Consistency is a great characteristic to build and implement in your life. The key to consistency is setting and achieving specific goals. Start by determining how you want to be more consistent in your life, and aim for these small goals. Over time, as you become more consistent, keep yourself motivated and accountable. This may require some change in thinking so that you stay optimistic and productive throughout the process.
Create specific and realistic goals.
It’s hard to be consistent if you don’t have a strong idea of what you need to do. When starting your new path, create easy, simple goals with specific, measurable results.
Start by defining what consistency means to you. Do you need to be consistent about your exercise habits? Are you aiming for a higher quality of work? Do you want to be more available and reliable in your relationships?
Once you’ve identified your end goal, come up with smaller steps to reach it. For example, if you want to become more physically fit, you might set the goal to exercise for 5 days out of the week or to sign up for a class.
Be specific. Instead of saying “I’m going to consistently appreciate my significant other,” you might say “I’m going to thank my significant other when they wash the dishes, make dinner, or help out around the house.”
Create a schedule for yourself.
It can be easy to pile on tasks and promises, but a calendar, planner, or schedule will keep you on track. A schedule will help you plan your day so that you get everything done on time. It will also help you understand what commitments you do and do not have time for.
Use a paper planner or a desk calendar. Alternatively, download a scheduling app on your phone, like Google Calendar or Outlook.
Block off realistic amounts of time for each task. If you’re uncertain how long a task will take, give yourself extra time to complete it.
For larger goals, like writing a book or losing weight, set small, daily tasks that you can do to work towards this goal. For example, you might set a daily word count to achieve or plan specific meals to eat each day.
Don’t forget to plan in breaks as well! Don’t schedule anything else for that day or time.
Place reminders around your home, workspace, and belongings.
Sometimes, it is easy to forget our new goals, habits, commitments, or promises, especially when we make them to ourselves. To remind yourself throughout the day, put messages to yourself in visible areas.
Write down your goals on post-it notes and place them on your mirror, computer, refrigerator, car dashboard, and planner.
Slip a piece of paper with your goals into your wallet, desk drawer, or purse.
If you are trying implement a daily practice, put a reminder on your phone. Set an alarm or use a reminder app to alert you when you need to do it.
Make promises only if you can keep them.
Consistency often involves making commitments and keeping them. It is easy to get overwhelmed, however, if you make too many promises. If you think a request may be difficult to do, say no.
For example, if you tell your significant other that you’re going to handle half of the chores, make sure that you have time after work to actually do them.
In some cases, you may be able to negotiate a promise that you will be able to keep. For example, if someone asks you to help them move, you can say, “Well, I can’t make it before 3 PM, but I could swing by after. Does that work?”
This includes making promises to yourself. If you know it is unrealistic for you to write 10 pages a day for your new novel, promise yourself that you’ll just write at least a little bit each day.
Reward yourself when you get something done.
If you do complete your goals, give yourself a reward. Even small goals deserve small rewards to help keep you motivated throughout the process.
For example, if you’ve managed to complete your work by 5 pm every day for a week, take an evening off. Go see a movie or treat yourself to a special dinner.
If you’re training for a marathon and you’ve managed to hit your daily exercise goals, sign up for a 5k to give you a sense of your success.
If you’ve managed to improve your relationships by being more consistent, your friendships may be the reward. If you’re proud of yourself, take your friends out or host a dinner.
Keep going if you make a mistake.
Even the most consistent and well-organized people slip up sometimes. Plan for potential failure, and don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake along the way.
Just because you had to cancel an appointment, break a promise, or pass a deadline doesn’t mean you’re not consistent. Sometimes, despite our best planning, external factors can get in the way.
Plan for your setbacks and failures. If a literary agent rejects your manuscript, figure out where next to send it, or look it over to see what might be improved.
Consistency doesn’t equal perfection. If you miss a day at the gym or fail to read your child a book at night, encourage yourself to start again the very next day.
Take time off to recharge.
