Have you ever made a to-do list?
You sit yourself down with a blank sheet of paper and write down the first, second, third, fourth, etc. thing you have to do. Before long, it seems like you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’ll need to do to bring a sense of accomplishment into your day.
But do you always start with the first thing on that list? Probably not. Some tasks are easier than others, and maybe you push them to the next day and only accomplish three out of the five things on that list. Suddenly, what we’re actually accomplishing gets smaller and smaller — even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.
Back when I was working with the Hilton organization in New Jersey, I had a manager who went by the name of Eric Long.
“Terry,” he said to me one day, “Don’t do. Get done.”
I encourage you to think about this for a moment. How many of you know someone who’s always running around, busy doing this, busy doing that, and they seem like they don’t even have one millisecond of free time to spare? They are just busy, busy, busy.
But when you take a moment to slow them down and ask, “What exactly did we get done today? What did we accomplish? What were the results?” they usually respond with something like, “Oh, you know, I have this project going on and that one, and I’m working on this as well, and I have this idea I’ve been working on too…”
But what did they actually get done? Did they complete their tasks one by one, or do all of them halfway?
If you have a good idea, you shouldn’t spend all your time talking about it — you should spend your time putting those ideas into practice and taking action.
There’s a difference between doing what you know and knowing what you do. When you put together your to-do list, do you know what you have to do? Are you doing it, or getting it done? Do you have the discipline in order to get it done? Are you actually accomplishing the things you’re writing down, or are you continuously pushing them off?
If you’re the latter, you’re not alone. I myself used to do the same thing. I had a to-do list, but I would get distracted. I would do a few things on the list, and then a few things that weren’t. And then I’d write those other things down just so I could cross them off and have a deeper sense of accomplishment. But those things weren’t the most important things I could be doing, and I wasn’t making the best use of my time.
Or sometimes, I would move tasks to the following day, and end up going a week or more before getting them done. And things at the bottom of the list tend to get procrastinated further and further.
When you’re thinking about getting things done, you have to have discipline — because if you don’t, you’re going to experience pain.
But there are two types of pain in life.
You can either have the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret.
The pain of discipline comes with staying focused and getting things done. Nobody wants to get up and work out at 5:00 in the morning, but discipline makes you do it anyway.
The pain of regret comes when you look back and say, “Man, I wish I’d gotten that done last week when I was supposed to. I wish I started working out last month. I wish I’d started eating better earlier. I wish I had done things differently.”
Ask yourself: Which pain would you rather experience? Which is actually more painful?
If you ask me, it’s the pain of regret. We can’t change what happened in the past — our regrets — but having discipline allows us to provide ourselves with a brighter future.
One of the ways you can go about building discipline is to be honest with yourself and “tell on” yourself when you slip up. Turn to a trusted advisor, loved one, or friend, and be honest with them about what you want to do.
Create a small, intimate group of people where you can all share goals you want to accomplish and hold each other accountable. Your friends can be your best sponsors.
And remember: When you start your day, moving through life and trying to accomplish things, don’t just think about doing, because you could be doing and doing and doing.
Focus on how to get things done, and build discipline so you live your life with no regrets.