How Marketers Should Think About Self-Discipline

Ross Simmonds

In today’s world, being a marketer is tough—you’re under constant pressure to source leads and run great campaigns, as well as come up with the next big idea, and the next one, and the next one…

There’s a lot on your plate, and to achieve all the goals you need to over-achieve at each level.

But that doesn’t always happen, does it?

We often start going after our goals with a lot of enthusiasm, but as the weeks go by, our excitement starts to fizzle. Think about that time you were gung-ho about launching a massive paid ad strategy or pushing a new ebook, but despite all your initial enthusiasm, the project was a dud.

We’ve all been there and that’s OK. But here’s the thing:

We have to focus on changing the outcome—otherwise, we’ll keep falling into the same patterns and ultimately getting the same results: not achieving our marketing goals.

And that’s where self-discipline comes in.

Why is self-discipline important for marketers?

Here’s the short answer: By practicing self-discipline, you can achieve tremendous success as a marketer.

Self-discipline helps you identify your true potential.

Self-discipline enables you to think objectively.

Self-discipline leads to better focus.

Now, you might say that self-discipline is a matter of grit and doesn’t come easily to everyone. But it’s not impossible, either—especially if you put systems in place to hold yourself accountable. In this article, I’m going to share my tips for maintaining self-discipline as a marketer.

Let’s get to it.

Set Clear Priorities & Goals

Inability to deliver by the deadline is frustrating enough, without all the glaring and judgmental looks from your colleagues.

Nobody WANTS to be in that situation, but sometimes we’ve just got way too much to do and not enough time to do it.

In my opinion, we find ourselves coming up against pressing deadlines because we try to do everything at once. Not having defined goals further adds to the chaos. The result? Without a priority matrix and clear goals, we end up achieving nothing within the timeline.

So how can you fix this? And why is it especially important for marketers?

Marketers who set goals are 429 percent more likely to report success than those who don’t. And 81 percent of those goal-setting marketers achieve their goals, says a study by CoSchedule.

Setting clear priorities and goals is a cornerstone of self-discipline. Here’s what you can do:

  • List your broad goals for the month, then filter it by week and day. This will give you a clear idea of how much you need to accomplish without getting overwhelmed.
  • Allocate days in the calendar for specific tasks. Every member of the Foundation team blocks off an entire day on their respective calendar each month to focus on content optimization, content distribution, and even professional learning.
  • Add priority tags to your to-do list that mark each task as urgent, important or not so important.
  • Outsource, automate and batch tasks wherever needed. Create templates for tasks that are recurring.
  • Leave some space for unplanned things that may crop up.

Defining your goals and priorities helps you focus on what’s important and stay highly productive, instead of just staying busy.

Focus On A Single Task & Own It

As screen-happy humans, we have lost the ability to focus on a task for long. Eight seconds is our average attention span, according to research by Microsoft.

Eight. Seconds.

That’s even shorter than the attention span of a goldfish! But every email, every notification, every urge to check the engagement on our latest Facebook post distracts us from whatever we’re supposed to be focused on.

Is there a way to kill distraction? Yes.

What kind of self-discipline does that require? You need to master two essential elements:

First, you have to avoid things that emotionally weigh you down. In his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman explains that when your emotions are triggered, your brain works to find a solution so that you’ll stop worrying about it—which means you’re stuck thinking about that problem instead of the task at hand. So avoid those triggers. Don’t check your email or social media while you’re working on a task. Don’t engage with that coworker who grates on your nerves.

Here’s his talk at Google where he speaks more about focus.

I hear you—you can’t always avoid that annoying coworker or that frustrating meeting. But you can….. You can choose how a negative episode impacts you and for how long. You can also find ways to dilute it— is it 10 deep-breaths, is it venting out to a co-worker or just a scoop of ice cream? The choice is yours!

The second step is to ditch multitasking and start single-tasking. With hundreds of things on your to-do list, multitasking may seem more efficient, but in reality, it drains you. (And it can actually kill your productivity.)

Single-tasking, on the other hand, allows your brain to focus intensely instead of constantly switching gears. For example, dedicate an hour to answering email rather than checking your inbox every three minutes throughout the day. Use a technique like Pomodoro (there’s an app for that—several good apps, in fact) to keep distractions at bay. Your brain will thank you.

Follow The Plan & Stay Consistent

You’ve committed to a goal—so why can’t you stick with it?

Because that’s the hardest part, according to Dr. Katherine Benziger. Benziger, who wrote Thriving in Mind: The Natural Key to Sustainable Neurofitness, explains that while some people love maintaining order, other people’s brains are wired differently.

If you are a natural planner, good for you! If you aren’t and want to inject some self-discipline, here’s what you should do:

  • Get out of the all-or-nothing mindset. It’s better to start with something small than to do nothing at all.
  • Find systems that will keep you accountable, whether it’s a spreadsheet, a mind map or a simple to-do list. Write down your priorities and check them off as you move forward.
  • Challenge yourself to do more, but be realistic—don’t go overboard with your expectations.

Make Mistakes & Learn From Them

As marketers, a lot of us are afraid to make mistakes. We’re afraid of strategies that don’t work and campaigns that fail. We might even think that avoiding risk is a form of self-discipline.

Not exactly…

I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again: Marketing is all about experimentation. When you make mistakes, you push yourself out of your comfort zone. You give yourself a chance to learn something.

But how does that tie into self-discipline? you may ask.

By making mistakes you eliminate tasks that don’t work and get closer to methods that DO work. This allows you to hone your focus. Avoiding risk altogether won’t help you create better campaigns, but experimenting will—as long you have the self-discipline to learn from your mistakes and change your game plan moving forward.

So go ahead and take that leap of faith, even if you failbecause making mistakes is part of the process.

Conclusion

Whether you want to launch a viral campaign or double your social media followers don’t stifle your success with a lack of self-discipline. Make your marketing efforts shine—incorporate these pointers into your routine and you’ll see the wins roll in.

About Ross Simmonds

Ross Simmonds is a digital marketing strategist who has worked with everything from Fortune 500 companies to startups to drive results using digital marketing and technology.

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