How to maintain progress by being consistently inconsistent

While I was running the other day, I realised that I don’t run (or do any exercise for that matter) consistently. In fact, you could say I’m consistently inconsistent.

That got me thinking about consistency, its importance on social media and why this particular buzzword causes so many headaches for small business owners.

It can be difficult to get back on track

Sometimes, I get really enthusiastic and go deep into planning, obsessing, measuring and running/exercising a lot. However, this type of behaviour always ultimately leads to burnout, and I don’t know about you, but for me it’s very hard to get back ‘on track’ again.

I see this behaviour with my social media clients all the time too. They set themselves big goals, make ambitious plans and dedicate a lot of time to planning and creating their social media content. But their efforts inevitably fail because they get busier, or something else that’s shinier pops up. They stop and then struggle to get back on track.

I’m the same when it comes to running. Even though I like running, I enjoy the experience, I know it’s good for me and I feel much better when I’m running regularly, I still struggle to be consistent with it.

Becoming consistently inconsistent

And that leads me to the main point of this post: how we can stop struggling with being consistent on social media and develop habits that will ensure we’re as present as we can be?

The answer might be: becoming consistently inconsistent.

Take my running example. The ideal scenario is that I’ll be running consistently a couple of times each week. But that’s not always possible for whatever reason and by allowing myself some flexibility, I can actually be consistent even when I’m not. For example, instead of running consistently, I might cycle to work and do yoga here and there in between.

The same can apply to your social media efforts.

Yes, the ideal scenario is that you’ll post on social media every couple of days, at the same time, following a clear pattern that your audience can get used to. But let’s be honest, how many of us freelancers and small business owners can maintain this alongside all the challenges that running a business throws at us. Even I can’t!

So let’s look at consistency differently…

We have many tools and platforms available, and most of us will be present at multiple places at once. That’s like me running, doing yoga, swimming, cycling and going to HIIT bootcamps. Each of these platforms/exercises is good for you, but trying to do all at once will inevitably lead to fatigue and burnout.

So instead of trying to be everywhere and do everything, allow yourself to be a bit more flexible and simply show up consistently at a couple of places and go with the flow (like I’ve done with my exercising).

You can slow down, choose a different channel or a different approach. You can do a video here and there, and when you don’t feel like it, simply share a photo or a text post. You can even repurpose some of your older content if you don’t feel creative enough to produce something new.

Is this the best approach that will give you the best possible results. Probably not!

Is this an achievable and more sustainable way to look at your marketing. Absolutely!

If you can be consistent and show up every day/week with a fresh piece of content and never miss a day, good on you. Keep it up! But don’t punish yourself when you can’t. Most of us can’t and that’s OK too.

It doesn’t mean you should abandon social media (or exercising) altogether! Just find something else that you enjoy doing and show up.

Everything evolves in cycles

Let me bring one more sport-inspired thought into the mix. The other day when I was doing my morning yoga, at the end of the session, the yogi said “Everything is cyclical” and a lightbulb went on in my head.

From the seasons of the year to moon cycles and the transition from day to night. There are natural cycles, as well as well documented economic cycles.

For years we’ve known that the economic system naturally moves from an expansion stage to a recession and back in fairly regular intervals. We also know that there are things like a business cycle, product cycle, as well as a buyer journey cycle.

You might have also come across the term Feast or Famine Cycle when it comes to freelancing and running a small business. 

In a nutshell, it’s a cycle that comprises a slower period, when you focus on marketing and getting business in, and once it starts working, you get too much business that you can’t maintain your marketing activities so you stop. For a while, you’re having a good time and lots of projects, but later on, your pool of leads dries up and since you were too busy doing the work, you completely forgot to do the marketing to bring new leads in. 

This happens mostly to service businesses and contractors, whose business model is based on exchanging their time for money. 

The main thing to remember about cycles is that each peak is usually higher than the previous one and that each trough doesn’t go as low as the previous one – so that the overall trajectory is upwards.

In the same way that things in nature grow, bloom and then recede to save up their energy and protect themselves from the cold during winter. You can also see your business growth through the lens of a cyclic growth with periods of growth, prosperous times and quieter periods of maintenance.

And that’s where our two metaphors merge!

From my experience, there are two types of growth: exponential growth and cyclical growth.

Cyclical growth feels like the better option a freelancer or a startup that’s heavily driven by one person. This type of growth is more sustainable and will assure that your business has longevity and at the same time it won’t drive you to burnout!

How to (in)consistently grow your business?

It’s okay to be inconsistent sometimes. It’s okay to go through cycles and be more active at one point and recede to maintenance state at other times while you focus on other priorities. 

You don’t need to feel bad when you fall off the wagon and when you can’t get yourself to be consistent with your posting (or blogging, email newsletters, vlogs or any other kind of marketing). It’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean that all the hard work that you’ve already put in will disappear.

Is it better to be consistent? Of course, it is! But is it always achievable when you’re running your own business? In most cases NOT!

So don’t beat yourself up, don’t feel like a failure, don’t worry that you won’t get any results from your efforts. As we know, after each recession comes another period of growth, innovation and prosperity!

Your turn… What do you think about my consistently inconsistent approach and sporting metaphors?