We’re held back from achieving our potential, not by a lack of ideas, but by a lack of consistent execution.” ~ The 12 Week Year
Most content creators struggle to be consistent. The intention is there but we are so busy with other things we often don’t have enough time or energy left over to create our content. Does this sound familiar?
When we are not busy getting ready to be ready, we are very often just busy being busy. We are in reactive mode — making choices in the moment that align with the demands of others — without recognizing it is out of alignment with and at the expense of our own.
Other times we are busy gathering and consuming information like it is in short supply as we fall for false urgency and great marketing bait.
I get it, really, I do. The problem, however, isn’t that we don’t have time or energy left to create content consistently. The problem is: we are so focused on doing, but not necessarily the right things.
I talk about this a lot. There is no shortage of things we could be doing and think we should be doing — it can be all-consuming and worse, it is like being on a treadmill. There is no end until you decide to MAKE IT STOP.
Consistency is the ultimate key to success
Consistent effort is required to be successful at anything. Not just any effort, though. I’m talking strategic effort. Focused effort on those essential, key things that will get you where you want to go.
In The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy says “Success is doing a half dozen things really well, repeated five thousand times.”
You might have the perfect product and the perfect plan, but if you are not taking consistent action it is likely not going to work. You can’t just think about the things you should be doing. You actually need to be doing those things. I think it was Amy Porterfield I heard say “Intention doesn’t cook the rice.”
So how does one become a more consistent content creator?
Read on as I walk you through 5 simple things you can start doing immediately to help you become a more consistent content creator and ultimately improve your likelihood of success.
1) Focus on outputs instead of outcomes
Results lag action, often by several weeks. In The 12-Week Year, author Brian Moran teaches us to track our progress in terms of outputs. Are you actually doing the work (lead indicator)? If you are, the results will come (lag indicator).
Imagine two people who are selling the same product.
- Person 1 focuses on the number of sales made. If she isn’t hitting her weekly sales targets, she may lose enthusiasm and quit trying.
- Person 2 focuses on the number of prospects she has called and doesn’t fixate on weekly results. She will reach more people and ultimately make more sales.
As marketers, we are most often focused on tracking results that are lag indicators. Things that have already happened as a result of prior action (lead indicators).
Lag Indicators (outcomes)
Lag indicators are things like list growth, traffic, leads, conversions, sales, etc.. While these outcomes are certainly influenced by the consistency of your efforts, outcomes do not measure the consistency of your work. Focusing solely on these makes it easy to be inconsistent with your work effort.
Lead Indicators (outputs)
Lead indicators are those things that impact results or lag indicators. Did you create and publish content xx number of times this week? Did you promote it xx times this week? These are lead indicators and things you can control.
By focusing your weekly goals on your outputs (lead indicators), which are 100% in your control — you are more likely to improve your results (lag indicators: traffic, leads, sales, etc.) — which are not 100% in your control).
If you are not accomplishing your lead indicators (outputs), you will likely not be getting the results or outcomes (lag indicators) you want.
For example: Outcomes goals like a specific number of views, followers, or sales are never entirely in your control. Whereas output goals like publishing your blog every week, completing xx number of sales call each day, or writine xxx words of your book each day are 100% in your control.
Output goals keep your focus on being a consistent content creator which ultimately helps you become one.
2) Get Organized
How often have you lost track of ideas or key information making it harder and take longer to do something? Or worse, It prevented you from doing it at all? It’s a drag, isn’t it?
Create and actually use a system to keep track of ideas and information so that you are not wasting time and energy trying to remember things or find them.
It is not worth the frustration that comes from losing track of ideas and spinning out as the clock ticks away while you are trying to find something. Especially on a deadline.
- I keep a running list in Asana of content ideas as they occur to me. In the details section for each task I include my thoughts, links, attachments etc. I like having it in Asana so I can promote the task by assigning it to myself with a due date.
- I have the apps installed on my iPad and my phone and there are Gmail and Chrome extensions for creating tasks and notes from my computer. I keep my main Asana dashboard bookmarked for quick access from Chrome.
- Sometimes If I’m on the go and just need to jot something down, I will put it in Evernote or the Notes app on my phone. (I could be more consistent with this.) Sometimes I even make it a voice recording but I prefer dictation so that it is text I can copy/paste later.
