I struggle with consistency.
I don’t mean to. I am not an intentionally inconsistent person. Some, okay, most, of those that love me would say that I was ‘flighty’ or ‘absent-minded’. I always have too much on the brain.
That is true.
But I don’t want to be considered unreliable. Which is the natural conclusion drawn from flighty behavior. Only those that stick with me over time realize I always follow through, usually on my timetable, feeling each moment as I go.
It drives everyone nuts.
I don’t want to do that to the people I love. So, I started working rather diligently on consistency a couple of months ago. From daily Bible readings and prayer to dinner routines and project management, I have been making gains on being more consistent.
It’s freaking exhausting. But equally invigorating. Consistency creates room for more things, more adventure; and if there is one thing this November Sagittarius can’t get enough of, it’s an adventure.
Here are four tools that have helped me be more consistent. I am going to spend the next few weeks unpacking each. You are invited to practice using these tools with me as we explore one each week. The topic of consistency opened a well within me and I am eager to be better. They may seem intuitive to some, and if so, seriously, cheers to you! But if you are like me -you know what works but you haven’t found what works for you- I jotted these down. Tweak them one and all!
I am starting with the first tool to turn my behaviors around. Task lists.
4 Tools to Increase Consistency
Task Lists – Productivity Apps and Planners
During a LifeChurch Message, Pastor Craig Groeschel asked how we spend our 168 hours each week. I think it is a fair question for everyone regardless of beliefs.
How do you spend 168 hours each week?
I was to break it down, I’d probably be ashamed of how much time was spent on my phone.
Breaking things down into the tiniest of steps can be hard for big thinkers. Nothing to be ashamed of, but I know how it has held me back for many years. Not my big thinking. My inability to break down tasks into the tiniest of steps. I don’t have tiny thoughts. It’s all grandiose and flashing lights with me. Dramatic flair doesn’t begin to cover it. And details can be so very boring.
But the best and worst parts of us are in the details.
So, I learned. Painstakingly, after many years of just getting it so wrong, through the most humiliating trial and error attempts ever, I learned.
If consistency is key, then the key to consistency is patience.
Being human is real and requires patience. I will never achieve perfection. I try to be consistent. And I try again during the next 24-hour cycle. And then the next. And still, I arm myself with even more patience when life does that thing that forces me to be human.
As I continue to work toward mastering breaking things down into micro-tasks, I feel an immense amount of progress in what I can get done.
Planners have changed my life. They are a place to keep track of what everyone is doing. They are also a magical place to keep a running list of all the things I need to do.
Conversations happen at rapid-fire speed. I usually don’t have time during a conversation to break down complicated tasks into concrete actions. But I need to track both at all times.
This is also useful to do for two other reasons:
One, I have become acutely aware of how much I am required to do to get things done. I have become wildly protective of certain routines and boundaries. (Sis, truly don’t got the time or patience!)
Two, I like to have a record of what I have done. I tend to languish over incomplete tasks while diminishing feats. Tracking progress helps me justify rewards. (Sadly I still feel the need to justify buying things for myself sometimes.)
I’ve set alarms to get up on time, leave on time, take the chicken out. I started setting alarms for bedtime and organizing emails. I set up all those pesky notifications settings in all my productivity apps. It’s done wonders for helping me to remember all the things.
Instead of clearing the notification, I roll my eyes and do the thing. It’s just one small thing. Such a small thing. An email. A phone call. A photo edit. That’s how small the tasks are.
Don’t worry about finishing the draft today. Write the first two sentences. Order that journal. Download that sheet music. Don’t attempt the scale. How do your fingers feel on the first three notes? Victory over the first three will grant courage for crossing that thumb under to hit that fourth note on the scale. Straightening out your hand again will relax the rest of your body to handle the rest. And then suddenly you’re done. You’ve played your first ascending scale. Now, do you dare go down?
We are not who we always believe we are. I know I am not. I try to be. That means that inevitably I am inconsistent. Accepting that can be difficult. Acknowledging it can be challenging. Admitting it to the person/s most impacted can be damn-near devastating. But I must accept this fact as evidence of my humanity. It keeps me humble. So, now, when someone tells me how they experience my inconsistency, I listen. That’s it. I listen. I don’t wait for my chance to defend myself, justify my actions, or announce the trials and tribulations of my life. I listen.
Inconsistent behavior negatively impacts relationships. More on that next week. What I want to note here is the emphasis on the repair of the impacted relationship. Speaking directly to whatever inconsistency was observed, specifically naming it, and how it impacted another person, is powerful. Most people I think are horrified by the idea of that, but I think it would solve so many communication problems.