If ever I meet Jocelyn K. Glei, writer and founding editor of 99U, I will give her a huge hug and thank her for explaining one of my life’s ongoing experiences in 5 sentences. In her article called “The Art of Momentum: Why Your Ideas Need Speed” she shares:
The minute that we lose momentum, we lose the thread. We become extremely vulnerable to distraction and defeat. Our inner critic awakens, and we start second-guessing ourselves, doubting the possibility of success. Other people’s demands creep in, vying for our attention and focus. We start to generate shiny, new ideas that seem even more worthy of execution, tempting us to move onto the next big thing without ever finishing.
This happens with me in every area of my life, whether we are talking exercise or gardening, finishing a book or creating a new workshop. I was never able to articulate as well as Jocelyn has for me. I would just feel meh…down for no particular reason. I’d start to feel as if I was not doing anything worthwhile with my life. That I was wasting time and would never succeed.
I never really noticed that once I was fully involved and working on a project that the byproducts included: feeling happy, being in great spirits, and that what I was doing, mattered. I felt valuable and needed once I kept the momentum going.
Awareness is essential to learning. We won’t learn until we see what’s actually happening inside us. Sometimes we have to step outside ourselves in order to see what’s really going on.
Perhaps you are like me.
You don’t need to do anything else but start, and keep moving.
Grow legs under your ideas and run a marathon. Don’t pile your ideas in a basket and wait for some magic moment when you will be discovered and finally be known. According to Medium blogger, David Ams, ideas are 1% and execution, 99%. It’s time to stop talking and start doing.
Here are 3 tips that Jocelyn shares in her article to keep momentum going:
- Know that momentum takes time to build.
As serial entrepreneur Andy Swan has written, one of the most common mistakes is to “set lofty goals from a resting start.” With images of fame and success dancing in our heads, we set the bar too high, fail to make the grade, and quit because we’re discouraged.
Just as you would start training for a marathon by running a few miles and building from there, if you want to write the great American novel, you might start by trying your hand on a short story.
It’s important to set small, realistic goals at first. Challenge yourself, but don’t overdo it. Setting achievable goals and experiencing incremental success will help you build momentum and confidence.
- Carve out a consistent block of time to work on your project.
Particularly if you’re juggling creative work with other commitments, finding regular time to devote to your project in a daily way can be extremely challenging. But there is nothing more important. Consistent execution is paramount: it keeps your head clear and focused; it rewards you with a constant feeling of progress; and, most importantly, it keeps the ball moving forward.
Don’t wait for this free time to magically “open up.” Rather, proactively carve out a block of time in your daily schedule – and make it public. As Gina Trapani advises in a Fast Company article, you’ll want to honor this commitment the same way you would a meeting with another person. Think of it as a meeting with your muse.
- Work on your project every day. No seriously, every day.
In his collection of interviews with painters like Chuck Close, Dana Schutz, Fred Tomaselli, and Julie Mehretu, author and artist Joe Fig observes, “They are successful because they work incessantly. Several work seven days a week.”
When it comes to momentum, frequency of execution is perhaps more important than the duration of execution. Even if you’re working on your project for just an hour a day that’s enough to keep your objectives and recent activities top of mind. Then, when you sit down to work on it again, you can slip quickly back into the flow.
Occasionally, something will knock you off course, and you won’t be able to work on your project that day. But if you’re striving to push it forward every single day, you’ll stay on track regardless.
This also means barring yourself off from distraction while you work. Turn off your phone. Turn off email notifications. Stop checking Facebook every nanosecond.
I recently added an app extension on my browser called Momentum. I am not kidding. When you’re setting it up, it asks you for your name and email. Once you open a new tab you are greeted with “<your name>, what is your main focus today?” It’s a nice way of maintaining clarity over what’s important and what needs your attention.
Like everything else, this is just a tool. It’s up to us to do what is necessary. I need to honor my commitments to myself, just as I do now with other people.
And don’t worry that your ideas may not be original ideas because the same idea executed by different people will lead to totally different products, businesses and services.
Keep in mind that it’s infinitely more painful to stop, than it is to keep going. Ask yourself “what’s the smallest ‘next step’ that I can take?” Take it!