Book Review – Self Discipline: A How-To Guide to Stop Procrastination and Achieve Your Goals in 10 Steps by Gemma Ray

Self Discipline by Gemma RayOkay is this yet another book about self-discipline and actions you need to take to be more productive? Yes it is but this book has a practical approach and if you are interested in building a side hustle then some of the advice here will help because the author, Gemma wrote it mostly from her own experience of learning to be self-disciplined. It is clear that if you are going to build a side hustle with everything else going on in your life then you definitely need to be self-disciplined. People with no self-discipline talk a lot about their plans to do things but never get around to doing anything about it because they lack self discipline.

This book is divided into two parts. The first part introduces us to the concept of self-discipline and the second part discusses how to set SMART goals, a core part of self-discipline, and there are also details of ten steps that can help us build self-discipline and let me add, that can help us launch and build that side hustle. I’m sure most of you have heard of SMART goals, I suggest to you that the treatment of SMART goals in this book is very helpful, probably the best I’ve seen and I’ve been reading about SMART goals for over 15 years. Following is a brief review of the book.


What is self-discipline? That’s the question this section of the book answers. Here you will read about what self-discipline is and why it’s important. Gemma’s definition is:

…having the get up and go to complete daily positive actions in your life that leads to inner happiness, feelings of being in control and feeling content.

She believes that self discipline has three components:

  • Conscious discipline action –  the steps you take in order to achieve your goals and feel in control of your weaknesses.
  • Motivation – On this one Gemma writes that, it is possible for conscious disciplined actions to change from something forced to something you love to do and therefore you’re motivated to do it.
  • Habit – If you repeat conscious disciplined actions to the point where you become motivated to do them, they turn into habits

No doubt if you are building a side hustle you will need all three. You won’t always feel like doing what is required to build your side hustle. You just have to get up and do them consistently. You will need to consciously act, build your own motivation and develop positive habits that move you forward. You can read more about those three actions here.

One thing Gemma does say here is that no-one-size fits-all. When you read books like this, don’t try to copy exactly what the author writes, rather learn from it and adapt it to suit your life.


Building a side hustle will require you to start with a goal. You need to be able to define clearly what your side hustle will be and why you want to build it in the first place. Gemma challenges us with this statement:

Have you picked up this book with a specific goal in mind already or are you not sure what it is you’re looking to accomplish?

Good question for you and your side hustle.

But then she moves on to discuss a strategy to help us identify goals to focus on. Following is a brief summary of the strategy:

  1. Step 1 – Find some quiet time and compile a list of 100 things you want to see, do, achieve or experience. These are 100 goals that you desire. Write them down.
  2. Step 2 – Categorize the 100 goals in sections such as money, work, knowledge, adventure, health, family, hobbies. Color code each category so you can recognize them at a glance
  3. Step 3 – Assess your 100 list of goals and pick out a top 10 that are the most important to you.
  4. Step 4 – Put the top 10 goals into time-specific boxes which allow you to define, which of them you can achieve this week, short term (within the next year), long term (within the next 5 years), lifetime and the ones you’ve achieved already.

Be aware of the top 10 goals you chose, are there any recognizable patterns? Also Gemma advices that if you are reading this book, choose 3 from the 10 goals to focus on as you go through the book.

If you have lots of ideas for side hustles, think about how you can use this strategy to whittle down your ideas to just one that you can focus on. Keep a list of the other ideas as you may be able to work on some of them later but it is best to start with one.

The remainder of this section deals with setting SMART goals. Gemma believes that at this point you should have identified 3 goals you want to work on and she wants to support you to make them SMART. To do that she discusses:

  • The importance of creating action steps for your goals. An undocumented goal is a dream.
  • How to devise an action plan for your goals using the SMART criteria

She then takes the time to explain what SMART is and how to apply it.

S – Specific: What do you actually want to achieve? 

The more specific you can be with your goal, the bigger the chance you have of achieving it.

As Gemma starts this process of helping us define our goals, she encourages the reader to get a book and write down things. She prompts us to do this with the word ‘journal’ and she poses specific questions to help with the ‘journaling’ process.

Some questions she asks to help with thinking about the specificity of our goals are:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why do I want to achieve it?
  • What do I need to stop doing?
  • What do I need to start doing?
  • What are the challenges?

These are good questions to get you thinking about what exactly you want to achieve with your side hustle and why?

M – Measurable: Knowing the end point for your goals.

This is about being clear on what evidence will show you’ve achieved the goal.

Some questions to make us think about this are:

  • How will I measure my progress?
  • How will I know when I have achieve my goal?

A – Attainable: Can you really achieve these goals given the resources (time, money, knowledge) you have?

Regarding this criteria, Gemma writes that:

This section will help you to weigh up the time, effort and other costs your goal will take against the profits and other obligations and priorities in your life.

