Archive for September, 2012


Consistency

 

Variety is the spice of life, right? At first blush, that metaphor makes sense; variety mixes things up and makes things more memorable.

When I think about spices, though, I think about how different people are. Some love their burritos spicy, while others prefer to go with the mildest salsa they can find. Not everyone loves spice, and from my experience, those who do are in the vast minority.

I prefer consistency. I love patterns, rhythms and schedules. Set something on repeat and I’m a happy camper. It might sound boring, but there are some benefits to doing the same thing the same way all the time. Let me extol the glorious benefits of consistency to you.

Consistency begets familiarity. This is super important to people involved in branding, marketing and the overall building of reputation and image. If you run a business and present yourself visually in a dozen different ways, your customers and clients have less of a chance of recognizing you. And if they don’t recognize you, they won’t trust you.

We don’t just want to trust our businesses, though. We need to trust our systems. If we figure out the best, most effective way to handle our monthly business record-keeping, we are able to relax and trust the system. Just pull the levers and push the buttons and let the system do all the work for you.

Consistency is mental muscle memory. Muscle memory is that habit you built up doing something physical. Professional athletes don’t mentally walk through each movement in every swing or jump. They practice and practice until the motions become instinctive. Muscle memory takes over and they are able to preform with less delay.

Consistency in our mental habits does the same thing. Over time we begin to develop an instinct that helps us get the job done faster. Maybe that means we get better abut capturing ideas. Or perhaps you get better at handling those emails from prospective clients. Planning your day gets easier when you do it the same way each and every time.

Consistency aids growth. When you build a habit and stick with it, it begins to solidify and function like a foundation. Consistency means we can take the familiar process we’ve trusted for years and add new pieces and steps to it. We will innately know if those additions have helped or hurt our systems because we are familiar with the results.

If we can recognize improvement, we can constantly build and grow what we do and who we are. I don’t know about you, but I want to be better at what I do in a year.

Don’t chase the spice of life when it comes to running a business or managing your productivity. Create consistency, build and grow habits that generate dependable results. And then tweak them over time to get better and better. It’s reassuring, and a great path to creating a business that’s frictionless.


Sieves

 

My wife remembers everything. Everything. She will frequently look up at me during breakfast and say something like, “I bought these earrings fourteen years ago today.”

Yeah, I think it’s weird too.

Most of us aren’t like that. Most of us have brains that function more like pasta sieves than steel traps. We can have conversations and forget what the person said five minutes before. Ideas drift into our minds like a fluffy cloud and then vanish the moment we see something distracting. No, most of us can barely retain ideas and thoughts and information.

But we all think we can, don’t we? We will be told something, and think, “I’ll take care of that tomorrow” but then do nothing about it. Of course, when tomorrow comes, we don’t recall the task. We always assume we are going to remember that item that needs created for a client, or the chore our spouse asked us to take care of. We assume that whatever we put into our heads today will be there tomorrow.

Here’s a better strategy for remembering things:

Don’t ask yourself, “Will I remember this later?”. The answer is always, “No”.

Instead, always ask, “Have I put pieces in place to remind me of this later?” This way, when you do forget in an hour or two, there will be a safety net waiting to keep the idea or task or deadline from being looked over and forgotten.

Never (never) “walk away” from a thought that needs future action without taking steps to ensure it gets done. For tasks, plug them into your tasks manager of choice (I use OmniFocus on my Mac, iPhone and iPad). Assign them a date and reminder before you forget that you need to do them. Trust me.

If you write, or plan, or create ideas for a living or hobby, you need to capture ideas. They don’t stick around. On my iPhone I use an app called Drafts to capture text instantly (read our review of the app here). Carry a notebook with you, or a stack of index cards in your back pocket.

There are even audio options available, if you don’t have hands free. The iPhone’s Siri feature makes it easy to “remind me to email logo files to Jennifer tomorrow”. Or find yourself a cheap digital voice recorder.

You know the frustration of forgetfulness. That’s you experiencing friction. So examine your past experiences and look for the biggest holes in your systems. Then plan out the right solution and put it into action.

Unless you happen to be my wife, I’ll bet good money that you are going to forget something. Don’t trust yourself to remember things. Build a frictionless system and run with it. Your freelance career, relationships and hobbies will all benefit from taking action.