The myth of consistency in business

One of the pieces of advice that I heard most frequently when I started my business was “be consistent!”. While “consistent” doesn’t mean “constant” (as in, be online all the time), this advice often made me feel as if I was falling short. It also stifled my creativity, and my attempts to be consistent led me to push through more than once even though I was tired.

Four years on, I know that consistency is a myth—in business and in life. What’s more, we feel so much unnecessary shame and inadequacy about not being able to be as consistent as we feel we should be. In this post, I explain why consistency is a myth, and suggest a slower, gentler and in the long run, much more effective way of doing things in our life and business.

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The myth of consistency

I always assume that when people give advice, they do so with the best of intentions. So when people suggest that we should be consistent with our marketing, with our newsletters, with our daily habits and more, I believe that they mean well. 

But any advice is rooted in our own experience and values: some people might say that you need to be consistent because that’s what they’ve heard other people say; others tell you to be consistent because it’s what’s worked for them.

What if it doesn’t work for you?

Over the past two years, I’ve been very inconsistent with marketing my business. I experimented with social media, scaled down, took breaks and then left altogether. I wrote a monthly newsletter that I didn’t send on the same day every month, and for two months in the depths of depression, didn’t send it at all. I set up a Pinterest account and pinned to it frequently, really making it grow and driving people to my website—and since this past summer have barely spent any time on it.

Yes, certain platforms—including Instagram and Pinterest—reward consistency. But does that mean that you have to keep on feeding them just like that—consistently—even though it doesn’t fit with your life, your energy, your needs?

My business hasn’t collapsed. In fact, my business is doing really well in terms of my own standards of success. Might it have done even better had I been more “consistent”? Perhaps. Might I have been feeling exhausted and burnt-out? Very likely.

But what will people think?

One of the topics that comes up often in my conversations with small business owners is whether or not they should apologize, acknowledge that they’ve been off social media, or haven’t sent a newsletter in a while. Just beginning again after a break can be challenging enough, and especially so if we feel like we need to apologize for being absent.

My advice usually is not to acknowledge it (and it always is to definitely not apologize). There’s no point in acknowledging that you’ve been gone, other than trying to assuage your own guilt. But why are you feeling guilty? It’s your business and your life, and you get to set the rules.

It’s your business and your life, and you get to set the rules.

There is a slower, gentler and more profitable way of running your business.

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Instead: marketing and launching that is slow, gentle and gets results. Clear boundaries and priorities that encourage you to live a life next to your business. Accountability and support to help you create the live and business you crave.

Remember, you get to set the rules

I often invite small business owners and freelancers to ask themselves how often they wonder, “Hmmm… I haven’t seen a newsletter by X in a while, I wonder how they’re doing?”. Chances are that if that person isn’t already their friend, this question doesn’t pop up in their mind. We’re simply too self-involved—and I say this lovingly. We’re self-involved because this body and this mind is what we spend most of our time with. Even though we can be paralyzed by the thought “but what will other people think!?!?” most of the time we’re still primarily focused on our own business and own lives.

Adopting a more often than not approach

Just as consistency is often touted as the thing in marketing and business, we’re also frequently told that we need to be consistent with our personal habits. A habit doesn’t count if you don’t do it every day. For some people, doing something every day is the only way in which they are motivated to do something at all. If that’s you, then please go ahead and enjoy what works for you.

But increasingly I’m learning that the “do it every day”-mentality is something we adopt because we’ve so internalized that we need it. Back in the day when I still wore a Fitbit, I couldn’t stand it if I didn’t reach 10,000 steps a day. I turned into one of those people who’d be walking up and down stairs in the evening because I wanted to reach my goal. Did I still enjoy it by that time? No, but I felt I had to reach that goal anyway (an interesting read about our contemporary obsession with streaks right here).

When it comes to habits that genuinely make us feel good, a “most days”-approach might be far more achievable, and joyful, than forcing yourself to do something every day.

The thing is, I’m really good at habits. If I decide to do something every day, I can do it every day, to the complete detriment of my own sanity. It’s taken me a long time to recognize this and let it go.

A definite turning point was returning to my yoga practice three years ago. For the first time in ages (ever?) I was able to do yoga because I wanted to do it. Not because I wanted to complete a habit tracker, or because something inside of me told me I had to do it, or I wouldn’t be serious, or I would fall out of the habit if I skipped a day.

When it comes to habits that genuinely make us feel good, a “most days”-approach might be far more achievable, and joyful, than forcing yourself to do something every day.

If my newsletters and free resources resonate with you, I might just be the right mentor for you. I don’t believe in 10-step-plans, or get rich quick schemes. I do believe that it is possible to create and run a business that fits you and your life: your values and rhythms, your strengths and passions. I strongly believe that you don’t need to do all the things, or be on all the channels to make your business work. 

I’m here to help you feel more supported in your business. I’m here to give you the confidence to run your business from that place of deep inner knowing inside of you, offering my signature blend of mindset shifts and practical steps.

The case for loose consistency

Nowadays I prefer loose consistency—or actually, outside of this newsletter, I try to avoid the word altogether. I do yoga many days of the week, but not because I have to, but because how it makes me feel.When I moved my newsletter to Substack, one of the pieces of advice I read most frequently was “be consistent!”. People will be expecting your email at certain points in the week or month, I was told.

That thought, of having to post at the same time every month or every week, made me feel cramped and stifled. And when it comes to my business I want to feel spacious and creative, which is why I’ve also been experimenting with unplanning.

I asked myself the same question I ask others, “how often does a certain day roll around and I wonder, ‘where is Y’s newsletter?’”. The answer for me is, never. I read many Substack newsletters with a very consistent schedule, especially those that appear more than once a week—but I really never wonder about a post not appearing.

Having a set day on which you post something can be very freeing: you needn’t think of three posts to write each week because you have a set topic or type of post for Monday, a different one for Wednesday, and yet a different one for Friday (see Culture Study and Burnt Toast for examples).

Loose consistency for me means that I usually send out my newsletters on Thursdays. The reason for that is, first of all, that picking a set day excuses me from having to think every time about when to send it. And secondly, I chose Thursday because that is always my business day, no matter what my week looks like—so I have time to respond to comments and engage with people. I’ve written more about my experience of moving my newsletter to Substack here.

an experiment

Take a moment to think or journal about these questions:

  1. How do you feel about consistency? Is it freeing or constricting to you?
  2. Where in your life or business are you expecting yourself to be consistent without it actually feeling good?
  3. Where in your life or business can you adopt a practice of loose consistency and trust that things will be fine?

I’d love to know which of these strategies to feel more supported in your business you’ve tried, and which you’re going to try out. I’d love to know!

Please feel free to share it with business friends, in your newsletter or on social media. 💛

I’d love to support you in all phases of your business. Providing clarity, focus and next steps is something that my clients tell me I’m really good at. If you’re curious about how we can work together through 1:1 mentoring, check out what I offer or send me an email–no strings attached. I have payment plans available, and flexible options for mentoring calls (30 or 60 minutes).

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