Common advice dictates that you do nothing until inspiration strikes. That if you wake up uninspired or unmotivated, you are under no obligation to do your work. Particularly in the creative fields.
But is that good advice?
History is undoubtedly filled with geniuses who waited for the muse to shine upon them before picking up their pen. Is that the rule though? Or the exception? Surely there is more than one way to get to where you want to go.
I had a conversation with a relative recently. We were discussing personality types. She and I both considered ourselves Type-A’s.
Upon that claim, I wondered what non-Type-A’s were called. Immediately, the answer came to me: Nothing. Because only Type-A’s care enough to assign their personality type.
Now, it turns out that Type-B is actually the correct answer (as well as Type-C). Where Type-A’s are competitive and aggressive, Type-B’s are more relaxed and easy-going. Type-C’s have a difficult time expressing their feelings (source).
Consistency is powerful
The point I’m making though, and the point of my joke, is that there are many different types of people (certainly more than just A, B, and C). Humans are complex and from that complexity, it should be assumed that there is no one right way to do something.
That said, when it comes to productive output, there do seem to be commonalities. And in those commonalities is sure to lie some truth. It may not be indicative of all humanity, but certainly some sect of it.
And that commonality, that shared trait of getting work done, comes down to one thing: consistency.
Seinfeld is consistent
Jerry Seinfeld was recently on the Tim Ferriss Show. It was a great episode (check it out here). Amongst other takeaways, one thing that stood out to me was Seinfeld’s writing consistency.
To summarize, he explained that he sits down and writes most days. Even if he’s not in the mood, even if nothing is coming to him, he sits down and does his best.
Day after day after day.
Pressfield is consistent
In The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, the author extols the value of sitting down to do your work each day, whether you want to or not. That it is your job.
If you want photography or knitting to be a hobby, then fine, do it when you feel inspired. But, if you take it seriously, if you want to make something out of it, you need to put in the time. Every. Single. Day.
You must show up for yourself and put in the work. Whether you are:
- Motivated or not
- Inspired or not
- Energized or not
It is your duty. A duty that you must fulfill, regardless of the weather.
Clear is consistent
Similarly, James Clear abides by this rule as well.
He asserts that to get anything done, you must have a schedule and stick to it. You can’t expect to make progress in the gym if you wait around all day to feel motivated. You need to be deliberate, having a set schedule that you follow.
And when the appropriate time comes around, you must stick to it.
My writing goal
In my own work, I too have found this to be powerfully true. One of my current goals is to publish one new post each day, five days a week. Each post must be at least 500 words, but no more than 2,500 words.
As you can see, I’ve placed lower and upper bounds on the goal.
On the lower side (500 words), I am covered on days when I’m lacking energy. In exercise terms, it’s the equivalent of going for a nice walk. It’s not the most intense workout in the world, but it’s considerably better than sitting on the couch.
And on the upper side (2,500 words), I’ve protected myself on days where the words are flying out of me. Put in exercise terms again, it’s like going for a run and stopping myself after hitting ten miles.
Yes, I could keep running, but I must be done for the sake of sustainability.
Show up each day
Regardless, I publish one new post each day. Even if I’m feeling tired, or groggy, or frustrated, I write the words.
Same thing goes for exercise, or eating healthy, or reading.
You need to show up for yourself if you want to see results. If you get four hours of sleep each night, what good is one eight hour stretch every quarter? On the other hand, what if you got eight hours of sleep each night with the occasional four-hour slump every few months?
Consistency leads to results
You can’t rely on inspiration to do the work for you. Instead, you must do it yourself through consistency. Sometimes you may be motivated but more often than not, you won’t be.
And that’s fine.
Just like James Clears’ gym example, some workouts will be better than others. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you did the work. That you showed up. Those workouts will average out over time anyway and end up providing you with results.
And with results, you’ll enjoy your workouts even more.
How to be consistent
How do you be consistent? It’s simple. Have a set time where you sit down and do your work.
For me, it’s right around nine in the morning. It’s post-breakfast, post-daughter-daycare-drop. It’s quiet and I can focus. I sit down at my desk with my laptop open. I decide what to write and then I write it. And I don’t stop writing until the post is done.
Then I move on with my day (before coming back for edits in the afternoon).
I do that each day, Monday through Friday, excluding any unforeseen events.
Moving forward with consistency
In your own life, do this same thing. Create a plan for yourself. Decide when you will do your work and when the time comes, do it. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Don’t wait for motivation to finally excite you.
Be consistent with your efforts. And from that consistency, great things will surely come about.
If it works for Seinfeld, Pressfield, and Clear, it’ll surely work for you. So give it a shot. Try being consistent and see what you can do.
You got this.