Consistency doesn’t mean that you are working all of the time. In fact, if you give yourself time off, you’ll improve your productivity and avoid burning out. Schedule in time for yourself, and don’t let work or other commitments get in the way.
For example, you might give yourself an hour each evening to read, take a bath, or watch TV. Don’t work during this time.
Meditation is a great way to quiet your brain and give yourself some peace. Practice meditating for at least 5 minutes each day and work your way up to 15 minutes at a time.
Don’t push aside your personal time if you have other responsibilities. For example, if you need Saturday mornings to sleep in, don’t promise your significant other that you’ll wake up to mow your lawn. Tell them you’ll do it on another day or time (and make sure to come through on this promise!).
Use motivational tools to keep going even when you don’t feel like it.
When you’re tired or stressed, it can be easy just to let your goals slide for a day, but these actions can quickly cause you to get off track. If you’re feeling down or lazy, try to find new sources of motivation.
Space out small rewards throughout the day to keep you going. For example, if you’re writing a long paper, give yourself a 5 minute break every time you finish a page or 2.
Remind yourself of your long-term goals. Tell yourself that if you want to achieve those goals, you’ll have to get this task done. For example, instead of saying, “I really don’t want to write those reports,” you might think, “Once I get those reports done, I’ll have time to do something else.”
If you’re having a difficult day, make a compromise with yourself. For example, if you want to eat healthy more consistently but you can’t bring yourself to cook, pick up a salad instead of fast food.
Hold yourself accountable.
To be consistent you have to make sure that you recognize when you don’t reach the standards and goals that you’ve set. In these moments, consider if your goals are realistic or ask yourself what you can do to improve.
On your schedule or calendar, check off tasks that you have completed. This will give you a sense of satisfaction. It will also help you realize what you can realistically accomplish in 1 day.
Ask a friend, family member, mentor, or coworker to be your accountability partner. Have them check in once a week to see what your progress is like. If they see you not behaving consistently, give them permission to call you out.
Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t hit the mark. What matters is that you keep working towards your goals and towards consistency.
Give yourself time to see changes.
Whenever you try to establish new habits, understand that it can take time. Instead of uprooting your life with several new practices at once, allow yourself time to figure out what works. Be realistic with what you can expect to see over time.
It usually takes 3 weeks of consistently doing something to make a new habit. Every three weeks, set a small goal to attain in that time period. Don’t tackle too much. Start with small rituals and build your way up.
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Set boundaries for your commitments and personal relationships.
Boundaries make it easier to keep commitments because you have a specific limit in which to function. Before taking on new tasks or promises, establish what you are willing and able to do as well as what you know you realistically can’t do.
For example, you might establish that you won’t take phone calls during a family dinner. Tell your boss, coworkers, and friends that this time is off limits. Put your phone in another room during dinner.
You can also establish quality markers for yourself. For example, you might tell yourself that you will check your work twice before submitting it to your boss. Give yourself extra time to complete this task so that you achieve consistent quality.
Build your willpower.
Consistency requires willpower to achieve, because consistency tends to lean towards performing even when you don’t feel like it. To do that, you need to have the willpower to do it.
Avoid temptation wherever possible. For example, if you want to be consistent about eating healthy, make sure that you have healthy options on hand for when you’re hungry. Don’t keep unhealthy food around.
Exhaustion can cause you to skip tasks. Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night to keep yourself going.
Remind yourself of the long-term benefits whenever you feel unmotivated. Read over your list of goals for inspiration.
Eliminate negative thinking.
Negative thinking is the bane of consistency and of willpower. When you think negatively you are making yourself less likely to be able to hold to your consistent actions.
Pay attention to negative thought patterns that will hinder you in the future. Catch yourself if you start thinking “I can’t do this” or “I’m stupid.”
When you do notice these negative thought patterns, turn them around or introduce a more positive or neutral thought. So for example if you find yourself thinking “I can’t do this,” turn it around and think, “I’m going to practice doing this, even if I’m not great at it to start with.”
If you’re starting to dread a task or goal, revise the the task, goal, or outcome. Break it up into smaller steps or promise yourself a reward when you get it done.