For the past four weeks, I’ve been utterly swamped with the 9-5.
I’ve had almost zero bandwidth for online side business dreams.
But still, I’ve managed to keep publishing at least something online with high consistency.
Because I know my why and how.
Let’s think about it.
When you publish anything – be it an academic article, a blog post, or even a tweet or a LinkedIn post – you don’t know what’s going to happen. You just can’t know what you don’t know.
But something might happen. Chances are, especially in the long run, something will happen as long as you stay consistent. And if not, well, keeping consistent will add to those chances.
In this post, I first introduce a related thinking tool and then talk about how to publish consistently – even when you’re busy.
Things have consequences, but most people never think about more than the first effects. Thinking 2-3 steps forward can make all the difference.
Considering carefully about second-order effects helps you make better decisions in the here and now. Because you’ll project the consequences and eventually learn to consider the consequences of those consequences.
Here’s a straightforward definition of second-order effects from personalmba.com:
Every action has a consequence, and those consequences have consequences, which are called Second-Order Effects. Think of a line of dominoes—a single push causes a chain of events to occur. Once the chain starts, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to stop or reverse the cascade of cause-and-effect.personalmba.com
A simple example might be buying a TV with a payment plan.
Now that you have the damn thing, you’re going to have to watch it. You don’t want your purchase to have been for nothing. Or, at the very least, it adds to the list of things you could be doing instead of working on something meaningful. And because you’re on a payment plan, even months from now the little decrease in the monthly resources you have at your disposal will have effects.
Well, you could be investing the money. And time-wise, who knows how many hours will you spend watching TV instead of exercising, reading, or doing anything useful.
It just all adds to everything over time.
Consequences have consequences.
Similarly, think about drinking alcohol. Drink a bit too much and the next day is ruined. That’s the first consequence. But think deeper: What everything could you have done the next day? And what could be the consequences of doing all that? And what about the positive consequences of having done all that?
In a way, second-order thinking is simply thinking long-term but factoring in the consequences of all your actions.
And no, I’m not saying don’t watch TV or drink alcohol. I do both. Sometimes a lot! But I’m fully aware of the consequences and judge the decision accordingly. As long as you do the thinking, everything still goes. But for some things, you will notice that you might change your instant impulse-driven behaviours when you think about the consequences far downstream.
So let’s then transfer this reasoning to publishing online…
Why Publish Consistently?
My immediate reasons to keep publishing are clear:
- Momentum: Once you stop, you stop forever. When something is moving, it’s easier to keep it moving. And what moves, even a bit, is easier to accelerate in the future. Stopping is dangerous.
- Staying in touch: If you’re gone entirely, people will forget you. And you will fall out of touch with what they’re up to. You need a network to thrive online. Your “real-world” friends won’t forget you that easily, even after years. But online, once you’re gone for a while, chances are you will be left alone. And once you’re alone…the game gets increasingly difficult.
- Serendipity: Remember how we just don’t know what we don’t know? Maybe something I put out there gets seen by someone important in light of my long-term goals? Maybe something gets shared to thousands of people? Maybe not. But without constantly publishing, the chances go to zero – the algorithms favor fresh content. So putting something out there is a prerequisite for good fortune.
It’s no more complicated than that. It just makes sense to publish something today, because it will have long-term effects. And most importantly, there are second-order effects in the long run – both negative and positive.
How to Keep Consistent even When Busy
Now, here comes the tricky part. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and your time really is limited in the now. Or more like there’s just none of it.
And it’s so easy to tell yourself, “I’ll publish when life gets easier again“.
That’s a big mistake.
First, it might not get easier anytime soon.
Second, once the momentum is gone, it’s gone for good. Getting the ball rolling again is incredibly difficult.
When times are hard, design yourself a “minimum work, maximum output” daily routine.
- Prepare a content/idea library: Chances are, you will know in advance when you’ll be busy. So prepare a few dozen tweets across different categories but don’t post them yet. Just have them ready. Similarly, in terms of blog posts, have a library of ideas you might want to write about. And have a rough outline for each of the ideas. This way, writing high-quality blog posts gets easier, even when you’re busy.
- Use automation tools: My favourite tweet scheduler, Hypefury has a feature called “recurrent posts”. Using that one, I can schedule slots for different days for different categories of tweets that get sent out automagically. That way, if I miss a day or two myself, I’m still putting out content there. And the thing even cross-posts tweets to LinkedIn, if I so choose.
It doesn’t have to be more difficult than that.
If you understand both the why and how to stay consistent, it’ll become easy.
The why part is that there are benefits beyond the immediate: You just might get lucky in many ways, but you don’t have even a chance if you don’t take the shots.
The how part is simple as well: Prepare your ideas and content in advance, and use modern tools to post and distribute automatically.