In this post, you’ll find a few ideas on how to be more consistent at work.
We live in a time of constant change. So much so that it’s not uncommon for as little as a few weeks away from the internet and or the news to bring surprises to the mind and awareness of the disconnected. New technologies come to life in less and less time, and as for what goes by the name of “culture”, that changes even quicker, with the aid of new trends that happen to be birth almost overnight, with many of them going to the grave almost as quickly. What lacks today in life is consistency. This doesn’t make today’s time any better and worse than the past. As with everything in life, this lack comes with its own set of good and bad. Since whether we admit it or not we are affected by the environment around us, this fast pace of change and constant innovation spoils the mind instigating a now almost manic crave for novelty.
Like one’s own body, one’s own life is also a complex system in which changes in one small and seemingly inconsequential department can trigger a chain of cause and effects that end up affecting the system as a whole in ways no one ever predicted.
Taking that into consideration, it’s not much of a stretch to think that consistency at work is one of life’s departments affected by our constant crave for novelty and change.
How To Be Consistent At Work?
Begin by timing it
One of the first things I try to do after a break from any kind of work and I want to get back to that state of optimal performance we can only find after a while is time. The question to ask here is how long do you work for before you go for a break? 30 min? 1h?
If you struggle either with consistency in performance or just pure hard work at work chances are that the time you work for before a break is short. I noticed over time that it’s when I work for 3-5 hours without a break that my performance and consistency at work improve. When you condition the mind to work for longer stretches of time you also condition it to deal with the frustrations that come with the task, and just in case you’re not fond of it, time also passes quicker.
If you work in chunks of 30 minutes in an 8-hour shift, time passes slower because you’re often reminded of the passage of time. In the other side of the coin also rests the word “Immersion”, in which the longer you work for, the deeper you get into it regardless of how much you don’t enjoy the task. I noticed that whenever I had to execute a task I didn’t like the way to do it better while making pass time quicker was to well…try to do it the best I could while also trying to complete the task.
You can only do that by working for longer than a little while, and I attribute this effect to immersion. The more immersed you are at work you experience two things:
- What the author of the book The rise of superman calls “time dilation” in which time passes faster for you, and
- You get your problem solving mental juices flowing more and more as time passes.
The thing about problems is that the more challenging they are the more uninterrupted thinking time is required to solve them, and with the 5s focus of the person of today, solving bigger and more important problems can be increasingly difficult.
So, begin by working for longer.
Set up a routine
The kind of equipment we have between our ears optimizes for repetitive tasks. Meaning that that which is has been done before is more easily done now, more easily even in comparison to that which has never been done at all.
This is why one of the most important things you can do to improve your consistency at work in terms of performance is to set a standard for yourself and to go about enforcing it with everything you’ve got. In day one we all benefit from a burst of motivation and energy due to the novelty of the behavior. On days two and three, as the novelty factor wears off it’s important to keep enforcing your standard since if you do it for long enough the standard becomes less of an aspiration but a part of who you are as a person. It’s the equivalent brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. Most of us have been doing those for so long that we don’t put a thought to the fact that these are behaviors we did not possess when we were born. They were imposed on us by our parents/caretakers, and now they are as natural as breathing.
So, the point here is to make good and hard work a routine. The kind of thing you do without thinking like brushing your teeth in the morning, or breathing even.
According to research habits are formed in about 66 days, which when you think about it is not nearly as much as anyone would have thought. As mentioned above, life is a complex system in which change, no matter how small, no matter the place the change occurs at, can have massive effects throughout the system. 66 days of good work can trigger new and better habits that when compounded over time can be life-changing.
This is what happens for example when people begin exercising regularly. The boost in mood in energy gives rise to creativity and motivation to do better work, come up with new ideas of your own, strengthen the relationships you already have while allowing you to make new ones.
Every new discipline affects the rest.Jim Rohn
Build your consistency/reliability muscle
Another way to become more consistent at work is by being consistent at something else. When people decide to make a change in their lives they often begin with exercising. Most do it because they hear it from someone else about how exercising is what successful people do, but exercising as mentioned above can have powerful effects well beyond health. The reason for this is that you don’t have to do it for too long for it to become enjoyable and then addictive. This enjoyment is what is more likely to make you become more consistent at it, and thus give your life more discipline and structure. As Jordan Peterson once said, the depressed should try to add some structure to their lives even if that structure and order comes from a job they hate.
The consistency/reliability muscle like any other muscle can be built by doing anything that makes you uncomfortable. What I mean here is not to go skydiving or to fast of 30 days, but to do anything that causes you discomfort in the sense that it forces you to be consistent at something to accomplish/avoid something else.
Learning to be consistent at simple and mundane things can just like compound interest look too insignificant to matter in a moment by moment basis until it’s effects are too powerful to be ignored. This is also the equivalent to bodybuilding in which due to poor conditioning the unfit is forced to lift too light to be proud of weights for a while, while incrementally increasing the resistance to levels they never thought they ever would, but such that the change was too minimal in each increment to be perceived by the distracted mind.
Develop an ideal and chase it
One very underrated idea is that of dreaming out an ideal you’d like to become and making it a priority. I learned this lesson from one of many of Jordan Peterson’s talks and it surprised me how little people talk about this, and how even fewer people make it a priority. This idea of becoming something greater than your present self can when taken seriously turn the reckless into literal disciple machines. Of the kind that overnight simultaneously adhere and stick to a rigid health plan, while waking up early, exercising regularly and starting a business. Here being consistent at work just like brushing your teeth in the morning becomes a given, all due to your new/renewed interest and maybe even obsession in your higher self.
The role of the ideal here is to inspire you to make incremental improvements over time. Which means that meager ideals manufactured for the simple sake of making you feel good about yourself with little to no effort are out of the picture. We began by wondering how we could be more consistent at work in terms of performance and diligence, and perhaps the most powerful of the strategies to go about doing that is by aspiring and striving to become a better version of ourselves.
At the end of the day, consistency is hard. Just like any other kind of change, this is one of these things you do one step at a time…one day at a time. Each moment being a battle between your lower and higher selves. Each time you hope the higher self comes up victorious, because the more this happens the greater the odds that you’ll get the life you want in the long run.
It is all about knowledge and experience 😉
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