Talent Development Centre

Self-Discipline is Your Competitive Advantage


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We live in a society where we get quite comfortable in our surroundings, and there is little that we deny ourselves. If we feel like something to eat, we eat, whether we are truly hungry or not. If we want to buy ourselves some treats, clothes, jewelry, electronics or whatever, whether we need it or not, whether it is a special occasion or not, we go ahead and buy it.

There really isn’t anything wrong with that, we just need to be aware of the consequences because there are consequences to EVERYTHING! If we over indulge in food we may put on weight, if we buy too much “stuff” we might get ourselves into debt, etc.

Applying some self-discipline to these situations might make us act a little differently, but again, that is personal choice.

Nothing worth doing is ever easyIt is very easy to let our personal habits take over and that can hurt your productivity, your chances for a contract extension, and even your professional reputation!  Think about this: if you bill for an 8 hour day, and you “waste” 1 one of those hours each day over the course of a 30 day project, you have just charged for 30 hours where you weren’t actually working! Your client will notice and start adding up how much they think you’ve “ripped them off”.

Sure, one hour seems a little extreme, but it’s easy to do without even noticing.  Here are some examples:

  • If you smoke, it’s easy to waste 20 minutes each time you smoke a cigarette. Think about the time it takes to get ready for a smoke, gather your companions, wait for the elevator, go outside, chat, wait for your friends to finish, walk back and get back to work. If you smoke just 3 cigarettes in a day you have easily wasted an hour.
  • If you read the paper at your desk, maybe when you get to the office or at “break”, you might be wasting a half hour of productive time each day.
  • If you surf the Internet for some personal stuff, read online articles and stay on top of news you can easily waste an hour a day.
  • If you are texting your friends while doing your job, you will easily waste time.
  • If you get up and go for coffee/water every hour or so, stop and chit chat for a couple of minutes, maybe stop at the washroom, then that could be 10 minutes every hour, or more than an hour every day!

These kind of behaviours can become the “norm” especially when you look at the behaviour from some of the full-time staff around you, but contractors don’t have the same benefits as full-time staff (for example many unionized environment have mandated breaks). Clients have different expectations for contractors and expect to pay only for hours worked.  Productivity is a big reason organizations hire independent contractors.  Think of it in terms of when you hire a lawyer, rates are high and you expect your lawyer to bill you for every minute they work – nothing more.

Discipline is an old fashioned word that could help you to be a better contractor. DON’T give up your competitive advantage.  CHOOSE to be productive! Look at the top producers in your network and emulate them. Choose to stop doing the things that hurt your productivity. Choose to be very focused with your time, DO only the things that will bring value. WORK at being successful. That means giving up bad habits and investing in new ones!

All of that takes SELF-DISCIPLINE. Have you got what it takes?  Everyone can strive to be better and enjoy the “wins” along the way. The personal satisfaction you get from self-improvement, from recognition and from the resulting opportunities are the rewards for this kind of approach.

Take an honest look at how you are spending your time.  Is there room for improvement?  Any change, however small, will have a positive impact.  So start working on improving your competitive advantage!

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