Advertising
Advertising

The Daily Grind: A Matter of Momentum

The Daily Grind: A Matter of Momentum

momentum

    If you want to understand personal productivity, you’ve got to understand the concept of momentum. For all the organizing systems in the world and early rising skills in your time zone, you’ll only ever get so much done without bringing momentum into play.

    Advertising

    Some people say the purpose of productivity is to give yourself more free time to spend relaxing, not working. I disagree. The purpose of productivity is to give yourself more time, whatever you choose to do with it. You should definitely have downtime regularly, but one thing momentum allows you to do is work faster and faster with each completed task throughout the day. In this case, we’re talking about being productive so that you’re even more productive in the hours following.

    The Big Difference: Productivity With and Without Momentum

    You start the day with a coffee and by making a list of the tasks you need to get done. At nine in the morning, you start working, slowly picking off the tasks on your list as and when you feel like it, so long as they’re completed by the time you have to clock off. It doesn’t matter if you do them in a slow and relaxed manner, it just matters that you don’t have to stay back late. This determines your maximum working speed.

    Advertising

    On the other hand, you could start with a list you prepared at the previous day. This helps with one thing in particular: it removes any obstacles to getting started and building momentum. You start with the first task on the list and set a timer. You’ve set a dash: you’re going to work furiously and unwaveringly for ten minutes, and then reward yourself with a two minute break. If at any point in that ten-minute period your concentration wavers, you start from scratch and delay your break. There’s incentive to work not just quickly, but without distractions.

    You set the timer again for your break, but unlike most people you don’t take the whole two minutes having a cigarette or looking up jokes; you give yourself one minute to stretch your legs and one minute to review your tasks, mentally preparing for the next dash — which is going to be twice as long, but with a twice as long break.

    Advertising

    This is just one method for keeping yourself focused, on-task, and working pretty quickly. The key point is that it gets you working a little longer, a little harder each time, and you only get to reward yourself if you succeed at working hard.

    Why Momentum Matters

    If you’re in an employment situation, there might not be much incentive for you to work as hard as possible and build momentum throughout the day. If I could offer one good reason to train yourself in working harder and faster as the day progresses, it’s that one day you might find yourself self-employed and you’ll discover that time is money.

    Advertising

    For every minute you’re slacking off, you’re not earning money, and let me tell you: the habits you built working for someone else will persist even when you work for yourself.
    There can be a staggering amount of work to do in this situation, whether you’re building a business (whether as a freelancer or as a company) or maintaining one. I know of way too many freelancers who start working before most people are awake and don’t clock off until nine or ten at night.

    Many of these people are working at full-blast all day, but the truth is that most people who work insane hours could probably work a lot less if they just applied the concept of momentum-building to their work day. If you’re well-organized already, it’s easy to begin. If not, you need to get started with a system like Getting Things Done, because if your next actions are not known to you before the start of your work day, you will spend time figuring out what to do next and losing any and all momentum.

    Get Prepared the Day Before

    If you don’t do anything else, do this one thing: map out your tasks the day before. Before you finish up work each day, make it your final task to set up a to-do list for the next day. There are so many benefits to working this way: anything tasks you need to complete from that day are still fresh in your mind, you give your mind twelve hours to mentally prepare for the next day at work, and you remove the biggest obstacle to being productive, and that’s not knowing where to start.

    My preferred system is to use Things on the computer for planning projects and capturing tasks, and then transferring daily task lists to a paper-only format to aid in focus.

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization The Importance of Scheduling Downtime How to Make Decisions Under Pressure 11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage

    Trending in Featured

    1 Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed 2 What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time 3 20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity 4 How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 5 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on March 31, 2020

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why We Procrastinate After All?

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

    Advertising

    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    Is Procrastination Bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

    Advertising

    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How Bad Procrastination Can Be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

    Advertising

    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Advertising

    Procrastination, a Technical Failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next