Lately, I’ve been struggling with juggling all my tasks and I think I’ve found (part of) the problem.

I am not doing a good job of prioritizing and I have deviated from my routine — mostly because I’ve been on the road for three weeks straight.

As a creative, sometimes we convince ourselves that we need the freedom to flow through our days and our lives, so that we can be ready for the random moment where inspiration might strike. But what I’ve realized, through the teachings of people like Navy Seal-turned-author and influencer, Jocko Willink, is that “Discipline Equals Freedom.”

We’ve probably all heard the expression: “You don’t find the time, you make the time.” That is definitely true, but it’s also very hard for most people to execute. Why discipline has helped me is because it eliminates the choice. I’ll admit: I’m weak as hell. So when I have the choice to eat that cookie, or spend that money on something stupid, or waste time on Facebook on my phone, or anything that is more instantly gratifying than sitting my ass down and working, I WILL CHOOSE IT.

That is why we must eliminate the choice, and even the thought of those temptations. We have to have a routine that we stick to. We can’t be disciplined unless we have a plan. Or as Nick Saban, considered by many to be the greatest college football coach of all time, calls it: The Process.

“The scoreboard has nothing to do with the process. Each possession you look across at the opponent and commit yourself to dominate that person. It’s about individuals dominating the individuals they’re playing against. If you can do this…if you can focus on the one possession and wipe out the distractions…then you will be satisfied with the result.”

Whether we want to write a book (like in my case), or lose weight, or save money, or accomplish any goal that we have struggled to accomplish, we need to have (and stick to!) a process.

Check out this video to understand why we can’t just “turn on” our motivation.

And while that instant-gratification voice in our heads might say, “yeah, but we are LOSING the game right now, so the scoreboard DOES matter!” the voice of reason and process sees the bigger picture and stays focused on the long term goal of winning a championship that season (or even longer term goal of stringing together several championship seasons). That voice knows it can’t throw out all plans in a desperate attempt to get ahead in that moment. And a slow grind with its well-thought-out plan will be more successful than a random great play (or great day) peppered in among a bunch of bad ones.

We will mess up. We will deviate from the plan, day-to-day. But if we come back to the process as soon as we recognize a slip-up, then we keep moving closer to our goals in the long term.  

Ever wonder why we tend to give in and have that ice cream at the end of the night when we’ve been so good with our diet through the day It’s a little thing called “decision fatigue.”

Decision fatigue is the result of making decisions all day long when your decision-making muscle basically gets tired. It becomes harder to make those tough decisions, like the almonds over the apple pie, because you’re exhausted and your quality of decision-making goes way down.

Apple pie, here I come! Matter of fact, probably need that scoop of ice cream, too 😉

There have been studies that show judges actually make poorer decisions on cases at the end of the day than on the cases earlier in their day.

Know why there are always candy bars at the check-out line? Decision fatigue. Know why Mark Zuckerberg always wears the same outfit? To reduce decision fatigue.

I’ve found that it’s best to take the time and do the extra work up front. If we set up a system for ourselves and stick to it as much as possible (and if we slip, hop right back into the process ASAP), then we see the benefits, AKA the freedom, AKA the choices, that it creates in our lives. 

Then, we become the masters of our outcomes. What’s more freeing than that?

Picture via Rain Bennett

Rain Bennett is a two time Emmy-nominated filmmaker, fitness professional, public speaker, and writer. His mission is simple: to help people realize that they too can be great, no matter where they come from or what they start with. It just takes passion, persistence, and a plan.

Bennett directed and produced his first feature length documentary in true indie fashion by traveling the world with only a backpack and a Canon DSLR camera. That film, Raise Up: The World is Our Gym won “Best of the Fest” at the Hip Hop Film Festival NYC and received global distribution through Red Bull Media House. He’s been featured in publications like Men’s Health and Sports Business Global and is a regular contributor to Breaking Muscle. When he’s not making movies or training clients at Sync Studio in Durham, he’s hosting a new webseries called The Perfect Workout Show.