how to be consistent

For most of my life, I’ve been someone who works in bouts of inspiration. When I’m on, I’m really on. When I’m not, I’m completely gone. This has it’s good sides and bad sites: but some things just require consistency over long periods of time. Something I didn’t possess. And so eventually I asked myself: How to be consistent?

But before we’ll dive further into the specifics, let me tell you about oranges.

If you’ve ever been to an orange orchard, you know the golden rule of orange trees: the soil should be moist at all times. On average, an orange tree on that particular plantation needs about 200 liters of water a week. Now imagine a hypothetical farmer doing some quick math: Well, 200 liters a week equals 10,400 liters per year. So I’ll just pour 10,400 liters now and then come back in a year and do it again. It’s obvious that this would lead to failure. Yet, that’s how many of us approach our life and work.

Whether you want to create something, lose weight, be more successful in your job, run a marathon—achieving long-term goals requires consistent actions over a long period of time.

The power of consistency

Consistency is probably one of the most underrated superpowers. It sounds very boring. It’s not sexy, and I don’t see it trending on Tiktok anytime soon.

  • Builds momentum: Momentum is a powerful force, especially when it comes to creative work.
  • Builds trust: People are instinctively attracted to those who act consistently. In a world where everything is always changing, where people feel they rely on institutions anymore, where everyone seems to get caught up in the latest and greatest shiny new object, someone who simply stays consistent stands out. Others will value that you’re so reliable and your relationships will benefit from it.
  • Builds confidence: The more consistent you are, the more confident you feel. Self-doubt thrives in inconsistency.
  • Makes big goals attainable: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
  • Overcomes procrastination: When you consistently take action, the emotional hurdle between thinking and doing shrinks and improve self-discipline.
  • Improves self-image: When you constantly progress you feel a sense of accomplishment that’s rooted in reality.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety: You’ll feel less anxious and pressured because you have more structure, and the gap between how you life your life and who you want to be isn’t that daunting anymore.
  • Increases resilience: By battling the little obstacles that life inevitably will throw your way, you will develop grit and become more unstoppable.
  • Makes you a more valuable team member: When others know that they can rely on you, they’ll value you so much more.
  • Levels you up: When you apply consistency to learning, you’ll always improve your skills.

I could keep going, but the instead let me highlight the one thing that I think is most important about consistency: it builds momentum. And when you have momentum, it elevates the quality of whatever it is that you do while at the same time making it easier. It’s one of the factors that makes prolific practice so effective.

How to be consistent

If you ever wondered “Why do I struggle with consistency?” then this section is for you. Training yourself to be more consistent is never easy, but it’s something everyone can do with a bit of commitment and the right approach.

Set goals

Set a clear goal and write it down. The only thing that matters is that what you write down is clear and meaningful to you. There are dozens of goal setting techniques out there: SMART, HARD, WOOP, etc. But for the purpose of what we’re trying to do here, you don’t need that. Your goal could be something as simple as:

  • I want to lose 15 pounds in the next three months.
  • I want to build a daily writing habit.
  • I want to get promoted this year.
  • I want to swim non-stop for 30 minutes.
  • I want to practice an hour of yoga per day.
  • I want to build a better morning routine.

Don’t over-engineer your goal. Don’t set too many goals at once. Just start with one, and if you’ve built a consistent habit towards achieving that goal, you can add another one.

Recruit an accountability partner

An accountability partner is simply someone who helps you be more consistent. You can just ask a friend to check in with you on a daily basis, or someone whom you promise to check in with.

And here’s another idea: When you notice that a friend struggles with establishing a new habit, offer to be their accountability partner. I have a friend that’s very, very fit, who loves to exercise.

One day we talked about exercising, and I brought up that I was trying to exercise more consistently. He immediately got excited. “Okay, let’s do this together, I want to support you! Here’s what we’re going to do: every day after your workout session, you send me a selfie!”

At first I laughed it off because it seemed ridiculous, plus I dislike taking selfies. But he so enthusiastically insisted on it that I eventually agreed. Almost more as a favor to him, because he seemed genuinely excited about it. 100+ selfies later, I had established a really good exercise routine, and his support was tremendously helpful. All he did was respond to my selfies, some days just a simple emoji, some days a support voice message, some days texting a simple “Nice!”

It’s a simple thing you can do to elevate each other in a friendship.

Create a daily checklist

I have a daily to-do list that I go through every day. All the things that I want to be consistent with go into that checklist.

You can do this on paper, in the notes app of your phone, in a simple text file or Google Doc, or whatever works best for you.

