation. By the end of the course you will have a complete, easy to follow plan to create a life you want that focuses on your happiness, goals and learning. Don’t miss this chance to get 50% off this fantastic course. The links are in the show notes, so go on and get yourself enrolled. 

Okay, time for this week’s question. So let me now hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This week’s question comes from Jessica in Canada. Jessica asks:

I really struggle sticking to my plan for the day. I spend time at the end of a day planning what I want to do the next day and go to bed with all the best intentions. But when I wake up, I don’t have the motivation. Is there anything I can do to improve my self-discipline? 

Okay, thank you so much for this question, Jessica. I know so many people really struggle with self-discipline and I myself also struggle with it from time to time. 

Let me begin by telling you a true story that happened to me last year. Last year I decided it was going to be the most productive year I have ever had. I wanted to get two books and six online courses published. I also wanted to put out a minimum of three YouTube videos each week. It was a big ask, but I was determined to get it done. And I did do it. 

Unfortunately, one of my core values suffered. I love keeping fit and exercising. I hate it when I gain a few kilograms. But as I was always doing something to create content, I let my exercise regime slide and I gained around 5 kilos. (that’s around 11 pounds for you non-metric people). So I ended the year having achieved one goal, but in achieving that goal, I let one of my core values slip and so the celebration of hitting a goal was diminished by the excess weight I had gained. 

When I started 2018, I made it a goal to lose those 5 kilos and get myself fit again. Well, things did not start off very well. I found myself making excuses. First there was jet-lag, so I would start exercising properly again next week. Then I caught a cold, so I delayed starting my exercise programme until the following week. Then I had a busy week and so on and so on. You get the picture. There was always an excuse. And I always told myself I would restart next week. 

Well, as I am sure many of you know, “next week” never actually happens. It wasn’t until the middle of February that I realised what I was doing— I knew what I was doing before really, but I always had an excuse—and said to myself I have got to stop making excuses and get my exercise regime started. 

So, I made a plan. Every day, I would do 4 sets of planks and press-ups—no excuses— and 5 days a week I would do a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise each day. The planks and press-ups would not take longer than 10-15 minutes and I knew I could always find that time each day. And by exercising for minimum of 20 minutes five days a week, would allow enough flexibility to have busy days. 

Well, almost three weeks in, and I have now lost 3 kilos, and have stuck to the plan. 

To make this happen has taken a lot of self-discipline. It was my lack of self-discipline at the beginning of the year that allowed me to make excuses for six weeks. It was when I saw what I was doing, and I have to admit it was my journal that was telling me, that I was making excuses, that I stopped myself. 

But the thing is I did not go crazy. Self-discipline is like a muscle. If you try and do too much too soon you will fail. You will give up and your pride and self-worth gets a battering. Instead I made sure that the programme I developed was easily achievable. All I had to do was make sure I did something for at least ten to fifteen minutes per day and that would soon create a chain reaction. And that is what has happened. Every morning now, when I wake up, I make sure that I have fitted in my exercise for the day so I know when I need to start. 

To build self-discipline, you need to start small. Let’s say you want to lose 5 kilos, as I did. Then you first need to decide how you will do that. Are you going to diet, exercise or a combination of both? Once you have decided how you are going to do it, you need to start small. For example, you could decide that you will cut the number of teaspoons of sugar you put in your tea and coffee from 2 to a ½. That could be what you do in the first week. Then for the next week, you can do twenty minutes exercise every day. Now that could be walking for twenty minutes, or doing 20 minutes of Yoga in the evening. The important thing is you do not try and do too much and overwhelm yourself. Start small and train your self-discipline muscle. 

As your self-discipline develops, you will find it harder and harder not to do what you are trying to become more disciplined at. 

Take for example Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club. This is something that Robin Sharma, the leadership coach teaches. That is to wake up at 5 AM every morning and do the 20/20/20—that’s 20 minutes exercise, twenty minutes planning and twenty minutes studying. 

Now for most of us not accustomed to waking up at such an unearthly hour of the day, starting something like this is going to be a huge shift in our daily lives. My guess is if we tried it, most of us would fall off the wagon before we get to Wednesday. I would further guess, a lot of us probably wouldn’t be able to do it on the first day! 

However, let’s say we built up to it. Instead of waking up at 5 AM in the first week, we focused on doing the 20/20/20 rule first. So if we normally wake up at 7:30AM and need to leave the house at 8:30AM. Then why not start off by waking up at 7AM and doing the 20/20/20. We would still have time to have a shower and something to eat before 8:30AM. 

Once we have developed the habit of doing the 20/20/20 system, and we feel uncomfortable NOT doing it, then we can start getting up a little earlier each week. If you woke up 30 minutes earlier each week, you would soon find yourself waking up at 5 AM. 

During the period of transition, you would be training your self-discipline and you would be becoming stronger and stronger. 

The thing about self-discipline is it grows your confidence. When you start becoming more self-disciplined in one area of your life, you can apply it to other areas of your life. It becomes easier and easier. 

Self-discipline is really the ability to form habits. And positive habits at that. A habit is something you just do without thinking. If at the moment you are a bit of a couch potato, then the thought of getting up off the couch and going for a walk for an hour be unthinkable. But, if you were in the habit of going out for a walk every evening for a walk, the thought of spending the evening sat on the couch, would be unthinkable. The great thing about habits, is we get to chose our own and we can change old habits. 

The first step, is always to just start doing what you want to do. Take each day as it comes and make a conscious effort make it happen. Don’t try and change too much. Focus on one thing at a time. We all have far more time than we think, and if it takes three to four months to develop the habit, then focus on that one change you want to make for those three to four months. Only after you begin doing your new, more positive habit, without thinking should you move on to developing the next thing you want to develop. 

Waking up in the morning with your plan in place means waking up, focussed on the one thing you want to get done that day. Once you have done that, move on to the next thing on your list. The key is to do these in small steps, develop the habit, and then move on to the next thing. Slowly, but surely your self-discipline will develop and pretty soon you will be able to achieve things you never dreamt possible.

I will end this episode with one of my favourite Jim Rohn quotes:

“Success is a few small disciplines practiced everyday. Failure, is a few errors in judgement repeated every day.” 

The meaning, is do the things that will improve your life with discipline everyday. And don’t repeat the mistake of not doing them. 

Thank you very much for listening to this episode. If you have a question you would like answering, please get in touch either by email ( or message me via Twitter or Facebook.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.