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Consistency

Consistency from Sciral. Reviewed December 09, 2004. Available from: http://www.sciral.com/download/

[Consistency]

"The secret of success", said Benjamin Disraeli, "is constancy to purpose." Ask yourself: what activities in my life could benefit from more consistency?

Consistency is an application which enables you to plan how often you intend to carry out repeating tasks, and track how often you actually did so. You can then use this information to assess whether your actions are in line with your intentions. That probably sounds quite po-faced, so let's look at how Consistency can help you free yourself from squalor.

Whatever plan you are using to declutter and clean up your house - the Mount Vernon method, the 80/20 rule, or something else - the most crucial thing to remember is that you have to maintain the areas you've already cleaned. Consistency can be used to track your success at maintaining your oases of clean in the desert of disorder.

[Consistency being used to track maintenance of cleaned areas]

A Consistency document is a simple chart, with dates as the column headings. The left most column is where you enter your tasks. Here I am going to use the Tasks column to enter the areas I have decluttered and cleaned. A double click in the appropriate square places a dot that shows that my previously dusty, cluttered area has now become an oasis of clean. (Consistency didn't do the cleaning for me though... I had to do that myself!) Each day, I maintain my new oases (many of which now only take a minute and a quick flick with the duster since all the clutter is gone) and add a couple of new ones. All of which I can record with quick and satisfying double-clicks.

Consistency allows you to specify a Target Day Range for each task. You choose the earliest day and the latest day of the range - for instance, if you feel that once the floor is vacuumed, it shouldn't need to be done again for at least three days but probably won't last more than a week without another vacuum, set the minimum days to 3 and the maximum days to 7. Consistency will color code the days within the target range to green, except for the very last day, which it colors yellow. Days before the target range are colored blue, and those after, red. Pat yourself on the back if you "keep the red day at bay"! If you have tasks which must be carried out on a certain day of the week, set minimum and maximum to 7, and you are all set (see the 'take out garbage' bottom row in the screenshot.) You may have noticed that the top 4 rows in the screenshot above have no color coding at all. Consistency also lets you use an 'inactive range' when you just want to keep track of the occurences of an event without specifying a range, and for tracking daily maintenance this will do just as well, even if it is a bit less exciting to look at than the next four rows! With these I set the target range to active, with minimum and maximum days set to 1.

[Consistency being used to track maintenance of cleaned areas]

Many household tasks that are a habit for naturally tidy people cannot be accomplished so easily by people living in squalor. Take making your bed every day as an example. If you couldn't find your bed for years because it was being used as a dumping ground for stuff, getting to the point when you can sleep in it is a major accomplishment. Making your bed every day when you get up is new and unfamiliar territory. It is often said that it takes around three weeks to develop a new habit. You can track your progress at developing a habit just as easily as you can track your progress at maintaining an area.

When something becomes a habit, it is harder to not do it than to do it. Of course, not all of our habits are good. Living in squalor encourages us to develop patterns of behavior aimed at working around or avoiding the mess in the house instead of tackling it. I'm talking about habits like going back to bed after breakfast, watching daytime television, extended shopping trips - all of which are often just a way of avoiding the important work we really don't want to be doing. You may not be able to drop bad habits in a few short weeks, but Consistency can give you feedback on how you're doing there, too.

As your individual oases spread and join together into one giant oasis of calm and order, you may find yourself wondering how often you should perform tasks such as vacuuming and mopping. After all, you don't develop a schedule for regularly cleaning the floor when simply walking through the apartment means taking B-I-G steps!

[Consistency being used to develop a cleaning schedule] [Consistency being used to track maintenance of cleaned areas] [Consistency being used to develop a cleaning schedule]
Now, you could consult a housekeeping book or website for a list of what to do and when to do it, and that's a good start. But wouldn't it be good if you could tailor this list to suit your own personal situation? All our circumstances are different: some of us are single, some have small families, some have large families; we have small apartments or large sprawling houses... factor in assorted fur-shedding, pooping pets, paid employment, commuting time, personal health issues, and so on, and you can quickly see that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all housework routine.

This trio of screenshots demonstrate how I set up Consistency to show my weekly cleaning tasks. I set the minimum to 1 (since there is no danger of me becoming a woman who cleans too much) and the maximum to 7.

As I mark each task completed, by double-clicking in the square, the green and yellow days extend for another 7 days. This is a great way to easily answer the question, "When exactly did I last mop this floor?" If you notice that the floor is often dirty long before you've hit that yellow day, that's a sign that the target range you've set for mopping the floor doesn't suit your particular situation. If you have a large family who can't seem to hear "Wipe your feet!", maybe the floor needs to be mopped every four days. Consistency can help you work out just how frequently a household chore needs to be done in your house. Then it is simply a matter of inserting a new target range in the row for that task, and you're on your way to designing a housecleaning routine especially tailored to your needs. Consistently is a simple idea that is very well executed. It is so easy to learn that I don't think the supplied help files will get much of a workout at all. An uninstaller is also included. There are versions for Windows and Mac OS X operating systems, available as a 1.4MB download from the Sciral (pronounced starting like "science" and ending like "spiral") website. There is a free unregistered version available, which you can use for as long as you want, or you can buy a registration key for US$25.00. The free version does have two limitations. The first is that you can only have two Consistency documents open at a time. The other is that each Consistency document can only have five tasks. There is also a reminder to register when you start up the application, and a Purchase Now button.

I think Consistency has a lot to offer someone trying to get their messy house under control. You can keep a record of when you last carried out a task, and give yourself an idea of how soon the task will need to be done again, without tying yourself down to doing a particular task on a particular day (for many people, a rigid deadline is a recipe for failure!) Even after you have cleaned up the house, I'm sure Consistency will continue to be useful. No matter how "together" we may be, we can all use help in tracking the weeks that bills fall due, when the plants need watering, exercise goals, and so on.

Pigpen

[The] Sciral Consistency chart is fun because you get to put a dot when you get something done!. ~ Lori