From Self-Destruction to Self-Discipline: 5 Tips for Structuring Your Life

My name is Shaun Novak.  Most of you probably aren’t familiar with that name, so allow me to introduce myself.  I’m currently the COO of The Gem.  I’m a musician, vocalist, and music producer.  I’m a dreamer.  Most importantly, I’m a struggling entrepreneur who’s been battling depression for 10+ years.  I’ve been helping Allyn behind the scenes with the development of the site and Gem Nation for awhile now, occasionally peeking my head through the curtain (with a few blog posts here and there), but I’ve recently decided to take center stage on a regular basis.  I’ve racked up countless stories and struggles over the years, so my hope is that someone reading about them can relate and benefit from my experiences and mistakes.

Related Read: 5 Powerful Ways Your Business Grows When You Use Your Story (+ FREE workbook inside) 

There was a time when I felt like my self-discipline was second to none.  It seemed like every day I was able to keep my life on some sort of track with no outside help.  It turns out my naivety was simply blinding me to the truth.

It wasn’t until I let my ego and stubbornness get the best of me that reality slapped me in the face.  Since I already felt like I was able to discipline and motivate myself, I decided to cut off and ignore all outside help.  Why introduce these outside variables to my already perfect equation?  I had so many plans and ideas; I was destined to take over the world.  From music to mini movies to web series, I had all angles covered.  Sure, it would be a lot of work, but I had the discipline to make it happen.

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The thing is, plans and ideas are useless with no plan or structure to carry them out.  Every time I’d sit down to think about what I wanted to do, my overwhelm would get the best of me and I’d instead do nothing.  My life was scattered in every direction.  My brain couldn’t focus on one thing because there were one million thoughts floating around with no destination.  Mentally, my health was at an all time low, which Allyn also knows a little something about.  I was lost, but too proud to admit it.

At first, I wondered what was so different.  Why did I used to be so productive?  Why was it that I used to be able to go to work, workout, record music, and write lyrics in one day, all while still having time to relax at the end of the day?  Well, it turns out, the answer was quite simple: my current life lacked structure.  I used to be so productive, so self-disciplined, because I had a consistent schedule, and I had consequences when I strayed from it.  Now, all I had was myself to make my schedule and not much of a consequence if I decided not to do anything at all.  Essentially, every day was 24 hours of free time that I had to fill, or not… it didn’t really matter.

Related Read: 5 Ways to Stop Procrastination

Currently, I’m in the rebuilding phase.  Falling apart was a long process, and I admittedly stayed down for longer than I should have.  Picking up the pieces and figuring out how to put this puzzle back together has not been easy, but it’s starting to come into focus.  I underestimated the importance of structure, and wasted time trying to build on something that was already falling down.  Sometimes, in order to bring your ideas to life, you have to tear down what was once there and start from the ground up.

I’ve been at rock bottom.  Multiple times.  I’ve pulled myself up off of the dirt more times than I can count, but I never managed to completely get out of that hole.  This time, I’m scratching and clawing like never before, and I can finally see the light again.  Sometimes, we need to take a step back and allow ourselves to dedicate all of our strength to battling our internal demons.  It’s never easy, and it can get messy, but you’ll come out the victor every time.  I didn’t plan on destroying the structure I once had, but the one I’m building is already more beautiful than anything I could’ve imagined.

Shaun Novak shares his journey from self-discipline to self-destruction and some tips he's using to restructure his life.

While I may not be an ideal candidate when it comes to providing tips for structuring your life, I’ve done some research and found 5 structuring tips that I’ve found useful.  I’d like to share them with you in hopes that they’ll do the same for you:

1.  Structuring your life is just like exercising a little-used muscle: You can’t expect it to start functioning at full potential from day one.

Even though the article this tip comes from is primarily focused around structuring your life during depression, I think this one applies to all situations.  I’ve personally been guilty of doing this on many occasions.  I’ll decide one day that I’m going to turn everything around when I wake up the next morning.  Then, when I wake up, I struggle to check one thing off my list and all but give up.  Ragini Nag Rao of Rookie used this fantastic analogy when talking about this subject: “I like to think of building a routine as a juggler’s performance. The act begins with a single object tossed in the air, and then another, and one more till there’s a full set of pieces up in the air in an expert dance of unhurried motion. That’s what a routine is. And that’s what you’re aiming for.”

2.  Be realistic and forgiving.

I came across this article by Matt McCormick on Technori and it provided this extremely useful and important tip.  I (probably like most of you) have a tendency to beat myself up anytime I don’t accomplish a goal I set for myself.  While I absolutely agree you have to hold yourself accountable, this is not the way to do it.  It’s unrealistic.  As Matt says, “When that happens, tell yourself it’s okay and that it happens to everyone (because it does). Then wake up the next morning, make your list of the three most important things, and go after them with extra gusto.”

Related Read: How to Make Your To-Do List More Efficient

3.  Take breaks.

When searching for structuring tips for my own benefit, I stumbled upon articles from people in many different professions and from people fighting all different types of mental battles.  This tip comes from freelancer Noam Galai on Fstoppers.  Although the article is about structuring your life as a freelancer, we all need a break once in awhile.  As Noam says, “we are not machines.”  Work your ass off, but also make time for things you enjoy and make time to relax.

4.  Prioritize.

When you have little or no structure in your life, it can be difficult to prioritize tasks.  Sometimes, just to get ANYTHING accomplished, we’ll place an equal priority on everything on our to-do list.  While it’s great to get something done, often it can be the thing that was actually of the least importance.  It’s crucial that you place some sort of priority on the tasks you assign yourself so you don’t become counter-productive with your work-in-progress structuring routine.  In this article, Hoa Ly was struggling with prioritizing her life while “being COO here at Hoa’s, working as a consultant at our other company Psykologifabriken, writing and blogging about my favorite subject, behavior economics, and at the same time finishing my master in psychology.”

5.  Be present.

Unfortunately, it’s something I forget to do quite often.  I often find myself just floating through my days without living and being present in the moments that make up life.  It’s important to make sure you don’t get so lost in your structuring routine that you forget to do the most important thing: live.  As Mike Van Hoozer puts it, “If you are not present, you are going to miss so many moments this year and wonder where the days went and why you missed the opportunity to accomplish your goals, maximize your potential, and make a positive impact in the lives of others.”

Do you struggle with incorporating structure into your business?  If you’ve got the structure thing down, hit us with your best tips for organizing the chaos in this Facebook Group discussion!

With Inspiration,
Shaun