The best tool is the one you use. Period. The key is just pick one and use it. Switching from tool to tool is the delusion of productivity. Busy being busy. Getting ready to get ready.
The next step, of course, is to create the habit of reviewing these ideas with some consistency and then organizing them and adding them to your content plan.
3) You don’t need more knowledge. You need a plan of action.
It’s tempting to jump straight into action, but the importance of planning cannot be stressed enough.
Success is created by making a plan and then acting on that plan every day.
Following a plan helps eliminate distractions, provides clear direction and keeps you accountable so you keep moving in the right direction.
The more complicated you make your plan, the less likely you are to follow it so keep it simple:
- Define your focus/goal is for the next 90 days (If not 90 days, it must still be time-bound)
- Plan your vital weekly actions each week
- Keep track of your execution (not just your outcomes)
The next 90 days
Why 90 days and not a year? Basically, 90 days is not too short and not too long. Goals set annually may not be relevant in 12 months and it’s also a long time to maintain focus and motivation. 90 days is the perfect length of time.
A 90-day plan helps curb overwhelm by stopping you from focusing on all your goals for the year at once. Instead, you are focusing on fewer things so you are better able to stay on track.
Look at your overall goals for the next 12 months. List out the tasks required to accomplish these goals — not the nitty gritty details — just the high level stuff. (write a book, create a course, start a podcast or video series, etc.)
Determine which of these you want to focus on over the next 90 days. Be realistic. Break these down into 30-day stretches. Then break those down into weekly. From your weekly task lists, you should be able to define your daily tasks.
Focus on planning critical actions for each week.
There are often many activities that can help you accomplish your goal. However, there are usually only a few essential activities that account for the majority of your results. In some cases, there may only be one or two key actions that ultimately produce the result. Try to identify and focus on these.
By spending as little as 15 minutes to plan your week, you ultimately save time and energy. In The 12 Week Year, Moran says “If you take time to plan before engaging with a complex task, you reduce the overall time required to complete the task by as much as 20 percent.”
Weekly planning also prevents overthinking hour‐by‐hour decisions and thus reduces daily decision fatigue. I originally shrugged this off, but am happy to have been wrong – it works!
Stay focused on your execution by keeping score of your weekly output.
Each week review your weekly action plan and give yourself an execution score. If you completed 4/5 planned actions, give yourself a score of 80% and aim to improve your score next week.
According to The 12 Week Year, “…if you successfully complete 85 percent of the activities in your weekly plan, then you will most likely achieve your objectives (90 day goals).”
I have struggled for years with creating my own content consistently. I am always consumed with client work and other business priorities that seem to take up my energy and my time. I have had to learn to block my time on my calendar not just by priority but also by my energy level.
I am sharpest and most focused in the morning so I get up early and devote the first 4-5 hours of my day to the most critical tasks. I try to schedule all meetings and calls in the afternoon because I find they drain my energy level.
I have also had to learn to be more realistic about how much I can do in a day and how long things really take. I’m still not great at it, but I am getting better with more and more practice. Still, I struggle with being consistent with my content creation.
Schedule and commit to the publishing schedule
What finally has worked for me is to commit to a realistic publishing schedule first. For example, we decided to publish a weekly email newsletter every Sunday. There are two of us so we alternate who is responsible for it each week.
For each issue, there is curated content and usually one piece of original content from our blog. I have blocked out time every other Wednesday and Friday for me to create my piece of original content and to put the newsletter together to publish Sunday.
Wednesay morning: Because I have been keeping track of curated content and ideas in Asana on an ongoing basis, I can quickly review what I have saved there and choose what I want to share and create.
Since I have already created the newsletter template we use each week, I can quickly draft the new issue and put in the curated content. Now I just need to write my new post.
I go back to Asana where I have jotted some notes about my ideas for the post. In the past I would just list the topic/idea and later when I’d see it, I wouldn’t remember what the inspiration for it was. So now I take the time to add some notes when I put it on my ideas list.
I then outline my post using one of my content framework templates (see below) and add notes to myself for things I to look up and/or add later. If time permits, I might continue fleshing out the post but usually it’s time to move on to another priorty.
Friday morning: I finish writing my post, create graphics and click publish. Then I wrap up the newsletter draft, send myself a test and check all the links before scheduling it for Sunday morning.
Without the commitment to publish every Sunday, and accountability to my partner and to myself (and our readers!), I likely would not be as consistent.
