I have had the pleasure of helping hundreds of engineers in their career development over the past few years, and I have also had the opportunity to work with small business owners. The one overriding characteristic of successful professionals, especially successful professionals that are less stressed, is CONSISTENCY.
Thefreedictionary.com defines consistency as “Reliability or uniformity of successive results or events.” Consistency is not just doing the same things over and over; it’s about doing them reliably and in a uniform way. When I suggest being consistent in your career, I don’t want you to think that you have to be a robot, just doing the same things over and over. However, having a routine and sticking to it can be amazingly powerful.
Grocery Shopping Example
A few months ago, a personal decision that I made really emphasized to me the importance of consistency and forced me to think about being more consistent both at work and at home. I usually do the grocery shopping for my household, and we have three young kids, so grocery shopping is always an important part of setting ourselves and our kids up for the week ahead. Every week, I ask my wife what we need, write some things down on a piece of paper, and head off to the store. I started to notice that every single week, I would forget two or three things, and sometimes these were critical ingredients for the dinners we wanted to prepare. I would then either have to go back to the supermarket another day or just purchase dinner one night rather than making it. Both of these actions cost us money and, more importantly, TIME.
One day I thought to myself, I pretty much buy the same groceries each week, depending on what we plan to cook for that week. There are only about five or six dinner dishes that we rotate through, so there aren’t a lot of potential options for what we purchase at the store. I decided to make a list of everything we would ever buy at the store, and I wrote the list, for the most part, in accordance with the way I walk through the store: the produce items, meat items, canned foods, dairy, etc. I also wrote on this piece of paper the five or six different dinners that we cook and listed ALL of the ingredients under each one. Therefore, I could just circle the three or four dinners for that week and be sure that I wouldn’t miss any of the ingredients.
When I was finished with the list, I made about 10 copies of it and put them in the drawer in my kitchen. Now, every Sunday morning, I take out a copy of the list, circle everything we need for the week, and do my shopping. Since I started this process, I have NOT forgotten one thing. That’s a huge accomplishment, considering I would normally forget two to three things a week.
Applying Consistency to Your Work Routine
While my grocery example may make a lot of sense for those of you that shop for food regularly, many of you probably don’t, so here are some other ways that you can introduce more consistency into your work routine.
- Spend some time at the end of EACH day reviewing your to-do items for the following day, and list them in order of importance. This will give you an outline of tasks to attack the next morning, increasing your productivity and reducing your stress. I find that even when I have a lot to do, if I have a plan for accomplishing my tasks, I feel better, and I complete them more effectively.
- Pick a time of the day (the same time every day) to walk away from the computer and possibly even exercise for as long as you can. I have found that the more I work during the day (especially late in the evenings), the less productive I am. Therefore, it is totally worth my time to step away each day, for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. I meditate every morning for at least 10 to 15 minutes and also go to the gym three times a week. I do all of these things at the same time each day and each week, and they have a HUGE impact on the results I get at work—HUGE.
- Check email at certain times during the day, NOT all day. If you read only this paragraph (and followed this recommendation) in this post, I believe that it would change your life dramatically. I have found that the difference between working with my email open all day and checking it two or three times per day is LIFE ALTERING. I never neglect emails; in fact, when I check email two or three times a day, I usually empty my inbox. I am able to do this because my email sessions are consistent and focused.
- Wake up earlier each day and use the time to accomplish the same tasks each day. I now wake up at 5:00 am consistently, and the extra hour in my day has again been life-altering. I use it to meditate, write in a gratitude journal, prepare my daily boosts, write blog posts, and set myself up for the day. Oh, by the way, I don’t get less sleep. I now go to bed an hour earlier and have eliminated late-night television.
These are just a few ways that you can introduce consistency into your day. I am sure that are many more ways, depending on your specific profession and schedule. Please take this post seriously and be more consistent in your career and life. You and those around you will be better for it.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
The Engineering Career Coach
Author of Engineer Your Own Success