The main lesson from a handful of recent books that I have read has been focus on fewer, more important things if you really want to make progress. Less but better. And that the best way to maintain the momentum on the projects you do want to take on is to make small steps and celebrate the progress, rather than reaching the end goal.
Studies have shown that the best way to create engagement in your work is to either experience achievement or recognition of achievement regularly. This is something you have probably experienced personally. The best projects are the ones that you can feel like you finished something at the end of every day. Massive all or nothing projects that drag on each day where you work hard but it’s difficult to see the progress can wear you down very quickly.
With this in mind, it is important to structure your projects such that there are always pieces where people can feel personal accomplishment or otherwise provide some external recognition of something that cannot easily be sub-divided in to small tasks.
This works at various different scales too. Entrepreneurs talk about Minimum Viable Products and “Done not perfect” to describe that initial ship-able product that can be celebrated as a turning point in the business. At the day-to-day scale the accomplishments might be to implement a button on an app, or finalize financing terms for a business loan, or write a chapter for a book. When you start off the day knowing the small task that provides a small step towards your end goal, then at the end of the day you can feel that sense of accomplishment when you complete it.
These small daily accomplishments are THE major factor in maintaining momentum.
Work each day without the sense of accomplishment is like crossing a bog – slow, tedious and dreadful.
With the sense of accomplishment it’s like driving a car on smooth paved roads – even if you take your foot off the gas you’ll keep going forward.
How do you make this concrete and apply it to YOUR goals?
There are two steps/skills required to control and build your momentum.
Focus is about very specifically knowing what your goal is and using that goal as part of all your decisions. Develop your goal by taking time to really think about it, make it something measurable, attainable, and time boxed if possible: “lose 10 lbs by summer vacation”, “reach $1M in revenue this year”, “sign up 1000 new clients this month”. With this goal in hand filter all decisions through it. “Will X help me accomplish Y faster?” If the answer is No, then put it aside, decline the offer, and continue to use your time on things that will get you to your goal.
Planning is about taking the time to really think about how you can accomplish your goal. Figure out how to divide a big goal into smaller daily or weekly goals – something that is actionable. $1M per year in revenue is more difficult to understand than a $4000 per day sales goal. Then put systems in place to measure and accomplish those smaller goals. Up front planning is important but it is also critical to re-evaluate and adjust the systems as progress is made and you learn or experience roadblocks.
With a good plan and the ability to maintain focus on your goal you stand the best chance of having the daily accomplishments needed to create momentum. Slowly but surely these accomplishments compound until massive progress is done, goals are met and success is had.