Ah, momentum.  A crafty technique for stopping ourselves in our tracks.

I call it the Momentum Trap.

The voice of the Momentum Trap goes something like this:

“Oh God, when I was in my 20’s, I was in the best shape. I ran everyday. I had a regular weight lifting routine. Somewhere along the way, I lost my momentum.”

Unspoken Upshot: “…and so I’m pretty much not gonna get started again now because it’ll only remind me that I’m a failure.”

“Man, I was cranking on my writing a few weeks ago. I was so in the flow. I really need to get that momentum going again.”

Unspoken Upshot: “…so I won’t consider my writing time to be productive unless I am ‘in the flow.’ In fact, I need momentum in order to get enthusiastic about my work again.”

The truth about momentum is this:

Sometimes we got it. Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes stuff happens that takes us away from habits that created our momentum. Kids get sick. Knees get wonky. Hard drives crash. You get swine flu.

Any number of things can create a loss of momentum.

But there’s one thing you can count on:

When we’re using “momentum” as an excuse, we can pretty much be certain that we’ve fallen into the Momentum Trap – which is just another snarky perfectionist voice that convinces us to stay exactly where we are mostly to avoid feeling uncomfortable again.

Well, guess what? You’re no longer allowed such luxuries.

(After all, you’ve made it this far down the page in these Twitter times. You must be a committed soul!)

One of the most valuable success skills you can develop is that of getting back up and starting again. So, if you want to get your groove back, here’s a 7-step process to help you re-commit to your goals, dreams, and priorities.

1 – Choose the activity.

This one’s easy. Don’t overdo it and go for everything in your life. Just pick one priority right now.

2 – Schedule a time.

Scheduling a time ensures that you don’t put the activity off because you don’t feel like it or because something comes up. It gets set in stone and becomes just what I do.

3 – Go for Small.

The Momentum Trap makes us set our sights huge in order to “pick up where we left off.”  Don’t play this game. The best way to get your groove back is to experience completion on a regular basis. And the best way to experience completion on a regular basis is to set your goals small. Twenty-minutes is a perfect starting place.

4 – Create the space.

Get the space ready before the time comes. For instance, every night before I go to bed, I create the space for my 6am work out. I lay out my clothes, fill up my Sigg bottle, and charge my iPhone. I call it “creating the space.” Legendary basketball coach Dean Smith called it “putting yourself in a position to win.”

5 – Set a timer.

This is the most under-rated tool of them all!

When a timer is running, you won’t be as tempted to go downstairs to put the clothes in the dryer, or see if the mail has arrived. It’s an effective mind game that keeps your butt in the chair (or on the treadmill) and your focus on the task.

6 – Just do it.

Don’t stop to pause and wonder if you really FEEL like doing this today. Cuz you know what? You won’t! Just walk out the door, or sit down at the desk, or start going through the clutter. Taking action builds the enthusiasm. Not the other way around!

7 – Don’t skip days.

I know. I know. We’re supposed to get weekends off. But if you’re doing small enough chunks of time, then you’ll be able to continue your groove EVEN on the weekends. Taking a day or two off means having to start all over again on Monday. This is why you start with small chunks of time and small goals. That way, it won’t be hard to keep up your practice – even when you would normally want a day off!

**BONUS TIP** Build gradually, but keep your minimum baseline do-able.

“Minimum Baseline” is one of the techniques created by Brooke Castillo in her awesome book, If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight? It is simply a minimum amount you decide that you will do (work-out, for example) each day. It is a commitment you make to yourself.

So, keep your minimum baseline small, but build your time gradually each week. For instance, add ten minutes to your scheduled time each week – while keeping the minimum baseline low in case you get swine flu and need to take it easy.

17 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Michele

    The concept of small goals was so incredibly helpful to me this morning I just had to write to say “THANKS!!!”. I am an artist working on an installation piece for an upcoming show I am in and I set myself a short-term goal/deadline to get something concrete done do I could send some writing on the piece and ideally some images to the curator for publicity. Despite spending hours in my studio each day, I had a nagging feeling that I “wasn’t getting anything accomplished”. No amount of time felt adequate for me. Last night I shared with one of my meditation buddies how discouraged I felt because here I am living my dream, working in my studio each day, invited to be in this amazing exhibition on art and spirituality with artists I admire, having a balanced day with time in the garden, time to make healthy meals and take yummy naps but still I wasn’t feeling at peace with it. I realized I needed to break the big 3 week goal into smaller daily chunks. So today I set the goal to do 3 hours in the studio. No nebulous all day fuzziness where I am drifting in and out of focus. Three focused hours. It feels great. I have done 2 now and have one to go and still will have plenty of time to take care of some of my other pending commitments! Woo hoo! Thanks, Christine! Can’t wait to delve more into your blog. So much richness here.

  • Mindful Mimi

    Christine,
    Great tips. I love the ‘create the space’. I tend to get all stressed in the morning deciding what to wear. Choosing that in the evening would save me a lot of hassle.
    Thanks.
    Mimi

  • Giulietta

    Christine, love this post. Most helpful.

