>> February 6, 2020
>> Blog Post #25
Consistency. The art of regularity.
One of the first things that came to my mind yesterday was that I had totally forgotten to write and publish a post.
I had set myself up this year to write every day and publish every day. I didn’t quite know what to expect or how it would work out, but that was the overall plan. I had chosen to do that because I had heard how some people commit to doing one thing every day until it becomes routine and then second nature to them. This constant practice, according to them, yields great results.
The first time I paid attention to such a strategy, was probably when my wife told me she had read that Seinfeld used a calendar to mark off every single day where he did whatever he was trying to do in order, I guessed, to visualize success. I just looked it up again and it’s described succinctly and clearly right here. Anyways, I learned about this technique a few years ago and while I found it interesting and had a natural inclination to believe it probably works, I never really tried to put it into practice.
Then about a year ago, I met someone whose newsletter I read every day now. It’s the only one I read, as I’ve never been much of a follower for anything or anyone. The newsletter is called Marty’s Bent. If you like it, consider subscribing to it on the website and you’ll have it delivered to your mailbox every day.
We were having beers with Marty when he said that a couple years ago, he had decided that he wanted to write and had committed to writing every day and that the next thing you knew, he had published over 300 posts in his first year working that way. The figures here are approximate as I don’t remember exactly what the number of posts or the duration we were discussing were, but it gives a good ballpark figure. However, I remember how the discussion made me feel, with several intuitions, thoughts, conclusions converging into an overarching “I could do that too” feeling.
Applying yourself daily seemed accessible to anyone, with a lot of results in a fairly short time frame. People you enjoy beers with do it, have a lot to show for (Marty just hit post #666) within a period of time that is long enough that it is representative, you’re not doing this for only a week, but that is nothing when compared to most of your experiences in life. Meaningful yet accessible, that was the feeling. The other part that was intriguing was that you really only had to focus on the process and not on the results. That was not lost on me and is probably conducive to better results in the long run as you most definitely avoid too strong emotional up and downs in the process.
Back to my own experience with it. I started off January posting every day. I hadn’t planned anything ahead. I knew of some themes that I would be interested in writing about, but I hadn’t taken any time to think about style, calendar, the length of posts, how much time it would take me every day, when I would do it, etc. I believe I wrote and published during 9 straight days and then missed two in a row. Actually no, I just checked, and I missed 4 straight days. I realized immediately that writing every single day would be too hard of a challenge for me for two reasons. One, it wasn’t necessarily compatible with my personal schedule and two, it would make the negative pressure of missing my target too strong. It was obvious to me that my schedule on weekends was too irregular to commit to writing daily. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t write at all on weekends, as I can and I have, but that my output from one weekend to another would vary greatly, much more so than the output from one weekday to another. Armed with that conclusion, which seemed obvious to me, I did not despair at all, but immediately decided that my target had to change and that I should settle on writing and publishing daily on week days, with weekends giving me the opportunity to prepare some drafts or organize my notes in advance. It also gave me the comfort of thinking that over time I could have a handful of posts prepared in advance during weekends for when something impromptu happens. I could then publish something in under 5 minutes any day of the week if my schedule somehow got railroaded. Because one thing is clear, as writing has become one of my objectives, I normally have some time set aside every single weekday for it.
I was happy with how all of this was going and at the end of the month of January, was satisfied to see that I had produced 22 posts in 31 days. 31 published posts would have been an impossible target and publishing every single weekday, had I achieved that would have meant posting 24 articles – I wasn’t that far off at all! Maybe more importantly, I was taking pleasure in doing all of this and finished off January hitting each day for the last two weeks. I had my rhythm.
Back to yesterday and how I missed a weekday writing and posting session.
I didn’t feel bad about It this morning. I know these might happen from time to time because of life and it just shows that it just hasn’t set into my habits yet. Twenty some days of writing don’t make you a writer, no illusions here. Missing yesterday’s post actually made me come up with the idea for this one and I was happy to get an opportunity to share my experience with the whole writing process. A few years ago, the failure of missing a day would have been a real thorn in my side, as I would have given too much importance to that failure. Today, it’s not about missing a day, it’s about giving myself the opportunity to organize myself to do what I want, because I have decided to. It means focusing on my priorities and giving myself time to succeed. The outlook is much different.
I will finish this one off with a few thoughts about consistency.
- I always thought of myself as not being very consistent. Now that I think of it, I was actually very consistent in inconsistency. The way I explain it is that I started things that sounded nice and interesting, out of curiosity, not things that I wanted to do. Focusing on what I really want has made a world of difference.
- Also, I have been fairly “organized” in the past, with all sorts of plannings, calendars, to do lists etc. I have removed myself from doing too much of that now as it takes away the fun, and just loads up your list with nice to have items. I had a tendency to drown my real core envies in a large list of optional elements, making them indistinguishable from the rest. Noticing that has been of great significance to me and I have decided that writing was important. Exit the to do lists and enter regular time for writing daily. This time is for me and I allocate it.
- While consistency is probably very helpful in becoming a good worker, I want to make sure that I only do it because it really is something that I enjoy and want. So, for everything that is good about consistency, and I believe it is good, I want to make sure that I also keep in mind that there are other ways to describe it. Here is what two of my favorite authors of all time say about consistency 🙂
“Consistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.”
– Oscar Wilde
“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.”
– Aldous Huxley, Do What You Will: Twelve Essays