I've been working through the Fast Track course almost in real time this year (I think this is my third attempt, and I've FINALLY got past the damn shopping exercise in session 1 – go me!), and a question has been hovering behind my left ear for the past few weeks.
It concerns consistency.
I can clearly see the benefits of consistency, especially in a fledgling business (which mine will be, as soon as it hatches). Everyone I listen to says you have to be consistent – whatever you do, be consistent about it – keep showing up consistently – consistent, consistent, consistent. Be consistent. Consistently.
The trouble is, nobody seems to have any advice for what to do if that's not so easy.
Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons why consistency is a problem for me. I have chronic health conditions that unpredictably affect my energy and concentration. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool scanner / multipotentialite / whatever we're calling it this week. I'm also the Autistic parent of two Autistic children, so sudden spikes in domestic intensity, as well as periods of plain old-fashioned burnout, are the norm. Meanwhile, my executive function is a shredded rag most of the time.
So my question is, what can I do to reduce the pressure to be consistent? Obviously, I need to show up, produce work, put out content, and so on. But do you have any suggestions for how to set things up so that a dip in consistency won't wreck the boat?
Thanks as always,
Thank you, Mary. This is an excellent question, and I'm sure many people are glad you asked it. You ask a question that many need answered but few are brave enough to ask.
The body and the brain are wonderful things, but they are also masters of subversion and treachery. All the good advice out there – for business, yes, but also for life, and marriage, and painting your kitchen cabinets – does not allow for in-house sabotage. You're on the Autism spectrum and you have chronic health conditions. Lordy, lordy – you and the rest of us, right?
Between ADHD [raises hand]…
and anxiety [raises hand again]…
and hormones [arm getting sore now]
and depression [oh, for heaven's sake, I'll just leave my hand up]…
and chronic fatigue…
…it's really quite amazing any of us get anything done at all.
So, how do we be consistent when we cannot possibly be consistent?
As the least consistent person on the face of God's good earth, I am eminently qualified to answer your question. I shall give you a few tips that have saved my ass over the years. Perhaps they will be of use to you.
They are roughly categorized from the most abstract to the most practical. Onward!
1. Projects only. (Or, TWTAGTBFNO must die.)
TWTAGTBFNO stands for The Way Things Are Going To Be From Now On.
You know when you get an idea in your head? And you love it? And you're like, “YES. THIS. THIS is what I'm going to do now”?
And you do it, or you kind of do it, or you do half of it, and you realize you were out of your head? And now you're surrounded by a huge mess? And bills? And regret? And embarrassment?
That is called The Way Things Are Going To Be From Now On, and when dealing with mental or physical Stuff, we must slay it like Voldemort. Or Smaug. Or Smoldemort.
Once upon a time, I got it in my head that people really liked it when I taught live classes, and therefore I would do only that from now on.
I'm not really sure what I was thinking there, but ok. We'll roll with it.
Unsurprisingly, it took a lot of work and a decent amount of money to (ahem) COMPLETELY RESTRUCTURE MY ****ING REVENUE MODEL.
And when I was done, and everything was changed, and all the bills were paid, and all the late nights were (somewhat) recovered from… I realized that it was a really stupid idea and I wanted to put it back the way it was.
I would have saved myself a lot of time, money, and energy if I had made it a project, rather than TWTAGTBFNO. (I also could have saved myself some credibility. More on that in a moment.) If I had said, “You know, I'd like to do more classes”, then I could have done more classes. But by turning it into TWTAGTBFNO, I broke everything, and all of my inconsistencies reared their ugly head. Kind of like Smoldemort.
- Don't start a new podcast. Do a little podcast series and see where it goes.
- Don't start a new YouTube Thing. Do a little video series and see where it goes.
- Don't start a new blog. Do a little article series and see where it goes.
Are you seeing the pattern here?
Projects only. TWTAGTBFNO must die.
2. Be consistent in your inconsistency. (Or, “I'm not inconsistent. I'm SPONTANEOUS!”)
This tip has two sides – time and content.
On the time side – I will routinely go a full four months without saying a word on my blog and then show up in people's inboxes with, “Hello, darling! Go get your purse!”
Inexplicably, you're still here. So are many others.
I contend that one of the reasons you're still here is that you're used to it. You've been reading IttyBiz since 2008 and you're used to it by now.
And, on a level, it's a bit of a feature, rather than a bug. I don't send you junk mail. I don't write crap content just because it's Wednesday. I hide in a cocoon 75% of all days and then, several times a year, spontaneously come out to write a blog series, ask for money, or both.
I'm consistent with my inconsistency.
On the content side, you also have an opportunity for consistency if WHAT you do is fairly consistent, even if WHEN you do it is not.
- My launch content looks kinda sorta the same, every year. People know what to expect.
- My blog posts look kinda sorta the same, every year. People know what to expect.
- My products look kinda sorta the same, every year. People know what to expect.
So when I hide in my cocoon for months on end and then come out with three products in two months, there's something consistent in that, even if it's not timing.
