How To Be Consistent With Goals and Productivity
It’s easy to go exercise once. It isn’t even that hard to go exercise for an entire month. But can you be consistent in the results you really want?
What’s really difficult is going to exercise, day after day, for years.
It’s easy to get started on something; it’s much more difficult to be consistent in it!
A large number of people are convinced consistency is a matter of willpower.
That the people who exercise every day, always save a percentage of their income too.
Or those who manage to keep blogging for years have a special ability to endure.
I completely disagree. I believe consistency has little to do with willpower.
How I Became More Consistent
I’m not flawlessly consistent in all areas of my life. But still, for the important things like my career, family, faith, etc., I have been faithful to.
Not always was I as consistent as I am now.
I was a starter—good at starting projects, bad at handling them! I would hop between obsessions, starting a new project or pursuit, and giving it up as soon as I saw something more exciting come along.
I speculate that a lot of people are like how I used to be—great starters, lousy finishers!
But progressively, I became more consistent in what really matters, and I believe that you can too.
So where does the answer lie? The problem isn’t our willpower, just the approach we take to new goals and projects.
The Power of Consistency
Before I start talking about how to be consistent, I think it’s important to explain why I believe consistency is more important to start with.
Many people relate consistency with boredom and a lack of creativity or initiative.
Have you ever heard people say that if something isn’t improving after a few weeks or months, you need to change it?
If that’s your attitude, consistency will be challenging.
Consistency is more about working on a larger timescale than just in smaller frameworks like weeks and months.
A consistent person is not concerned that their weight loss plan isn’t working after three weeks; or that their website isn’t earning six figures after three months.
A consistent person looks at the longer time horizon, where the little of progress are ironed out over the next years and decades.
Consistency works best over time because while continually starting has short-term momentum, it doesn’t build anything.
Doing the same thing every day in a consistent manner eventually snowballs into tremendous progress because it doesn’t stop.
What’s the best way to get physical fit? Exercise, for five years.
What’s the best approach to enhance your social life? Put yourself outside your comfort zone, every day, for years.
What’s the best way to launch an online business? Get into a successful system and work in it everyday!
Sustainability Instead of Speed
The reason I struggled with being consistent was that I cared more about speed than sustainability.
In other words, I worked on my goals to achieve the maximum progress I thought was possible in the shortest amount of time.
Here are some practical approaches to becoming more consistent:
- Read a book every day.
- Set the deadline for a six-month project in eight weeks.
- Do the hardest or toughest things first when you are fresh in your day.
- Plan your day…to do more, faster, sooner.
Why is it easier to go for a day or a month… but not for ten years?
The two time frames require completely different mindsets.
To carry out a project for a day or a month, you need to put a lot of effort into it.
To undertake a project every day for a year, you need the opposite, you need to have the activity to require less effort so it doesn’t exhaust you.
When I started my online business, I was working on crazy goals like developing several websites at the same time!
I had created an intense productivity deadline which was incredibly difficult to achieve.
It was so challenging that, near the end of it, I was completely burnt out!
At the time, I thought I was doing what was best for my new business, working extremely hard….instead of working SMART!
But after 10 years and dozens of projects, I realized I had things backwards.
Sure, hard work is important, and it is always going to be important.
But if I can’t continue that kind of hard work, it’s just not worth it!
Setting an impossible productivity deadline and crushing myself to meet it meant I was unproductive for a few weeks afterward.
If I had planned ahead, set the productivity goals in a sustainable way, I wouldn’t have lost those few weeks afterwards.
If you’re going to start exercising, aim to do it every day, just for a little bit, in squirts.
Don’t aim to break personal records in every session, just aim to be consistent.
When you tweak your expectations slightly, it becomes far easier to keep going for the long haul.
Show Up Every Day, Not Once in Awhile
This statement might sound redundant, but the meaning for the word consistent is often missed.
Many people try to be consistent by doing something sporadically.
I assume that, technically, if you exercised six days per month, every month for a decade, that would be consistent.
