Ever feel like you can’t pursue a dream or get a project happening because you don’t have the time? The juggle of demands in our lives leaves us feeling time-poor. The reality is we do have limited time. We have to choose the priorities for that time. We cannot do it all at the same time. I wonder how often we use that as an excuse not to try because we are actually afraid. I know I have. Instead, I am choosing to use small pockets of time carved out to build momentum in the dreams and projects I am pursuing.
This year has thrown plans into disarray, changed the demands I face and delayed many of the goals I was running towards. I have had to decide whether to give up on those dreams completely for now or to keep taking steps forward.
There are five keys to building momentum I have discovered in my own journey. These keys are what I come back to when I find myself drifting or demotivated (which happens often in case you were wondering.)
- Clear focus
- Break down the project
- Distinct blocks of time
- Get rid of distractions
- Stay on the hook
Most of the time our dreams start out in vague terms. You can’t build momentum without having a direction in which to funnel it. Get specific about what you are aiming for and the time frame involved. There is a mountain of research showing the power of setting clear and specific goals.
Goals alone are not the answer though. I have found it is so easy to set goals, even specific ones, and yet still not get there. I have started to ask myself ‘what type of person do I need to be to achieve that goal?’ and start acting like that person. For example, a person with a published book writes consistently, pushes through when feeling unmotivated, sets and keeps writing blocks and gets outside input. They take feedback and improve. What kind of person do you need to be to reach the goals you have in mind?
I have discovered in my own life how much I underestimate what can get done in a short period of time if I truly focus. Conversely, I overestimate how much I can get done in a longer period of time- usually because I add a stack of to-do list items that pull me in many different directions or allow distractions to creep in.
Break down the project
Having a big goal and a vision of the type of person you need to be may help to determine your overall direction but doesn’t help you to know what to do right this minute. It can feel overwhelming. We need to break down large projects into smaller chunks. I find asking myself questions like ‘What can I do today that will move me closer to that goal?’ and ‘What is the next right thing to do?’ helps. Writing a book is huge and overwhelming. Writing 1000 words today brings it into an actionable step. Keeping a dream in its big and out of reach form is a way of letting ourselves off the hook.
Distinct blocks of time
Small, next right steps are only valuable when we actually take them. I have found assigning those steps to specific weeks, days and blocks of time keeps you moving forward. Maybe you work on steps towards a specific goal at the same time each week. Maybe you set a timer and decide that you will work as hard as you can on a project until that timer ends.
Get rid of distractions
My least favourite tip but also the one that I need the most. I make no secret of the fact that I am addicted to distraction. You too? I lose count of how many days I get frustrated at myself for how much time I have wasted. As human beings we are drawn to comfort and what feels good in the moment.
Distraction can hide deeper avoidance issues. It’s easier to be frustrated at myself for getting distracted than face the fear of failure, the fear of succeeding and the self-doubt. I am learning to ask myself what I am avoiding when I pick up a distraction.
Stay on the hook
Without a doubt, I make the most progress and keep momentum building when I keep myself on the hook. Each week I set my weekly big three tasks that feed into my daily big three tasks. Every Sunday, I do a weekly preview where I review my progress on those tasks. This process helps me to keep myself on the hook.
For me, the biggest difference comes in when I bring other people into this too. I have a mastermind group that I check in with most days with a major check in each week. Knowing that others will check in on me helps me to stay on the hook for myself.
Momentum comes from making progress. The more steps we take, the easier it is to keep going. At least until we hit the final steps if you’re anything like me.
I would love to hear your tips for building momentum in small pockets of time. Share in the comments or on social media.