If you’ve been around the online biz block for a while, chances are you’ve heard about how important it is to be consistent in your business.
And whenever you hear about being consistent, you probably start to feel pretty crappy about yourself. How do I know? Because it happens to me every damn time.
3 1/2 years ago, I got the harebrained idea to start a food blog when everyone else and their monkey’s uncle was doing it. You should know that I had a reputation for starting things and not finishing them. Oh, and I was working a full-time job and I had a husband and a baby daughter at home.
So it came as a surprise even to me when after blogging for a few months, I liked it, and kept doing it, and other people that weren’t related to me started to notice and like it, too. But something kept eating at me (you know I had to make a food pun).
In my effort to become the best dang food blogger I could be, I was listening to podcasts and reading in Facebook groups and online forums and encountering this same discussion over and over:
“You need to be consistent with your posting schedule!”
“Post 3 times a week or Google won’t rank you in search results!”
“Ok, MAYBE twice a week, but always on the same days. And don’t miss a day!”
“It doesn’t matter that you have a full-time job and a husband and a baby! Suck it up and do it! What kind of food blogger are you? So-and-So Big Time Blogger Person got up early before work and posted before she made it big, you can too!”
Ok, I may have added my own internal monologue for color. But over the past 3+ years I have fretted about this so much, I could have written a hundred posts in all the time I spent beating myself up. So much guilt, and so much shame, around not being consistent. In fact, I worried about not being consistent so much that sometimes I let it prevent me from doing anything at all.
But a funny thing happened. Even though the voices in my head were constantly pestering me, I posted as often as I could, which in many cases wasn’t often at all. Some months it would be one time, or none, like those first three months when I was pregnant with my son and wanted to be as far away from the kitchen as possible.
Yet, the blog was growing. People were making the recipes and enjoying them, and telling me about it, and sometimes even saying that they liked my writing and that I was funny. Oh, the things that motivate us.
Now, 3 1/2 years later, the blog earns a full-time income, even though I’m only working part-time hours. I quit my job, by the way, but did you know that working from home with kids around is not easier than working in an office alone? No one told me that. Anyway….things are going great! And yet…that shame. The “you’re not consistent” shame. It’s still showing up.
“How much further along would you be had you stuck to a posting schedule?”
“Maybe you could have had your house paid off by now!”
“Did being inconsistent cost your children a college education?”
Clearly I need some affirmations in my life. Isn’t it ridiculous how we can ruin the feeling of success by dwelling on what we should have done differently? I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to stop should-ing all over myself.
Recently, I had a realization that has stuck with me, like an earworm, so I’m sharing it with you in the hopes of making room for other realizations.
Here it is.
Inconsistent diligence is still diligence.
Now listen, I’m not suggesting that consistency isn’t worth pursuing. Far from it. But what I am suggesting is that we reframe the conversation around the power behind consistency, and that’s diligence.
I bet a lot of people think that diligence and consistency are the same thing, but they’re not. Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate the differences.
Consistency is going horseback riding every day for 30 days.
Diligence is getting thrown off the horse 30 times in a row but still getting back on after your 3-week hospital stay.
Consistency is writing a blog post 30 days in a row, even if only 2 of the posts are worth reading.
Diligence is sitting on the couch with a heating pad around your sore neck writing a guest post for a blog you love, having no idea if it will get published. (P.S. That’s what I’m doing right now.)
Consistency is making your bed 30 days in a row because you saw a post on Facebook about how it can change your life.
Diligence is spending 30 minutes wrestling the comforter back into the duvet cover because you’re not going to let a feather-filled piece of fabric beat you.
Diligence seems a little more badass, doesn’t it? I mean, you were stuck in the hospital for 3 weeks, and you GOT BACK ON THE HORSE.
Inconsistent diligence is still diligence.
Maybe you don’t make your bed every day, but when you do make it, it’s a hard-won fight and you can feel good about wielding control over a soft, fluffy blanket. Maybe you don’t post three times a week, but when you do post, it’s worth reading and worth sharing and just might be the catalyst for exponential growth in your business.
What if you fell off the horse on day 15, had your 3-week stay in the hospital, and decided never to get on the horse again because your streak was broken? That’s putting consistency on a pedestal.
Consistency is not the holy grail. It’s an ideal.
And when it comes to seeing results in your business, consistency doesn’t mean squat without diligence.
Being consistent is a good thing, and I aspire to it, but I have come to terms with the fact that life is messy, and unpredictable, and full of bucking horses.
Being diligent is refusing to fizzle out even if you’re inconsistent. That’s the grit of being an entrepreneur.
Consistency for its own sake is prone to produce mediocre work, because we can fall into the trap of only caring about getting the gold star on the chart. But I know that you want to do meaningful work that solves a problem for someone else, and earn a living doing it. You wouldn’t be reading this if that wasn’t the case.
There will be seasons in your indie entrepreneur journey where consistency and diligence converge, and those are powerful times of growth and change. But one thing I can promise you is that the reverie will be broken at some point, because life is a rude interrupter of our plans.
When you get knocked down, and you will, it won’t matter that you didn’t get the perfect attendance award. What will matter is that you got back up and kept going. That’s the heartbeat. That’s your why. That’s diligence.
Beth Hornback is a writer, food photographer, recipe developer, grocery shopper, and dishwasher at Eat Within Your Means. She'll talk your ear off about spaghetti squash if you let her, but it's just because she wants you to eat your vegetables and like them, too.
“Inconsistent diligence is still diligence.”