Startup general interest

The importance of being disciplined

By September 18, 2012 8 Comments

Personal discipline is one of my hallmarks. I have thought a lot about how and why I do what I do so that I can get a lot of important stuff done. Doing stuff inefficiently or spending time on unimportant stuff sends me round the twist a little. Staying disciplined is an ongoing process of self improvement and I’m always looking for new tricks and tactics, so when I saw a link to Achieving top mental performance for software developers I clicked straight through, and to my delight I found a great post.

The diagram below captures the central point brilliantly. The pictures convey the difference between a chaotic mind that performs poorly and a more organised mind that performs at the top of it’s game, but it is the words around the pictures that I want to draw attention to, particularly the notion that being focused, working with a small number of ideas, managing time well, getting immersed into the task and monitoring yourself are the keys to achieving top performance for developers. I would lump these together under the general heading of ‘being disciplined’ and I would add in other things like having clear goals, good prioritisation, communicating well with team members, and staying on top of email (but not drowing in it). Together these elements are the start of a list of the characteristics of effective people across all walks of life, not just software developers.

For me, the important thing is being committed to being disciplined. The importance of each item on the list waxes and wains depending on what’s going on, but taking the time to think about what you are doing and why, and then to organise yourself is a big help in life if you are one of the many people these days who suffers from what I like to call the ‘hours in the day problem’ – i.e. that there are never enough. Every VC and entrepreneur should know what I’m talking about.

The next step after being disciplined about the way you conduct yourself is thinking the same way about the teams that you work with – in my case that’s boards of companies I sit on and my partners at DFJ Esprit. Over the years I’ve found this can be challenging. One of the answers is to invest time to ensure objectives are truly aligned, including onthe benefits of being disciplined in the first place. Another answer is to try and make sure you are working with other people who are dedicated to performing at the top of their game.