Reflection questions include:

  • How can this goal be accomplished?
  • What are the logistical steps I can take

R – Relevant: Is reaching this goal relevant to you, someone or something else?

Are you going for this for the right reasons? Will this make you and your family happier? Healthier?

Reflection questions:

  • Is this a worthwhile goal?
  • Is this the right time in my life?
  • How will this goal enhance my life?

T – Timely: By when will you have achieved this goal?

Setting deadlines for your yourself will turn your dreams into reality. . . Keep a realistic timeline and keep it flexible too.

Reflection questions:

  • How long will it take to accomplish this goal?
  • When is the completion date of this goal?
  • When am I going to work on this goal?


I found this to be a very useful section that follows on from the previous one. Gemma uses the following three examples to illustrate how to set SMART goals in reality. If you want to set your side hustle goals, this is definitely a section to read.

  • I want to lose weight
  • I want to be a millionaire
  • I want to become a qualified personal trainer


Gemma encourages us here to focus on the positive. In other words focus on what you will do instead of what is a challenge for you. She gives the following example:

…so instead of telling yourself that you will ‘stop feeling overwhelmed’ for example, you can flip that and instead say ‘create a daily focused action plan.


We must make time to assess our goals along the way as we work on them. She gives an example:

For example if you have given yourself a 12 week time-frame for your goal, pop a reminder in your diary every week or two weeks to assess how you are doing with your goal and if you are working on the right things at that time to move forward.


Gemma advices us in this section to plan rewards and moments to celebrate our goal achievements. When we achieve a goal we should stop and celebrate before moving on to something else.


Gemma reminds us about how flawed this formula is. Why? Because when we achieve something we start working on the next thing that will make us happy. If our happiness is down to this formula then it will always be out of our grasp. That’s why it is important to find the time to stop and celebrate as we achieve little stepson the way to our goals. This involves identifying micro-success along the way to celebrate before you achieve the whole goal. Don’t wait for the happiness at the end, be happy throughout the process.


It is important for to be clear about what we want and in this section you will read about some clear examples that will help you understand why that is important and how to do it. Gemma uses the example of a friend who competed in a body-building show to explain the importance of this concept.


The first paragraph clarifies what Gemma is trying to teach us here:

Knowing the reason behind your motivation to do something , or achieve a goal is a challenge, but can give you a great indication whether you will follow through with your goal or not.

The summary of the lesson here is that, a goal without a purpose is less likely to be achieved.

She shares reflection questions for this area. Some of them are:

  • What is my driving force behind this goal?
  • How will this goal positively impact my life?
  • What will I need to add into my life to achieve this goal?

As Gemma has been discussing self discipline, in the next 10 sections she outlines 10 steps to help us develop our self discipline.


The fist step here is to establish your morning routine. Gemma uses her own life as an example to explain how she read books that had a positive impact on her and applied some of the principles. One of the things she does mention is that how we feel in the morning matters and that will affect our morning routine.

She cited Ha Elrod’s miracle morning six steps captured with the acronym SAVERS. They are:

  1. Silence
  2. Affirmation
  3. Visualisation
  4. Exercise
  5. Reading
  6. Scribe

She does encourage us believe that we can get up early in the morning to get things done and not make excuses that we can’t. Making excuses will mentally prevent us from believing that we can get up early.

Other things she discusses here are:

  • The purpose of the morning routine.
  • Starting your own morning routine.
  • What does your ideal morning look like?
  • Ideas for your morning routine.
  • Meditation
  • Positive affirmations

She also provides information on certain things you can add to your morning routine such as exercise, reading and keeping a journal.


Clearly the focus here is on health and I like the opening paragraph:

“Your health is your wealth” is a great thought provoking statement that is certainly true. You can have the flashiest car, the biggest house, the biggest bank account but none of it is as precious and important as the body you live in. It really is the only place you have to live.

Lessons you will learn here include eating and drinking healthily, moving your body, looking after your mental health and developing a strict sleep hygiene routine.


This step is about staying accountable to your goals so you can work on achieving them. Gemma shares some tips that can help us to stay accountable. Some of them include:

  • Sharing your goals
  • Blog about your goals
  • Make a video diary
  • Join groups on Facebook or LinkedIn.
  • Get an accountability buddy

And there are more ideas.


It is natural for any of us to feel overwhelmed by our goals, Gemma starts out here sharing signs of overwhelm. She also reminds us of some of the earlier lessons in the book which can help us put things in perspective. She sees this as an ‘overcoming overwhelm plan. Here is the reminder:

  • Clearly define what it is you want.
  • Be as precise and as clear as possible.
  • Choose just one goal.
  • Assess where you are now. What are you already doing to achieve your goals?
  • Follow the next foolproof daily action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

She uses the example of Gary Keller who wrote the book, The ONE THING and also built the largest real estate company in the world (by head count) to help us learn how to build an action plan that consistently focuses us on our goals. Gemma writes that the main idea is based on a specific question which is:

What is the ONE THING I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

She also writes a summary of the process that Gary writes about in the book which looks like the following:


This is the ultimate dream. The ONE THING you want to achieve someday



This is the 5 year goal. What would you like to achieve in the next five years?