But I know very few people who can pull that kind of schedule off.
Peculiarly, doing something every day or nearly every day is far less demanding to sustain than doing it once in awhile.
If you want to be consistent with a new habit, run it every day uninterrupted for a month.
Some behavioral specialists say it only takes 21 days for your brain to connect the new nerve pattern, and for your body to develop muscle memory.
Make it an irreplaceable part of your life, not just an afterthought you do occasionally.
Sometimes you can’t do something every day.
But you can at least make it work on a fixed schedule.
Once per week, every week, I plan out my work schedule with consistent goals and productivity.
I don’t bother with it every day, but I do it on a regular schedule that it is now a part of my integrated routine.
Make Consistency Your Integrated Routine
Have you ever been sleeping at hotel and get up to go the bathroom in the dark, and walked in the wrong direction?
The hotel room isn’t your normal routine.
That’s why you can be temporarily mixed up in the night, because it’s a foreign environment you need to consciously navigate!
New pursuits are like the hotel room aren’t normal or “learned” yet.
When you start exercising seriously for the first time, it isn’t normal to you.
It sticks out like the pimple.
If you want to do something consistent, it has to be a part of your integrated routine.
This new habit needs to be so deeply integrated that you walk around confused at night when it is missing.
After having exercised and writing consistently for several years, I feel abnormal not doing them.
You can make something your integrated routine by ritualizing it and working to achieve certain milestones in your behavior.
If you do it the same way, essentially every day, for a month, the new pursuit won’t stick out anymore.
Keep it up for another ninety days and it should feel comfortable like home.
Don’t Associate With Non Consistent People
Alright, maybe that proscription is a little caustic.
But if you do something with a friend or group: exercising, writing, or socializing, for example, and they are inconsistent, maintaining consistency is going to be far more difficult for you.
A problematic unreliable gym partner can drain your ability to keep going!
Of course, the opposite is true also.
If you have friends or partners who are also committed to being consistent, they can be your ally.
Just select the people you use as partners carefully in any new pursuit.
Because if they aren’t sincere, you might “fall off the wagon” because they’re jumping in and out.
The Triangle Method
The old gym I used to exercise in was run by a fifty-something real-estate professional.
In addition to having a thick mustache and a zero-tolerance policy for people who didn’t pay their dues, he kept a small calendar in the back office.
On the calendar, he colored in half of the date in the shape of a triangle every day he showed up.
If he was at the gym, there was a triangle.
If he wasn’t at the gym the spot was blank.
Undoubtedly, most of the spots had a triangle, and my guess is that he had been consistently exercising for at least thirty years.
We lie to ourselves about our commitment of consistency.
We claim to be following our diet spectacularly, but omit the time we ate half a cake or binged on a bag of pretzels.
We claim to be studying every day, but then still need to cram the night before an exam.
We claim to be consistent, but often those are convenient lies to make us feel better.
The beauty of the triangle method is the level of accountability.
You can lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to a calendar.
If a pursuit is important to you, I suggest trying the red triangle method.
It keeps you consistent and accountable which forces you to acknowledge when you’re slipping.
Be a Finisher, Not a Starter
“Just go start something” has been a popular mantra these days with bestselling books like The Art of the Start.
But I don’t feel it’s an especially beneficial mantra.
Too many people are “good starters”.
In fact, I’d presume that for every hundred starters, there would only be one or two finishers!
Finishers are completely different than others.
They have the same level of enthusiasm, but it’s controlled.
They talk about their posting schedule or their projects, but more importantly, they outline their goals in years, not in weeks and months.
It’s good to be both a good starter and a good finisher!
But, it’s challenging to be both.
For that reason if you have to decide, always choose to finish!
Choose to show up every day until the job is done.
Choose the pursuit that appears more boring at first glimpse, but has richer rewards in its depth.
Choose to stick with a plan even if it isn’t paying out immediately.
Choose to be a consistent finisher!
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