Stop Being So Disciplined

by Joe Bunting | 15 comments

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Yesterday, about half of you said discipline is one of your biggest obstacles to achieving your writing goals.

One of the biggest things I've done to increase my discipline is actually the most paradoxical. One day a week I stop trying. I eat as much food (and dessert!) as I want. I sleep as long as I want. In other words, I rest. I turn off everything that doesn't bring me rest—my computer, especially—and I throw discipline to the wind.

Discipline is about forcing yourself to work when you don't really want to. It's hard to force yourself to do something when you don't want to, so one day a week, I don't. I don't make myself do anything. In fact, I do the opposite.

I make myself do nothing.

The surprising thing is that this has actually given me more discipline. You only have a limited supply of discipline per week, just like you have a limited amount of energy. By spending one day storing up discipline, I actually have become more disciplined on all the other days.

So today, I challenge you to turn off your computer. Stop trying to achieve your goals. Instead, go eat way too much dessert. Enjoy your family. Laugh! Breathe in deep so that it touches your very soul.

Your goals can wait until tomorrow. Today, enjoy.

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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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  1. Jeanne Moran

    If God rested on the 7th day, I suppose we should too. Sound advice.

  2. Lisa Buie-Collard

    I LOVE this advise! When one’s office is at home, it’s hard to turn off the “work” mode. Movies are one way I “tune” out, but also, evenings making dinner with my husband, talking over the day, doing something together after being apart all day I find really helps me recharge. Saturday is usually our “lethargic” time where we can now (that the kids have flown away!) enjoy doing nothing!

  3. Chris Stachura

    I would love to be able to follow this advice, but it’s difficult when I’m on disability for various things I don’t wish to reveal. Then I hear the world in my head saying “Well you should always be working then, because your time is your own. You have no excuses.”

    If I were a stronger person I would have something to say back to them, but I’m not. I have little to no self esteem. I’m working on it. My sister is close to dying from alcoholism, which makes my non-fiction work – Undertow: Growing up With an Alcoholic Sister – all the more important and relevant for our times. There is a plethora of AA literature and memoirs out there but I can’t find many from the other side.

    And I’m rambling. All this to say, I wish I could turn my computer off on Sunday. Instead, I take regular breaks throughout the day. I take breaks to cruise on FB (yes, I can admit that freely) 😛 . I take breaks to call my al-anon sponsor and friends to make sure I’m on the right track in my program.

    There is a stigma attached to disability and mental health issues. I’m not saying this to ask for self-pity. I’m a fact-finder by nature, and I know about this stigma. I’ve marched against it, and tried to educate people.

    I have a dream that one day I will turn off all my electronic devices and have a day of reading, writing snail mail letters and taking a nap, just because.


  4. Laura W.

    *raises hand guiltily* I confess, I am a college student. If I don’t make myself work, then everything in paragraph two is my default setting. For…all the time. And if I can’t make myself do my homework and go to class and study, there’s no way in heck I’d be able to make myself finish my book.

    Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I live in a state of constant laziness where I don’t do work. It’s just that, unfortunately, college forces me to prioritize my work. My grades, honors status, and scholarships don’t ride on my unfinished novel. Also, while I’m not in a state of constant laziness, I am in a state of constant and probably really unhealthy sleep deprivation/food deprivation/caffeine rush/stress. Almost every moment I’m not doing “College Work” is used for regeneration (sleeping, eating, lazing in a way that doesn’t require words to be put on paper or thoughts to be processed) so that I don’t have that looming mental breakdown.

    Haha, that last part might have been a bit dramatic. But really, the only time I have for “rest” activities is around now, at 1:30 am or later, where I comment on blogs and sometimes write because that’s more fun than sleep. Which isn’t really “rest” as you define it in this post…I guess what I’m saying is that I wish my schedule was a bit more manageable. 😛

  5. RD Meyer

    Great advice, but since I do this often enough, I feel I need to earn the rest sometimes. Getting my rear in gear and just writing instead of screwing off on Facebook is the challenging part for me. Then I will have earned rest.

  6. Anonymous

    Hi Joe,

    Great post and great way of looking at things. Some people love to keep themselves constantly busy and sometimes that ends up back firing on them. Like you say, you only have so much discipline in you for the week so you may as well use it wisely!

    If you let your body have a rest when it wants to, it will be so much more productive in the long run.

  7. Katie Axelson

    One of the anxiety coaches told my friend to set aside “worry time.” For that fifteen minutes every day (or every few days), he was allowed to sit and worry. If it wasn’t worry time, he wasn’t allowed to worry. Accountability was vital but it actually helped him.


    • Joe Bunting

      Wow that’s fascinating.


    Hi Joe,
    Your thought and the consequent action are worth emulating provided, of course, that you have been lucky enough, not to get a fat Advance from your publisher and hence are not bound to hand over the ‘finished manuscript’ by a target date mentioned in the Contract.

    • Joe Bunting

      Haha good point, Hem. If that happened, I guess I would have to work very hard to make the date and still keep my day off.

  9. Patrick Ross

    Great advice on how to stay disciplined, which I know is a challenge all creatives face. It would appear to me that you are quite disciplined at ensuring you are occasionally not disciplined! 🙂

    • Joe Bunting

      That’s one way to put it 🙂 Thanks Patrick.

  10. catherinefru

    Feeling so much better about my unusually lazy day yesterday. So, the world is NOT coming to an end, eh? I just needed a break. 🙂

  11. Yelena Casale

    This is such a great advice! We are on such an overload most of the time, that if we don’t stop and take a break once in awhile, we burn out. And that leads to loss of energy and inspiration, which then becomes a bigger problem for our writing. I think you have a great idea here!

  12. Giulia Esposito

    I just stumbled upon this, and I think it’s great advice. I think we spending too much doing and not enough just being. Being happy to sit and take in the fresh air. Have a glass of wine. Read a book for the sheer pleasure of it not because it’s for a class, or a blog article. But just because you like it. And the thing is too, of late when I find myself juggling about fifteen things too many, I find myself wishing I had a day just to myself. I always think, later, later, I’ll have that day. Why not schedule it in? I’m actually thinking if maybe I had it penciled in like an appointment, that’d then I’d take that time for me, and that maybe be more productive in doing all of those things we all need to do, like work.

    Besides, isn’t there a story about someone who made a law about taking a day of rest? Maybe that someone had the right idea.



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