The Art of Consolidation: Keeping What You’ve Captured

Let’s say you were mounting a military campaign.

You are well-equipped, you know the territory, and your troops are well-led.

You are victorious in many battles and you gain a lot of territory. Hurrah!

What’s next?

More conquering? Strike while the iron is hot? Harry the enemy and scatter its forces?

Likely not.

No matter how much territory you’ve gained, it’s unlikely that you’ve achieved such a decisive victory that you can expect that whatever you gained won’t be at risk in the immediate future.

Therefore, you must consolidate.

Consolidation is all the work that happens after the exciting work is over.

Erecting earthworks. Digging latrines. Getting the supply train caught up.

(Or, if you prefer, getting caught up on administrative tasks, decompressing and debriefing, and integrating the new status quo into your workflow. And, of course, planning the next campaign.

If we all plan less than we need to  we also consolidate less than we need to, too.

Consolidation might seem frustrating, or a waste of time better spent advancing, but all too often, consolidation is the only thing that allows you to hang onto your gains when you burn out or get thrown a monkey wrench. Consolidation means that you can hold the new territory, because you took the time to really make it yours,  instead of a shiny new thingamabob you stapled onto your existing structure or workflow.

What recent gains do you need to take the time to consolidate?


26 thoughts on “The Art of Consolidation: Keeping What You’ve Captured”

  1. Wow, Shanna.  That last line is really powerful.  I can imagine a structure – something like a shack with pieces of scrap metal nailed on – not really very sturdy or reliable.  I guess that would be the way it goes if we didn’t take time to consolidate.  I am not sure if this is exactly what you’re talking about, but sometimes I see it in others and definitely with myself.  You want to rush on to the next great thing while the great thing you’ve put together still needs tending.  I imagine that is the way it is when people release online products or services.  I know that’s the way I feel now with the book.  There is so much to do to get it in people’s hands who might like it or benefit from it.  There is no reason to rush on to the next thing when this thing still needs tending!  (Am I even close here?)  🙂

    1. @tammyrenzi My reading of this is that you are *spot on*, Tammy!
      And, not only is there “no reason to rush on”, to do so will most likely be <i>counter-</i>productive.

    2. @tammyrenzi @Karen J Absolutely. Think of it like painting a room. It’s easy to think, “Oh, slap up a coat of primer and two coats of cerulean, and I’ll be done in a day.”
      But experienced room painters know that there’s a lot of prep work (emptying the room or covering the furniture, taping the baseboards, washing the walls, spackling any holes.)
      Then you paint. And it looks amazing, so you call all your friends in to show it off. But you actually can’t yet. First you have to consolidate: take off the take, put the furniture back, hang the picture frames, put up the curtains, clean out the paintbrushes, dispose of the paint, vacuum the floor, and *then* you can enjoy the new paint job.
      But so often, putting up the last coat of paint feels “done”. Since we feel done, psychologically we move onto the next thing. But it’s not done. So you have to strike the balance of “Yay! We finished the book. Let’s celebrate.” to “Okay. Now we’ve got to market this sucker. What’s the plan, Stan?”

      1. @Shanna Mann  @Karen J Thank you both.  Yes, Shanna.  My furniture has not been put back yet, nor the pictures hung.  Lots to do, but it is fun to want to do it.  
        So often, in other projects, I’m like, Ugh.  Do I have to???

        1. @tammyrenzi  @Shanna Mann That’s where a bit of frame-shifting can be a god-send! Instead of just “putting the furniture back”, try thinking of it as *redecorating the room*. In my world, even the color-painting would have been part of the tedious prep-work that got me to the exciting part – the redecorating!

      2. @Shanna Mann  @tammyrenzi  @Karen J I like the painting metaphor. It makes me think of when I used to make wedding cakes. My favorite part was decorating, but that’s only one part of it. It’s a process from that begins with just meeting with a bride and goes on for months later. I’m sure some larger projects would benefit from hiring out a team, so the consolidation process isn’t all on one person.