What would you like to have to show for your hard work after a year? How will it move you towards your 5 year goal?



What will you achieve in the next month to move you towards your 1 year goal?



What ONE THING can you do this week to move you towards your goal?



What ONE THING can you do today to move you towards your goal?



What ONE THING can you do right now such that by doing it, everything else will be easier?

In the rest of this step, Gemma discusses why this process works and how to apply it.


With this step Gemma gets a bit tough challenging us not to get in our own way of achieving what we want to achieve. She identifies some of the most common blocks that can prevent us from moving forward which are:

  • Stop waiting for the right time. There will never be a perfect time to act. Now is the best time.
  • Stop pissing around on social media. This is an obvious one.
  • Stop wasting your life on box sets. Regarding this block, I like one of the statements Gemma makes:

Binge watching your favorite TV series is definitely one of life’s greatest pleasures. It is also sadly one of life’s biggest time drains.

  • Realize that’s it’s your fault. If you’re not happy with it, it’s your fault. Do something.
  • This follows on from the previous point. When you accept that it’s your fault, then take responsibility.
  • Check your closest relationships. Are they taking you up or down?
  • Get professional help from experts if you need it. This does not necessarily mean in-person help but researching for information and tools that can help.


The information in this chapter is very useful for helping us to manage our energy and time as we work towards our goals. As Gemma says, “your energy is not infinite“. Use some of the tools in this chapter to think about how best to use your energy to achieve maximum productivity.


This section focuses on the importance of scheduling time properly to work on the tasks we need to complete to achieve our goals. Gemma introduces us to a number of techniques we can use to schedule our time properly such as the Pomodoro Technique,  using self journals and time blocking apps. She also discusses how she plans her own week. The advice she gives on 2-minute tasks is also useful because it is surprising to see how many tasks we do on a daily basis that take 2-minutes or less but can easily be put off.


The aim of this step is to monitor our progress every step of the way. Gemma states that:

Maintaining that momentum is the hardest part of achieving any goal. Monitoring and tracking your progress is the thing that will help you maintain that momentum.

Key advice presented in this chapter includes:

  • Tracking helps you focus: whatever our goals are, we must keep track of what needs to be done to ensure we are consistently doing it. It is easy to go off track.
  • The Sunday Self Audit: The idea behind this one is to use Sunday to look back at the week that has just passed and audit yourself. Once you’ve got an overview of how your week went then you can plan the week ahead. Gemma provides us with some good self-audit questions for this one.
  • Group Self-Audit: Being part of a group that reports back every week about their progress to the other group members. It’s a kind of accountability group.
  • The wheel of life: Draw a circle and split it into 8 areas covering, finance, personal growth, health, family, relationships, social life and attitude and score yourself out of 10 in each area.
  • Other tools that can help are creating a tracking spreadsheet, using tracking apps and hiring a coach (if you can afford it).


Taking the time to rest, relax and reward yourself along the way as you work towards your goal is the emphasis of this step. This is important so you don’t get stressed, develop health problems or even give up on trying to achieve the goal. Gemma provides us with 25 ways to reward ourselves as we work towards our goals. Some of them are:

  • Book a music concert for your favorite band.
  • Have a proper duvet day off – stay in bed.
  • Organize a spa day.
  • See a movie in the middle of the day when the cinema is quiet.
  • Enjoy a hot bubble bath.
  • Host a board game night for you and your friends – no phones allowed.


This is the last step and the summary of this step is that, we will no doubt fail as we work towards our goals but we should never let failure hold us back. It is part of the learning process and if we never try because we don’t want to fail then we will never achieve anything.

Here are some inspiring quotes to that end:

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.

But how will you know unless you try?

You never fail. You always learn.

Possess an attitude of ‘no fear’ towards failure and you’re on the path to success.


This concluding section is a reminder about the importance of self-discipline. Willpower is not what helps us achieve things, but self-discipline. We can learn it. Learning to practice delayed gratification and practicing self-discipline is what will help us get to where we need to get to and that is the message that Gemma is passing to us throughout this book.

Another benefit of this book are all the free tools that Gemma provides to help us apply some of what she is teaching us here. You should take advantage of those tools to help you achieve your goals. They include templates, a free online companion course and a free e-book also.

This is a very practical book with lots of encouraging examples from Gemma. The information here not new, you’ve probably read it somewhere else or you can get it from the internet. Gemma has cleverly put that information together in a way we can easily read and apply. That’s a reason to read this book



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