“Long term consistency trumps short term intensity.”
Everyone can go out and hit a homer once in a while. Greatness – or even very goodness – isn’t based on once in a while production but rather a relied upon standard that can be delivered on a regular basis. How do we as performance coaches help athletes and others deliver that consistency? Well, point of note: there is no full proof way! You can do everything mentioned in this article and still struggle with producing GOLD on a regular basis. What follows is a template which will create the parameters for consistency. Still, it is important to make clear that achieving that regularity of production is not guaranteed!
In order to set the bar for consistent production, you’ll want to first start at your motivation. You’ve heard it before; you’re hearing it now: what’s your why? Why do you want to do what you’re setting it out to do? What does it mean to you to achieve in this way? Spend some good time reflecting on this as opposed to just diving right in. Actions that are aligned with a greater purpose that you can point to are more meaningful and have more “stick-to-it-ness.”
Along with your “why” statement, recognize your core values. What are the 4-8 core concepts that you believe in most deeply? Is consistency even that important to you? Perhaps you like varying up your daily habits, your output, or you just don’t want to put the pressure of “must be consistent” on yourself. If that is the case, good deal! Close this browser, pack a lunch, and head for the hills! You don’t inherently need to be consistent. However, if being consistent in your production is indeed a value, or aligned with one of your core values, then please, by all means, soldier forth!
OK, now that you’ve worked out your purpose and our values, you can start to build out a plan for consistency that are less esoteric and more tactile. Here are some key tips for creating consistency in your production:
1. Create a routine: first and foremost, creating a routine (including the fine details of what you’ll do, what time, where, and what you want to accomplish) is of core importance when seeking consistent output. By creating a routine you’re setting the stage for your success by making a habit out of your practice, training, or production time. Stick to your routine AND use self-compassion when you fail to do so, coming back to your routine quickly (the next day would be good!)
2. Time management: without recognizing and avoiding distractions, having enough time, and using your time appropriately, your ability to produce consistently will fall by the wayside. There are so many pulls at our attention that something like “100 push-ups a day…at some point in the day…when I’m done with this season of Stranger Things…” can easily slip away. Your ability to focus in the time you’ve allotted is your finest resource. Some key time management tricks are use a calendar, set reminders, put your phone away, and KEEP YOUR PHONE AWAY!
3. Thought recognition and acceptance: stick with me here. Your mind will constantly spin. Negative thoughts, worries, and doubts will always creep in! Recognizing thoughts are thoughts and don’t control you are important in your approach to being consistent. At times our minds can spiral out of control if we allow them. If we are able to maintain adherence to our values and the actions that align with those values, we won’t let temporary thoughts and feelings break us from our quest for consistency.
4. Accountability partner: having someone you share your routine with and who knows your desire for consistency can help you stick on track. We are all social beings and the force of sticking with your production goals when you’ve told others what you’ll do (and by when) is extremely powerful.
5. Start moderately…but keep going: are you a writer? Perhaps you want to consistently write 1000 words a day. Think about habits as atomic. Start small! Start by setting out to write 100 words a day and build up gradually. The key is that if you miss a day that you use compassion (instead of throwing the whole project in the trash) and get back on the horse the next day.
6. Find the joy and hold it close: register on a human level why you enjoy what you’re doing, and the joy that would come from consistent results. Write it down! Keep it somewhere you’ll see it often, perhaps on a post-it note next to your WHY and CORE VALUES.
7. Give yourself a symbolic reward: while we’d love to be intrinsically motivated in all we do, it doesn’t hurt to give yourself a reward when you’ve been consistent for X amount of time. Set that time in advance and stick with it, then give yourself that gallon (OK, pint) of Ice cream (or take the afternoon off to be with your friends/family). It’s OK, I promise!
8. Practice self-control: this is key, and goes back to recognizing and accepting your thoughts. Remember that the production you’re seeking comes from a purpose that is deeper than the cursory thoughts that come and go (the so-called “monkey mind”). Don’t allow the need for temporary distractions or other debilitative thoughts budget you off your course. You have set yourself up for consistency by a deep introspection; practice discipline daily to stay with it!
WOOP is a goal-setting method developed by Gabriele Oettingen which stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. If your wish is to produce consistently then envision that outcome and how it would feel and what it would mean to you. This connects neatly with the first step in the consistency process- recognizing your why and your core values. Next, recognize the obstacle (or, let’s face it, obstacles) that stand in your way of consistency. Lastly, and oh so very importantly, create a workable plan – a detailed plan – with concrete steps as to how you’ll go about producing more consistently.
Consistency is a hallmark of greatness and a separator between the average, the good, and the great. Recognize why you want to achieve what you do, what core values it aligns with, and what actions align with those values en route to such production. Starting here, you’re creating greater depth of understanding as to the purpose behind your actions. You’re not floating in water without an anchor, but rather, you’re grounded. Once you’ve done this thoughtful reflection, create a routine and use self-control to stick with it on a regular basis. Like every day! Good luck on your journey.