Consistency is overrated

Lifelog  •  13 Sept 2021

In habit hacking circles, you’d usually hear about how consistency trumps intensity. Think about any goal you have, or your daily writing habit – getting 1% better every day means you’ll be 3700% better after one year, all thanks to the miracle of compounding! Imagine what you’ll be able to do at 37 multiples of your base competency now. You can see that I’m bullish on consistency.

But here’s an interesting counterpoint to the whole consistency versus intensity debate:

Consistency is overrated. If you’re forcing yourself to produce against your will, your output is unlikely to be worth consuming. If you want a process that lasts, trade consistency for intensity. Do a lot when inspiration strikes, and take a break when you have nothing to add. ~ @dvassallo

That makes sense too, as much as the other side of the argument about consistency, where it’s all about doing it anyway, day in and day out, even if you’re not inspired. I’d personally experienced creative seasons when inspiration strikes and I’m unstoppable. Productivity goes through the roof. The sense of accomplishment from these period is simply addictive.

But the intensity of inspiration is notoriously unreliable. If I wait for it, I may never get anything done. Ever. The production process becomes ill-disciplined and lazy. Toxic stagnation comes. But when it returns, it’s a sweet, crazy ride. Pulse and pause is the operating mode here.

Perhaps then consistency can help fill in the gaps in between periods of intensity. Uninspired? Then just plug at it daily, till it comes. But the danger of plugging at it when you’re not into it, is that you start to hate it so much that the resulting toxicity may make inspiration never return. Yes, I know. It too had happened to me before. Ever stuck in a job that you once loved but after some time, it evolved into a monster you just want to wish away? Yes that’s toxic consistency for you. Always on, every single day, but quality starts to suffer. And your heart too. To prevent this, the process itself needs to be the reward.

I think there’s no end to it if you set intensity up against consistency, as polar opposites. Truth is, we need both. And we need the wholesome sides of both, not the toxic sides. Intense seasons of inspiration-fuelled sprints, followed by dedicated marathons of consistent effort, step by step, building on whatever the intense sprints brought on. And always keep their evil twins at bay. Hold on too long to the inspiration seasons, and you slide into stagnation. Keep at the consistency marathons for too long, and you (and your creativity) wither and die.

Consistency AND intensity.


This reminds me of an idea I had for a newsletter where I would present both sides of a particular piece of wisdom. In this example, relying on consistency vs intensity. Make the argument for one, then the other, and then state where I land on the topic. I haven’t gotten it off the ground because it is something I would prefer to read rather than write.

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therealbrandonwilson  •  14 Sept 2021, 1:10 pm

Do it! I would subscribe for sure!

Lifelog  •  14 Sept 2021, 10:14 pm