The biggest gains in our professional lives don’t come from massive, one-time pushes. That weekend getaway to plan out next year’s curricula? It’s not the key. The really late night we plan to spend this Friday to get the stack of papers graded? Only a band-aid.
The big gains come from consistency — from showing up day after day to do the work.
- If you’re trying to master the paper load, it’s finding 15-25 minutes each day to read and implement the practices recommended by folks like Matt Johnson.
- If you’re trying to clarify your thinking, it’s setting aside 15-20 minutes each day to write about what you’re curious about or what you’ve learned.
- If you’re after a better classroom environment, it’s setting up a clipboard to track moments of genuine connection so that you're consistently connecting with every student on the roster, not just the ones that most catch your attention.
Consistency over the long haul outperforms heroic mega-efforts every time. The best way to improve our abilities is consistency. This is true outside our teaching lives, too.
- Want to be stronger? Start lifting weights three days a week, sticking to the most basic lifts and tracking your progress. This is the book I consistently see recommended as the best on the topic. It’s the only one I’ve read (and perhaps someday I'll even try it!) It’s simple and smart, and that makes consistent weight-lifting far easier.
- Want better teeth? Make flossing a pre-req for brushing your teeth, and keep track of the days that you floss someplace where you can’t miss that you’ve dropped the habit. Make the invisible (forgetting to floss) visible. Make the annoying (flossing) a pre-requisite for the satisfying (brushing your teeth).
- Want better relationships at home? Look your partner or your children in the eyes once per day and tell them something you appreciate about them that day or ask them something you’re curious about. The closeness you’ll have a month into something like this far exceeds what you’ll get from an epic date night or a weekend getaway.
We all know these things are true. The trouble, of course, is that consistency is hard. The best book I’m aware of for automating consistency in your life is James Clear’s Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.
And listen: when we’re messing up on consistency, there’s no sense in beating ourselves up. It is what it is — as I’ve said, the law of entropy is real. We dust off, we make a plan, we learn, we get better.