Some people are really good about being consistent. They have a routine, or a group of routines, and they are good at sticking to it. They rise at 7:30am, eat a good breakfast, work out 3 days a week, and make sure the lights are out at 10:30. Consistently.
I'm not one of those people.
For much of my adult(ish) life, I've been good in short, intense sprints. I wrote my master's thesis in a 10-day coffee-fueled dash, once painted my entire house in a 48hr stretch and have a terrible tendency to pull all-nighters when business projects or presentations are due. In many ways, this has worked for me. But, it has it's downsides. First, "work sprints" are hugely disruptive to any normal schedule. Second, the level of motivation required for a sprint usually means that I'm only doing it when absolutely necessary. Finally, some projects just aren't things you can do as a sprint. A health regimen doesn't really work when you exercise like crazy for 2 days and then lie on the couch for the next month (guilty).
This year, I'm focused on several business goals that will require consistent daily effort:
- Regular contact and support to my network
- Working my 2016 sales plan
- Post a business article each week about my progress once established
Since I'm not great at this, I reached out to multiple friends on how best to make "consistency" part of my process in 2016. Here are the top suggestions that they gave me:
- Be Specific - Know exactly what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Vague ideas like "I'm going to be a blogger" allow me too much wiggle room. "Oh, I'll get to it next week" is something I've said far too often. Having specific goals are easier to focus on, such as "I'm going to post one 500 word article each week on topics important to my business every Thursday throughout 2016" is something I can plan into my calendar.
- Keep it simple (and real) - We all like to imagine that we can accomplish huge, complex feats each day. However, more often, daily progress is going to happen in smaller steps. Keep your expectations reasonable so that you don't get discouraged if you aren't working at peak level on a particular day. I can cold-call 50 people on a great day, when I'm focused. However, I rarely can be that focused each day. Instead of expecting to reach that level each day, I've decided to work for 25 cold-calls every day. Some days I'll get lucky and get more, but I'd rather have a minimum that I know that I can hit. Moving forward can happen at different speeds as long as you don't stop.
- Break it down - The old adage that "you eat a whale one bite at a time" is true in most projects in life. Most of the projects that have the biggest affect on my business are complex and include multiple steps. More than once I've found that I'm suddenly overwhelmed when I couldn't accomplish it all at once. As much as possible, I'm now breaking down each of the different steps of each large project or sales objective, and working to accomplish one thing a day.
- Schedule it, schedule it - We all have big goals, but you're ability to actually accomplish them will increase dramatically if you actually put the time to work on them into your calendar and stick to it. I'll admit, this took me far too long to put into practice. For years, I found scheduling "boring" and just assumed that I would be magically motivated to work on projects, which never really worked very well. I started working with a combination daily calendar and pomodoro timer to keep me on task throughout the day.
- Batch together, where possible - some projects have various tasks that can be accomplished at the same time and are easier in large groups. This is good if the tasks are independently small but can overwhelm you if you aren't careful. Answering your email into once or twice a day (instead of constantly checking it all day long) is a great example of batching. If you use Gmail (like me), check out Inbox Pause which limits how often your email actually appears in your Inbox. Additionally, I handle accounting and admin tasks on Saturdays, so I can stay focused on outreach and project management during the workweek.
- Create accountability - it's easy to get distracted or rationalize not working on your goals when you don't have anyone but yourself to disappoint. So, having an accountability partner or group can do wonders for keeping you focused through social pressure. For 2016, I've assembled my own personal Board of Advisors to oversee my actions with my business. I picked these four people because I knew each of them wouldn't hesitate to call me out when if I started hedging on what I need to be doing.
- Re-adjust, as necessary - Planning is great, but not every plan executes as well as you hoped. In my case, I often am far too ambitious, and then get disappointed when I can't meet my internal expectation. Before you chuck the entire effort out the window, see if adjusting the process makes it easier. In my case, I shifted my weekly article writing to Saturdays (when things are quiet) instead of my workweek evenings when I'm usually at my lowest energy.
- Focus on moving forward - It's easy to beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon. However, if your goal is ambitious in any way, you most likely will fail occasionally. However, there is a big difference from failing occasionally and failing permanently. Don't beat yourself if you don't live up to your expectation each time. Just keep moving forward.
I have high expectations for 2016 and hope you'll join me in shooting for big goals. What are your goals that will require consistency in 2016?