I like simple text files, so here’s how you could do this:

[] write morning pages

[] meditate 10 minutes

[] do yoga

[] write for 30 minutes

[] check calendar

[] review today

[] plan tomorrow

[x] enjoy the feeling of checking off items on your list

This might seem like a long list, but I actually find that if you do these things anyway, there’s something satisfying about having them in a list and checking them off each day. It’s a little testament to your personal growth. Evidence that day after day, you chose your long-term goals over short-term pleasure.

Schedule your time with a calendar

If you’re struggling with consistency and aren’t using a calendar, then give it a try: it can be a real game-changer. I personally don’t love scheduling my time, but for certain things it really helps.

I use Google Calendar to block specific times or schedule specific recurring tasks, and every morning one of the first things I do is to check my calendar and spend a few minutes thinking through my day in advance.

Pro tip: If you think getting a specific task done will take you 30 minutes, schedule 45 minutes or an hour. It’s common to underestimate how long it takes to complete a task, and this way you have some buffer time. If you complete the task faster than expected, you can either take a break or use that remaining time to tackle something else. The worst thing you can do is schedule your day in a way where it creates stress, because that will make you dislike scheduling your time. (I speak from experience.)

Set recurring alarms on your phone

This is similar to using a calendar. But let’s say you want to do a little one-minute awareness meditation every three hours. You can set a recurring alarm for certain times of the day, or a countdown timer.

Put Post-it notes on your wall

Sometimes I find it helpful to have reminders on my wall. I tend to be quite serious when I work at my desk, and I there’s a big piece of paper on the wall that says: “Take a deep breath and relax”. Every time when I see it, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and relax. It takes ten seconds, but I do it 30 times a day or so and that makes a real difference.

Reward yourself for consistency

Becoming more consistent isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s really rewiring something deep within the inner workings of your personality. Which is why many people underestimate how difficult it is to be consistent.

That’s why you should reward yourself every once in a while for becoming more consistent. Whether that’s treating yourself to some ice cream or simply standing in front of the mirror and giving yourself some loving words of praise and encouragement—your short-term brain deserves a little recognition for doing a hard thing.

3 important things about consistency

Consistency is a deceptively simple concept—that’s why so few people have mastered it.

Falling off the horse is okay

I used to think consistency means staying on track every single day, never skipping a day. And then, when I eventually did skip I day, it felt like absolute failure. This happened many times, but let me tell you about one of the dumbest times.

I had worked out every day for 2+ months, and then one day I didn’t. I felt like breaking that two month streak meant I had to start all over again (what a ridiculous notion), and I just didn’t feel like I had it in my to do it.

Thus, I stopped exercising for a week, two weeks… always with that idea in the back of my mind that “one day when I’m ready, I’ll start again”. But it was this monumental task in my head, two months of consistent effort squeezed into one workout session. (Of course I wouldn’t have actually tried to put two months of effort into one session—but emotionally it felt that way.) And thus, I stopped exercising for many months, undid a lot of my gains, and eventually had to start again at a much lower fitness level than if I had just continued going to exercise after that one day I skipped.

The takeaway here is: It’s okay to fall off the horse. Just get back in the saddle the next day.

Take small steps

Here’s another common reason why people struggle to become more consistent: They have unrealistic expectations. Yes, in theory it’s absolutely possible to decide to be more consistent and then from that very minute and for the rest of eternity be consistent in every area of your life. But if that’s the expectation you set for yourself, you have a lot of disappointment and frustration ahead.

Instead, think of it as a “soft opening”. You slowly want to introduce more consistency into your life. Pick one easy area of our life where you want to be more consistent, and then start with that. Give yourself time to really establish this behavior in your life, rather than trying to change everything overnight.

Focus on process over outcome

We all want the end result. We want the bestseller in the bookshelf. We want the six pack abs. We want the perfect partner. Doing what it takes to get there is typically not what we want; it’s what we think we have to do to get what we want. It’s that kind of thinking that makes it hard to stay consistent.

That’s why it’s important to focus on the process, rather than the outcome. The outcome, and the reason why you care about the outcome, that’s important to know. That’s part of your vision and purpose. But none of that matters if you’re not here, in the present moment, doing the work.

Final thoughts

Big things can happen on the back of good habits if you give it enough time. Lack of consistency is like a ship with a leak: a big leak will sink you, but even a few tiny leaks will slow you down considerably.

Learning how to be consistent is one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your personal development.

If you’ve made it all the way to this conclusion, then make it count: Choose one thing where you want to become more consistent. Make it something small and attainable. Commit to putting this consistency into practice, and make it part of your regular routine.

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