Allie’s Advice Column - How to Break the Cycle of Being Consistently Inconsistent
As a marketing consultant, I have the honor of working with many amazing, smart, and capable business owners and leaders. So often, they reach out thinking they need help with their website or redesigning their brochure. But the core of marketing is so vulnerable and personal. The work I do gets at the heart of why they’re in business and attempts to wrap words around the things they’re most passionate about. There are so many moving parts and pieces to marketing in a digital world, but at the end of the day, the biggest task is to just keep showing up.
Sometimes, being a marketing consultant feels like being an advice columnist. So, I’m leaning into that in this new series. Based on the vulnerable questions and conversations that come up in my work, I’m starting my own advice column with thoughtful, empathic, and perhaps surprising answers about the challenges of running a business that can keep us up at night.
I hope that it’s an oasis of empathy for anyone who feels caught up in the overwhelming nature of trying to run a successful business.
The hardest part of marketing is staying consistent. I know what to do. I just can’t seem to stick with my ideas and strategies. Every few months, I’ll get motivated to start some new marketing effort. I start out with the best of intentions—that this time will be different. And then, inevitably, I don’t stick with it. Life gets busy. I don’t see the results that I was hoping for, and I get discouraged. My motivation wanes, and then I start to dread the things I had committed to doing. So I stop. It’s frustrating to see this cycle repeating itself endlessly. And I am forever cringing at how my marketing must come across to others. Do you have any ideas of how to actually remain consistent in my marketing?
Dear Consistently Inconsistent,
I was lying in bed the other night, just on the outskirts of sleep when I realized with a jolt that I had forgotten to post something for a client. It had a specific deadline, and we had discussed it earlier that day, and then I just totally forgot.
I quickly texted my client, owning up to my error and asking what she wanted me to do. This was her response:
No worries. Posting it one day late is no biggie. Being human is such an inconvenience sometimes, isn’t it?
Her graceful response stuck with me. The reminder that it’s totally normal and ok to be human. Making mistakes and being inconsistent is part of the deal.
I can see so much of my own story in your letter, Consistently Inconsistent. I know that frustrating cycle of motivation, starting, and stopping because I’ve been there more times than I can count. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to see other people’s polished final results and compare them to your behind-the-scenes efforts.
I’ve been giving your question a lot of thought—pondering what it means to be truly consistent. Before we delve into time management strategies and productivity hacks, I think it’s important to get specific about what you mean when you talk about consistency.
When we say we wish we were more consistent, I think we are actually longing for perfection—a desire doomed for disappointment. Most things that are hard and worth doing (like running a business) have a two-steps-forward-one-step-back nature to them. It’s part of the deal. In fact, making peace with your imperfection may be the most effective first step towards being more consistent.
I’m not saying that you should abandon your desire for consistency. On the contrary, it’s essential—especially in your marketing. Consistent marketing becomes your personal brand. How you show up day in and day out shapes how others perceive you.
The key to consistency is not perfection but clarity—being clear about who you are, how you want to show up, and how you can set your life up in a way that supports those goals. One definition of consistency is to be “marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity.” I think each of these synonyms is a helpful hint on the path towards consistency.
Acting out of a place of authenticity is a whole lot easier to stick with than operating from a place of striving, hiding, or pretending. But authenticity requires self-awareness. When we know who we are, we can determine what we want to say “yes” to. We can align our habits, our decisions, and our daily rhythms with our core values. Rather than hiding from our weaknesses, we can acknowledge the areas where we need extra support.
Before you demand consistency in your business or your marketing, you must anchor yourself in the truth of who you are. Take the time to determine your values, purpose, and goals. Then, align your actions and habits with those values. This inner harmony will foster outer consistency.
Sometimes inconsistency has to do with shying away from the drudgery of the mundane. We get impatient when results take time, so we don’t stick with the process.
The cumulative effect of small actions repeated with regularity is more powerful than overly ambitious plans. Everything changes when you shift your attention—your measure of success—away from the consistency of results and towards consistently showing up.
Pick one marketing habit that you can accomplish in five minutes or less. It could be reaching out to one contact a day, or posting one thing on social media. Don’t overthink it, and don’t demand immediate results, but promise to stick with it for 90 days. Just commit to showing up and regularly following through with the promise you made to yourself.
In my experience, the biggest barrier to consistency is an unrealistic expectation. When I overestimate how much I can accomplish in a day, I can’t follow through with what I said I would do. When I expect immediate results, I set myself up for failure.
Perhaps my most common unrealistic expectation is my flawed belief that I can please all people all the time. I expect that my constant hustle of people-pleasing will lead to contentment and a flourishing business. It never does. I’m trying to curb my habit of saying an unwilling yes because it usually leads to resentment and burnout.
So here’s a trick I picked up to help me check my expectations. On a few blank pages in your journal, make three columns. In the first column, write down the date and an action item you’re taking for your marketing. In the middle column, write down what you hope or expect to happen. Then, return to this page in a month or two and write down what actually happened in the last column. Over time, you’ll start to see your patterns of unrealistic expectations. You’ll build up a habit of being able to hold your expectations a little more loosely.