First, throw in a quick load of laundry. Then clean off your desk so you can find your keyboard. Your computer needs to update. Better get a handle on the emails that got away from you. Oh, coffee! And maybe a little snack, too. Back to the desk but now onto the unread Facebook notifications. There was something you was supposed to be doing today…better check the other email account. Start working on a client project, then gotta go change the laundry. Now it’s time for lunch!
And on it goes until the end of the day rolls around, you feel terrible, and you’ve accomplished approximately nothing.
When I lose momentum, this is what it feels like. I’m not talking big, life-altering derailments, but rather the smaller ones like going on vacation, recovering from a cold, or even just finishing a project and not knowing what to work on next. I feel unfocused, easily distractable, and usually quite groggy. I start to mix work with personal stuff during the day. I bounce around between my 4 email accounts, social media profiles, and text messages. My day has no purpose or direction (woah, Blink-182 flash there!)
This summer, like every summer, I took a lot of time off. If I didn’t have any clients scheduled I’d skip out of work to go to the beach, and I took 3 weeks off to go camping with my family. To be fair, I put it in my plan every year, so it’s intentional, but it’s still a lot of stopping and starting when I’m used to a more consistent routine. I’ve been contemplating if perhaps I take too much time off. Is there such a thing? For now, I’m going to go with ‘no’ and focus on being able to regain momentum more quickly when I lose it.
However, let’s start by acknowledging that there are hidden costs to taking time off. In addition to the lost time working (maybe you weren’t marketing or delivering work, so your stream of clients has slowed or you’re behind on deliverables) there’s the stuff we don’t always allocate time for like packing, planning, logistics, unpacking, cleaning, etc. And if you’ve been sick, you might be back to work but you’re still feeling lethargic or tired. This cost can be quite significant, and it’s common that we beat ourselves up or feel completely overwhelmed.
Of course there are benefits to taking time off, too! That can be a topic for another day. Suffice it to say, even though I love my work I would still go nuts without breaks.
I have two main approaches to this topic of momentum: mindset and planning.
The most powerful thing I try to remember is something I learned from my brilliant health coach Erin Power. She says, “There is no wagon to fall off of. Your last action doesn’t determine your patterns; your next one does.” If I keep in mind that every day and every hour I have the ability to make a new choice, it feels less daunting. Regaining momentum doesn’t have to be a big, elaborate planning session (though I’ll talk about those, too). You can look at your calendar and plan the next day to be a productive, satisfying one. You can wake up with intentionality, and just reset moving forward. If you didn’t actually fall off the wagon, because there is no wagon, then there’s nothing to beat yourself up over. You’re human, and humans don’t follow the plan every minute of every day. It’s totally okay!
If you take this a step further, you might even see that it’s impossible to lose momentum. You can always get back to writing another article, doing your outreach, logging your expenses, or whatever it is you need to do. Every day you get a fresh start.
This is the fun part for me. I love a good mind map or a blank whiteboard. Sometimes when I lose momentum it’s because I don’t really know what I should be working on. I may have finished up a project or I might be thinking about starting a new one. For example, this year I’ve been very consistent with posting articles, but now I’m thinking about introducing something new. I’ve been stuck because I can’t quite figure out yet what it should be. In this case, there are a few things I try:
· Review my yearly plan. What did I put on the plan that I haven’t done yet? Am I on track?
· Mind map all the ideas in my brain so I can get them out on paper and organize them. Often just getting them out frees up your mind for the next thing.
· Free-flow on a whiteboard. This week this is what I did. I put my four ideas down, jotted down how I felt about each one, looked at which would be most effective and in what order, and was able to narrow them down.
· Create a Courage-Based Plan. This is especially good if you’re noticing resistance or any self-doubt showing up.
· Talk to someone. I’m biased towards a thought partner or self-belief coach, but sometimes a friend or colleague can be very helpful, too.
My clients and I have also found success in using the 12-Week Year framework. You pick a 12-week period and plan out what you’re going to do in those weeks. Between the weeks, you get a week off. When you’re done the 12+1 weeks, you start again. Essentially it’s like working in sprints, or quarters. They can be roughly timed around the equinoxes and solstices as well, if you’re into that. It also times great with the profit payout periods if you’re following the Profit First system for your finances.
By using this rhythm you can time your breaks to be between projects, and you won’t feel like you’re interrupting your flow. It’s a long enough period of time to be productive and get real work done, and it’s short enough that you can keep up your pace throughout. There’s an end in sight.
At the beginning of your 12-week sprint, you can create a Courage-Based Plan, or plan in whatever way you like so you know what you want to accomplish in that time. Setup your calendar with the appropriate time blocks, and don’t forget to add in your week off! Be realistic about what you can accomplish in that time, accounting for some minor unexpected things to happen throughout. Set milestones throughout, plan ahead for obstacles, and get to it!
As you can see, I put a big emphasis on the ‘planning’ side of this. I find a lot can be helped with a little bit of structure. My approach to coaching is to assume nothing has gone wrong and some structure and accountability can go a long way. It’s in the implementation of the structure that we really get to see the mindset come through. When a client has the structure and they’re still not working towards their goal in the way that they’d like, then we dive into the underlying self-doubt going on behind the scenes. But sometimes, a plan is all you need!
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