“Discipline equals freedom.”

These powerful words come from ex-Navy SEAL, top performer and leader Jocko Willink. This is a guy who hops out of bed at 4am every day, because discipline starts “when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning”.

You already know why starting your morning with discipline is so important. That first morning habit is like the first in a line of dominoes you push over to knock the whole line down. Your first domino starts the momentum you need to perform your best for the rest of the day so you have to choose it wisely.

This article is here to help you choose that first domino and also plan out the rest of the daily line-up so you’re set up for success. Discipline doesn’t have to be something you dread – I’ll show you how it can be your ally so that you make the most of the morning buzz (without energy crashes), and still get stuff done when your energy levels decrease.

The fail-proof productivity solution

The cornerstone of getting things done according to the One Thing strategy as outlined by G. Keller and J. Papasan is learning to manage your productivity levels. Planning ahead for your most productive periods sets you up for success In the most extraordinary way.

Unfortunately, our success with managing personal productivity levels is directly linked to our environment and the people in it. As such it is a raw discipline test. Disagree? Just imagine how unstable and unpredictable a person’s life can become if they’re swayed by the (often unimportant) people who surround them, other occasions or places. You need discipline to not steer away from your path to win.

You need discipline to start the day off in a productive way and to also end it that way: regardless of what other people have intended for you and regardless of any other distractions that crop up in your way. It’s up to you to decide that you are going to succeed today and every day. Discipline is there to support you, and more reliably than the people you spend your days around.

Up next, we’ll look at how to make discipline to work for you.

Create your daily energy plan

Willpower is a limited resource, we know. The more we use it, the sooner it’ll be used up. This is why people who successfully choose to eat healthy at lunchtime, completely ignore their healthy eating resolutions by dinnertime. It’s been shown that we make worse decisions towards the end of the day precisely because willpower is such a finite resource. Top performers like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs or even Barack Obama therefore outsource their dressing, food and other less important logistics to other people. This saves them incredible amounts of both willpower and energy which they can then use up on their crucial work.

To be successful, you should be following their example. From this moment onward, you should start plan your work around your limited willpower and your limited energy. Not only will this make you reliably productive, but it’ll balance out your day so you’re not hitting extremes of productivity – spending an hour being super productive, than wasting away the following two hours on social media.

This is what your daily energy plan is all about. It helps you put the basic puzzle pieces in the right order so that you can sustain willpower and energy levels – thereby staying on the side of being productive – without burnout. The basic puzzle pieces you should consider, as suggested in the One Thing strategy, are as follows:

  • Meditate and pray for spiritual energy
  • Eat right, exercise, and sleep sufficiently for physical energy
  • Hug, kiss and laugh with loved ones for emotional energy
  • Set goals, plan, and calendar for mental energy
  • Time block your one thing for business energy

It takes discipline to stick with these pieces but they do add up, freeing you to be wildly productive.

How exactly does an energy plan look like? To what level of detail should you plan?

Easy. Below you can check out two examples of filled-in energy plans from me and high achiever diet’s editor. You can see that we focus on the hard tasks first thing in the morning (“your one thing”), leaving for later those smaller tasks that don’t contribute towards our big goals:

Get your own Daily Energy Plan template

Be productive consistently by planning your work around your limited willpower and limited energy.

Create your daily energy plan

Now that you’re aware of the basic puzzle pieces filling up your day, here’s a few more specific examples of routines and disciplines you can add to your energy plan. These will set you up for a super productive day.

Morning discipline:

  1. Wake up as early as possible. No, you don’t have to wake up at 4am like Jocko Willink from the beginning of this article. Play to your strengths and if you’re more productive in the morning, get up earlier to profit. Generally, you should keep your sleeping rhythm aligned with natural light so that it stays a reliable pattern. Light is an ally and in fact, getting out into the natural light in the mornings does make you feel more awake. Finally, don’t wake up earlier at the cost of your sleep – you should aim to get the full amount of sleep required, no exceptions. On average this is 7-8 hours but it can vary from person to person.
  2. A 20-minute morning practice that contributes to your goal(s). This could be a morning walk to kickstart metabolism, a breathing and meditation practice to declutter the mind or a yoga and active stretching routine to increase mobility. You could even do your workout first thing in the morning. Check this post for a 4-minute workout that burns fat for hours after.
  3. Journal and plan the focus points of your day. Decide on the one thing you will absolutely do today (here’s why you should).
  4. Have a breakfast of champions. Eat breakfast that’s nutritiously perfect depending on your goals. It should include a source of protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat. Remember that your brain burns almost 25% of the calories you consume and so needs these nutrients to process all the heavy workload that’s to follow. This is the most important meal of the day for mental performance and productivity.
  5. Train your brain muscle. Take a book with you to read on the commute, listen to an audiobook or a podcast (we’ve listed the 10 best podcasts for high performers here).

Once you’re ready to work

After your morning routine, you should already feel the momentum of accomplishment propelling you to continue achieving. To keep the momentum going, now’s the time when you should knuckle down and get started with your one thing. Remember Jocko’s quote that discipline equals freedom? It will all start to make sense now, as you tackle your biggest challenge to make the rest of your day a breeze.

Lunch and the rest of your day

At this point you’ve done an immense amount of work (4-5 hours) and you’ve already achieved more than the average person gets done in a week. This is not an understatement. Getting your one thing done doesn’t mean the rest of your day will be boring or won’t require focus. Remember that you still have capacity to get stuff done and you have to keep the momentum going. With lower willpower and energy, this is the time to resolve all of the less important tasks on your plate:

  • Socialising
  • Email and general correspondence
  • Give a helpful hand to your colleague
  • Managerial tasks (since you’ve spent the first time of the day in the maker shoes)
  • Meditation and mental recovery
  • Lunchtime workout
  • Eating a lunch of champions to keep you going
  • Reading and more.


With some give and take, this energy plan fits into any lifestyle. After all, all of us get only a limited amount of willpower and energy. How are you going to use yours? I hope you now see how just by starting your day off on the right note (with discipline) can lead you to achieve results others only daydream about.

Time to create your own daily energy plan and max your productivity! Which of the basic puzzle pieces will you focus on? Share with us in the comments below!

Get your own Daily Energy Plan template

Be productive consistently by planning your work around your limited willpower and limited energy.

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