    I try to just do it and worry about “getting it right” later. Otherwise, it never gets done. Today I am going to “just do it” for a column I need to start writing.

    Thx,

    G.

  • Tim (360 Degree Self)

    Hey Christine:

    Great post…I’ve had some trouble gaining momentum in my job search. I like the “create the space” tip and will have to try it. I know this sounds old fashioned, but a yesterday I really prayed to be productive and gain momentum and I had a day of intense focus and productivity. My best day in a long time.

  • Christine Kane

    These are great comments, as usual. (My readers quite simply rock!)

  • Rhiannon

    My favourites from these are the timer and just do it.

    I use the timer to get going with all kinds of tasks and as “I let it go” said, it often sets in motion a longer burst of energy. But with some tasks I really do just say to myself ” ok, I’m going to do 15 minutes of this just now” – and it is amazing just how much can me achieved in that short time.

    Just do it – or as Julia Cameron called it “showing up at the page”. If I always waited until I felt inspired to take a photo, or edit or develop something new I could wait forever. I just set off and see how it unfolds. I have used this technique with my “12 city project”. Although it is a fun project, that doesn’t stop it being difficult at times. I haven’t always felt like spending another day walking around a city , looking for that perfect shot. Sometims I have felt disorientated or overwhelmed or just plain shattered from the last few days. But I get up in the morning and set off- and just that action sets the rest in motion.

    I also love the last idea of a minimum baseline – and will borrow that thought for the next cities.

    Thanks Christine for your continued inspiration.

  • chris zydel

    Hi Christine,

    Yes, that momentum thing can really throw a wrench in the creative works. What I love about what you’ve talked about AND what I have learned the HARD way over many years of trial and error is the power of persistence and consistency. When I get myself in trouble is when I go for all or nothing – whether it’s a writing project or losing 10 lbs… that’s when things backfire on me. But I always make progress when I put a system into place. Slow and steady really DOES win the race!

    Thanks for another great post.

  • Stacey

    I love what Elizabeth Gilbert said about showing up to write in the face of the daunting task of creating something as fabulous as “Eat, Pray, Love”. She said she decided to believe that there was a daimon – a spirit who either infuses your work with greatness, or not. If it shows up, great! Another best seller! If not, at least *she* shows up – and that’s all she can ever do. That story always makes me smile and has gotten me to do many a thing when I didn’t feel *inspired*. 🙂

  • Andrea

    What a timely post. It is the end of the academic year and a great excuse to delay taking the next step into what I do when I don’t teach. I am going to use all these ideas to work on all the things I say I will do “when summer comes”. Wait, Wait….not all the things. I will pick one thing and learn how to recommit over and over.
    THANKS!

  • Jodi at Joy Discovered

    I am seeing myself in some of your momentum comments. I never thought about it being “just another snarky perfectionist voice that convinces us to stay exactly where we are mostly to avoid feeling uncomfortable again” — but I think you are so right! This is a great site! Good thoughts! Thanks for the post!

  • Erin

    Great advice! I get up at 5:45 am to do an “Hour of Power” every morning: 15 minutes of meditation, 15 minutes of physio exercises, 15 minutes of French practice and 15 minutes to read and work on the Uplevel program. I’m astounded at the progress I’ve made – you can do so much in only 15 minutes! Anything is bearable and it cuts out any whining. Plus my roommate is intrigued – “What are you doing out there in the morning with the microwave timer??”.

  • Positively Present

    Great ideas here! I really like the idea of “just do it.” It’s so simple, but so true. If we just take action, good things will happen! And, if not good things, at least we’ll be learning from the bad things. Action is so important!

  • Christine Kane

    Riz – thanks for the trump article – it’s truly great. It’s interesting what he says about the power of inertia. When i was touring a lot – it was hard to come home and then head back out. It’s almost easier to just keep going and going. (And when it comes to traveling and touring, i don’t consider that “momentum” as much as just plain bad for your body!) I used to tell people that the being home made it harder to head back out!

  • i let it go

    #5 -Set a timer- has been a great help to me. Whether it was clearing clutter, writing my Master’s thesis (talk about intimidating!), or doing a sink full of dishes, I could set my timer and do anything for at least 15 minutes. And oddly enough, 15 minutes was often enough time for me to build momentum to want to do more (concerning my thesis, I often did. It just helped me to get started). With a timer though, I knew I could stop if I really needed to. Thanks for a great post. You have a great way of pointing out excuses that many of us use, without blaming or guilting us. I think I’ll set my timer and go do some writing!

  • Doreen Frost

    Excellent Post..>Thank you!

  • Riz

    Hi Christine. Thanks for these pointers. Here is also something that I would like to share, about Donald Trump and what he says about momentum. I had read it on one of his books and then came across this web page.

    http://www.trumpuniversity.com/connect/newsletters/itt/issue29.cfm

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