Creating momentum is all about using the energy, the motion you created to propel you even further forward, a continuous chain of getting things done that leads to more action and more to-do’s crossed off the list. It’s about using positive energy to reinforce the behaviors that led to positive results, a sort of productivity habit.
But what happens when you lose your momentum? When you come to a full stop and break that chain of getting things done? When you have an absolute disaster of a day where you get nothing done? What then? Does that mean you lost everything, that all your momentum is gone and all your efforts wasted? That you should give up trying to create momentum?
In fact, the worst thing you can do is turn a stumble into a fall. We all have those days where for one reason or another, stuff just doesn’t get done. It doesn’t matter whether it be the result of an unexpected crisis that takes you away from your focus or just a good old fashioned bad day where you just don’t feel like it. What matters is what you do about it.
You see, it’s tempting to turn that stumble into a new type of momentum, that kind that allows you to come up with convincing excuses why things aren’t getting done. That thinking can be very dangerous because it gives you permission to let yourself off the hook…permanently. Instead of focusing on why you lost your momentum, focus on how you are going to get it back.
Not to say you need to beat yourself up about it. Not at all! But don’t give yourself a free pass to give up on your momentum building habits and start new excuse-making ones, where you get to slack off for whatever reason you believe sounds convincing enough that you aren’t culpable for your inaction. You are (and you want to be, trust me).
So the next time you stumble (and you will), try one of these momentum building tricks:
#1: Pick an Easy Task to Do for 30 Minutes — Spend 30 minutes clearing out your inbox, cleaning up your office or organizing your receipts to hand off to your accountant or bookkeeper. What you do doesn’t really matter, the point is to do something that you can see progress in a short period of time. The reason you need to limit it to 30 minutes is you don’t want to get in the habit of replacing productive work with ‘fake-work’ projects (i.e. all the busy work we do to avoid doing the stuff that needs to get done).
#2: Take a Moment and Regroup — When you are ready to get back to your productive work, spend 5 minutes prioritizing what needs to get done first, even if all that means is reviewing your to-do list and putting stars next to the top 2 or 3 things you are going to tackle first. The reason for this little exercise is to refocusing your mind on productive work and sets the expectations for what you are going to do next.
#3: Set a Timer and Start Building Momentum — Turn off the distractions and start. Chances are your stumble has left you feeling a little frazzled. The idea behind the timer is to place a mental limit on how long you need to focus for. That’s not to say that once you start getting your momentum back that you can’t keep going. Go as far as you can go when you get back in the zone. What it does, though, is shorten the amount of time you are expecting yourself to focus when maybe you don’t really feel like it.