A similar approach can be employed for just about anything you do — you can schedule newsletters, social posts, blog posts, videos, emails, etc. to roll out whenever you’d like.
I think the hardest part here is being realistic about how much you can do so you do not overload yourself. And secondly, really making the commitment.
If you have not yet developed the creating habit, start small. Leo Babauta in The Power of Less suggests picking a starting point so ridiculously easy you have no excuse not to do it — walking to the end of your driveway vs. a mile — and link it to a trigger that is something you are already doing anyway — I put my running shoes after I brush my teeth. It’s sounds silly, but it works!
4) Use Content Frameworks
If you want to create quality content on a consistent basis there are few things you need to have in place to make things easier and more efficient and another one of these is frameworks.
Whether you are creating a blog post, podcast episode, training video, slide presentation or something else, using a content framework will help you produce quality content more quickly.
A framework is like a checklist or an outline of what to include in your content. For a blog post, a simple framework might look something like this:
- The Problem
- The Solution (teaching points)
- The cost of not taking action
- Call to Action
By starting with a framework template instead of a blank page, you can more quickly and easily organize your thoughts and deliver a piece of quality content that provides value to your reader.
5) Batch work and Leverage technology to increase productivity
I previously mentioned above about using technology like Asana and Evernote to stay organized. Ultimately, this makes it much easier and faster when I sit down to actually create something.
I also batch my work. I try to group “like tasks” together. This might be producing social media content all at once for the week and then using Co-schedule to queue it up. If I were to instead create social media content and put it into Co-schedule every day, it would be more disruptive to my days and take longer. Once I am in the mode of creating those posts, have my templates open and am in Co-schedule — it is much more efficient to do it all at once.
Or, I may edit multiple podcasts or videos as a batch. I find I am better able to get into the flow of a certain type of work and get more done than when I change gears from one kind of work to the next.
Consistent content creators develop and use systems to make it easier to create and publish on a regular basis.
One thing that has worked amazingly well for me, despite my initial resistance to it, is documenting my workflows. I make checklists in Asana and use them as templates.
I initially did this so I could delegate the tasks to others, but also have found that by using them for myself, it ensures I follow consistent processes and don’t skip important steps. It also frees my mind from having to remember every little detail.
Knowledge is only powerful if you use it
People say knowledge is power, but I disagree. Knowledge is only powerful if you use it. – Brian Moran
We spend too much time consuming and not enough time doing (especially the right things). Unless you are going to be implementing what you learned from that book or webinar or course — like right now or tomorrow or next week — I would consider that Just-in-case learning vs Just-in-time. You likely won’t remember it if you don’t use it right away. And besides, you can find that info when you need it, should you ever need it.
You don’t need to learn more. What you need is to take action on the knowledge you already have.
Stay focused on your goal and the tasks you need to do to achieve it. If there is something you need to know in order to do that task, by all means, go find out… but otherwise, limit the information you are consuming and stay focused on your weekly and daily key actions.
There are two types of content creators in the world: those who consistently create things and those who find reasons why they can’t. The biggest difference between the two is mindset.
As my friend and coach David Taylor-Klaus says, “Which mindset will you choose?”
The compound effect of becoming a more consistent content creator
The compound effect is the strategy of reaping huge rewards from small, seemingly insignificant actions. Small choices + consistency + time = significant results.
It doesn’t matter when or at what frequency you plan to publish your content. What matters is that you decide and and stick to it.
There is a significant compounding effect that occurs over time with content marketing similar to the earned interest on a savings account.
What’s fascinating about this process is that the steps do not feel significant in the moment yet the results can be massive. The incremental changes might feel so subtle, they’re almost imperceptible. They may appear to offer little or no immediate result, no big wins.
If you can resist the urge for immediate results and short-term payoffs and develop a consistent content creation habit, over time, the compound effect will yield incredible results.
Making it happen
The five steps presented here are key to becoming more consistent with your content creation. But as with just about everything , it’s up to you. You have to do the work.
There is an opportunity cost to everything. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. You have to really want to accomplish something and then take the focused steps necessary to make it happen.
Consistency is a big part of the formula for success, especially when it comes to content marketing. If you really want to become a more consistent content creator (and if you have read this far, it’s clear that you do), I hope you will take these steps to overcome your obstacles and make something extraordinary happen. I know you can.