3. Make no promises. (Or, learn to shut your pie-hole.)
So, back to my disastrous live-only idea. All of that monkey business with the time / money / energy of the change, followed by the immediate reversal, would have been a private hell, if I'd only kept my damn mouth shut.
But noooooooooo. I had to blast it all over the internet. I had to make a big hullabaloo pronouncement about The Way Things Are Going To Be From Now On.
Then I changed it back and I looked like a big, poopy flake.
I have learned, over the years, that if you're going to do something, just do it. Don't promise it.
- Don't say the blog post is coming Monday.
- Don't say the series starts in December.
- Don't say the book is coming out on the 15th.
Learn to shut your pie hole.
If you have any marketing bone in your body, this will terrify you, because you know the benefit of giving sneak peeks, previews, and the like. That's fine. If something is wrapped and ready to go, by all means, sneak peek it. If the blog post is in WordPress and scheduled? Feel free to tweet that it's coming. If the book is back from the editors and done-no-seriously-you-swear-to-God-it's-DONE? Sure, leak a launch date.
But otherwise? Mouth shut.
(This has the added side benefit of people sending you charming emails saying, “I love that you always keep things so fresh!” or “You really keep me on my toes – I like that.” Yeah, it's not a marketing decision. It's a coping mechanism.)
4. Batch things. Batch ALL the things.
Do you remember back when we talked about whirlpools? About finding those batches of time when you're completely on fire and doing something just right in those times?
It would be wise for you to become a master at finding and appropriately utilizing whirlpools.
There are small pockets of time, when the stars align, and your children are either well-behaved or absent, and you are not broken in mind, body, or spirit. Have a plan for how you're going to use those times BEFORE they arrive. Then when they arrive, work like a possessed demon.
Do the same thing with the times when you're useless. Reread the ebb and flow piece. Don't just batch in your flow times – batch in your ebb times, too. Get huge amounts of things done in great, thick swaths. It's a messy way to run a life and a business but, let's face it – your life and business are messy anyway. At least this way they'll be messy and productive.
5. You're going to need ninjas and robots.
In tandem with our batching rule, it would be a good idea for you to give some money to either a person or a robot who is far more consistent than you are.
I'm talking VAs or automated scheduling software.
Take one of your whirlpools – either an ebb or a flow – and shove a whack of stuff in your Twitter queue. Then take another one and do it for Instagram. Then take another one and do it for your new Cool Quote Monday series for your email list. Do it all in a big whirlpool and then…
… have a computer or a VA be consistent on your behalf.
I happen to like Time Etc. and Coschedule. (Those are NOT affiliate links because, well, I'm not consistent enough to have all my links in one place. The amount of money I will NOT make today because of this is staggering. Oh, well. One step at a time.)
If you can be consistent with one thing, and then a few things, and then a decent number of things, the number of things at which you are NOT consistent becomes less and less of the total. So get consistent at Twitter and Instagram and your Monday emails, and then that's three whole areas you don't suck at.
Try to add an area or two a year. Soon enough, you LOOK consistent, even if you're still a hot mess inside.
6. Never apologize unless you have done something wrong. (Or, “Non, je ne regrette rien”.)
You've been around long enough to hear me rant about this, so this is less for you and more for everyone else who's reading.
Do not apologize for your inconsistency.
I'm going to repeat that, because it's really important.
DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR INCONSISTENCY.
Do not say, “Sorry I haven't blogged in a while.” Or tweeted for a while. Or whatevered for a while. Just don't.
There are two reasons for this.
First, nobody cares. It would be unforgivably self-absorbed to think that the world is sitting around, pining for my next blog post. Yes, there may be a few people who care. There are FAR more people who do not.
Second, many people did not notice. Apologizing for your [absence / flakiness / inconsistency] simply draws peoples' attention to something unnecessarily. And besides, what if I just heard about you today? I read your book, I stopped by your blog, and I think you're rad. Do I want to see a big, “Sorry I've been a flake”? No. I do not.
The exception to this is, of course, if you've done something wrong. If you said your book was coming out on the 15th and it is now past the 15th and the book is nowhere to be seen, of course, apologize. But when the book is out and all is forgiven? Take the damn post down.
7. Give things names.
OK, one little hack before I let you go.
I have noticed that when you name things, you put a frame around your randomness.
“AMA week” is a lot more palatable than 5 blog posts that are in no way connected.
The “How Do I Launch Stuff Video Series” is more compelling than an embarrassingly short list of four videos in a blog category called “Launch”.
“Sleeping Kitten Says…” makes a lot more sense than a picture of a cat attached to a random piece of business advice, apropos of nothing.
When you give stuff names – series, little things you do, social media, content, emails, whatever – they don't seem like randomness. They seem like A Thing.
Give things names and you will seem far more consistent than you actually are.
That is my advice to you, Mary.
In case you want it, I have created a printable document to keep to hand for when you inevitably forget all of these things. One version can go on your desk. The other can go on your monitor.
Thanks for the excellent question, Mary.
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