How to Actually Stay Consistent
If you search the internet for “consistency”, you will find the image above which I bet you have seen a thousand times from motivational speakers and LinkedIn gurus.
You have read how effective it is to be consistent to reach your goals and achieve your dreams and all that stuff.
But no one talks about how to actually be consistent?
I, myself, spend time finding processes so I can stay consistent in: creating content, learning German, doing my daily job, doing housework, staying social, learning online courses, and running my business besides watching TV every day and getting enough sleep :)
I hope I gave you a picture of what I will try to offer you here to stay consistent
My process whenever I want to stay consistent at something:
- Identify the end goal
- Set KPIs
- Change the habits to optimize the KPIs
- Repeat and Adapt
But first, Log everything
Imagine this, you want to be consistent in learning online courses every day in order to stay updated with the latest technologies.
And you say, “I will spend one hour everyday learning”
But let’s get real here, you have a day job, you have friends to meet, there is a new series coming up on Marvel and you want to watch it.
The question would be “When”? when should you do your new habit?
And the answer will be something like throwing it at a random time and hoping it will work and that’s why you mostly will fail to stay consistent.
Imagine this, if you introduce a new organism to a new environment all of the sudden, most probably it will die. The reason for this is that it doesn’t know its environment.
Similar to us, in order to introduce a new habit, we need to first know how our day goes and how we spend our time.
What I personally did, was record every single thing I did during the day to the last minute. I did this for 5 years too (2015–2019).
I used an app called “Study Checker” (It’s no longer on the app store) to track every minute and every second and from there I was able to understand myself much better.
But today I take a less extreme approach and just use time blocking as it’s simpler and I don’t need to look into my phone all the time.
What I would suggest is to use something like Google Calendar and identify what you do during the day: when do you wake up? when do you start to work? when you go out? when you watch TV? when you go to the Gym or meet friends?
In order to know your own schedule and environment.
This is for example my current one that I use to know my schedule.
But please, make sure to be realistic with yourself, this should be a reflection of what your real day goes not how you wish it should be.
Identify the end goal
This should be easy, you already have a goal you want to reach from your habit that you hope to stay consistent in doing.
Make sure that you know the why for your goal which you will use the habit to achieve.
For example, a goal would be to become a senior Frontend Developer then the habit would be to study courses every day for one hour.
Another example, a goal would be to lose weight, and then the habit would be to eat a certain limit every day and another habit to walk every day.
A goal can be achieved by doing multiple habits. It’s a 1-to-many relationship
Set the KPIs
Now we know:
- What’s our environment
- where we are at the moment
- What’s our goal
- What are the habits to help us reach our goal
We need to identify the KPI that measures if our habits are helping us to reach the goal.
But wait, you may now ask “But I thought consistency is measuring if I do a certain thing every day”. This is where I beg to differ.
We should focus on staying “motivated” to reach our goal in order to stay consistent and not measuring how consistent we are doing the habit.
That’s why the KPI is not a measure of how many times we do a habit every day but rather how effectively doing this habit every day helps us to reach the goal.
By defining this, we are going to make — even slow — progress every day.
For example, a good KPI is not how many times you have studied after work but rather how studying after work helped you study every day.
I know it may seem just reversing the approach but this is how we change perspective to solve the problem. and I hope you see it’s simple too :)
After we have identified the KPI, now we start A/B testing with our habits to find which one is more effective in helping us to reach our goals faster which will eventually help us stay consistent.
And the easiest one is just changing the time or the place.
For example, when I was studying German I found that changing the habit from after work to studying before work was more effective.
Or that going for a walk during my lunchtime is better to lose weight than only doing sports at home and so on.
The harder would be to change the habit itself.
For example, maybe instead of studying online courses, it’s better to have a side project to practice what you are learning.
or instead of meeting new people at a bar, it’s better to go to a park.
Also changing can include changing bad habits.
For example, instead of eating snacks while watching TV, maybe eat them in the morning or before work instead.
That’s why identifying the habit will change from person to person depending on your “environment” and your personality that you understood from logging your time.
Repeat and Adapt
Finally, we try to adapt whatever is not working; KPIs or Habits
- If our habits are not helping the KPIs, we just change the habits
- If the KPIs are getting us to a different goal, then change the KPIs
We keep repeating and adapting until we find what works better that keeps us more consistent to reach our goal. That’s how Evolution works!
Of course, if our goals are different then we just redesign again. Life changes and with them our goals.