        1. @deniseurena  I think a lot of this stuff works better with teams. I actually think that’s why it seems weird on an individual level– this sort of thing is hard to manage on your own, between the need for discipline and the fact that the wheels need to keep turning.

    3. @tammyrenzi “You want to rush on to the next great thing while the great thing you’ve put together still needs tending.  I imagine that is the way it is when people release online products or services.  I know that’s the way I feel now with the book.”
      Tammy: yes. You… are… correct (insert your own Ed McMahon “hi-o!” here). But what happens when your next online product IS a book like mine is? *Double gulp*
      Fortunately, the forces of curating are strong within me. Curating my existence is like a constant trigger, habit, and ritual built into one, pushing me to consolidate what I’ve just experienced. Awesome filtering and consolidation is generally what frees me to move onto the next big thing.
      So keep tending your current dealio so we can collectively benefit from the grooviness in your upcoming book.

      1. @joeyjoejoe Thank you, Joel.  I used to be the person who wanted to write a book while I moaned and groaned at my previous job.  It was always, “Someday…”  
        Am I understanding this correctly?  Are you writing a book?  It’s the best thing we have ever done – hands down.  Best ten months of my life thus far. I hope your experience is like that too!
         @Shanna Mann Your posts create the best conversations ever!

        1. @tammyrenzi  Yeah, I’m writing a book called “Experience Curating.” And I’m already on chapter 1! 🙂 Since I’ve been studying up on self-publishing, I know the writing part isn’t the hard part. It’s everything else that’s going to be a doosie-and-half, right?

        2. @joeyjoejoe So happy to hear about your book!
          For me, the writing was harder than publishing since we let someone else format it for us.  Now the marketing part…that’s all new to us and quite challenging.  It is highly preferable to “the old days” of doing work that was mandated.  That is for sure!

  2. When I moved last year I spent 3 months consolidating, regrouping, and creating new systems and habits and practicing them. I felt like I was wrangling and detangling my nerve pathways. I hate moving. I had all my systems in place so I didn’t have to think about them, but I knew if I didn’t spend all that time consolidating, I’d be fighting little demons forever.

    1. @PilotFire Yeah, people really tend to underestimate the stress and difficulty that changing one’s routine adds to your life. Moving is like turning every routine upside down and shaking it. 
      3 months is pretty good turnaround time, though!

  3. I’ve been thinking about consolidation as well- but more literally consolidating email accounts. I’ve been working with two separate inboxes- one for personal, one for business. I accidentally started viewing everything as a unified inbox and have actually found it to be a big improvement. I’ve consolidated everything into one view and can more easily get a handle on what needs to get done.

  4. I recall you telling me once to make hay while the sun shines.  This post made me think of that.  Once I’ve made gains, I get greedy and protect them while going for more.  We wrote a book. Now it is time to do whatever needs doing after one writes a book.  Should be a consolidation bonanza!!!

    1. @cjrenzi Did I? That does sound like the sort of folksy wisdom I dole out 😛
      Good luck with your bonanza. (Oh, dear. Now I’ll have that theme song in my head.)

      1. @Shanna Mann since you mention music…..
        I hum a few notes. Cool. I connect them to another bit.  I have a phrase!!!  A very cool phrase that I love more than life itself!!!  Then, oh crap, now I’ll need to do something with that if I want it to be a piece, if I want it to be art.  All that hard work you are talking about after that initial buzz. 
        How did they get such a nasty twang on that guitar in that theme anyhow?

  5. michaelwroberts

    Great post, Shannon. My newest advance is the new day job, but there is plenty to consolidate before trying to start any new initiatives there. I have to get my head around this method of work before I go any further.

  6. I’m a total convert to this consolidation concept. It’s made such a huge difference for me to just recognize the need to pause and give myself permission to spend whatever time I need getting caught up.

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