The discipline death spiral

You make a bad decision (because everybody does).*

You get busy fixing it – on top of all the other things you were already doing.

You get tired and distracted. You start doing less of the right things, less well, and in more of a hurry.

Because you’re in a hurry, you do less well in your interactions with people. You’re less sensitive, miss important things, more prone to frustration, and to saying the wrong things the wrong way to the wrong people.

Things go less well for you. Frustration and stress accumulate.

You don’t sleep as well because of stress – or because you crave free time, me time, at the end of long days. You don’t discipline yourself on this small thing, so you get less sleep, and lower quality sleep.

So you struggle to get up. So you go short on exercise. So you have less energy, feel frustrated with yourself. And you’re rushing in the morning, so you do badly with your most important people. You have a crappy breakfast, which leads to a snack, and two coffees too many.

It gets harder and harder to make good decisions.

The solution is easy**: catch yourself early in the spiral and make a conscious decision and superhuman effort to do the opposite of most of these things.

* Overcommitting or committing to the wrong things (which is almost the same thing) is probably the most common.

**The type of easy that can be really hard to do.

2 Replies to “The discipline death spiral”

  1. This is really helpful and I often fall into this spiral. I find that allocating reset days at least every 6 months is vital for me. Time to ‘work on’ myself personally, as well as to ‘work on’ my organisation and not just ‘work in’ it. In the long run I save so much time and energy, enjoy the work more and think I am more effective for taking that time. Margins are also key for those day to day and week to week reviews.

    1. Thanks John – I normally go well for a few weeks and then crash into this if things get too busy and I’m not really careful, which doesn’t help anyone… Hard to get the balance right between “Yes, I could (should?) do or contribute more,” and going too far and needing to remember to apply my own oxygen mask first before trying to help others!

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