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When You Lose Momentum, You Become Vulnerable to Distraction

Constant motion is crucial to making progress

Thomas Oppong
Sep 26 · 6 min read

Momentum has a psychological effect.

It’s crucial to growth and getting things done. Like pushing a sledge down a snowy hill, creating momentum makes goal achievement and behavioural change easier and quicker.

“Fast starts are never as important as a cultural hook, consistently showing up and committing to a process, says Seth Godin.

Momentum is just like Newton’s First Law of Motion — an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

In other words, it’s a lot less work to keep moving once you have some momentum than it is to start moving from a dead stop.

To leverage momentum, Jerry Seinfeld recommends you use a physical calendar, where you mark off each day when you’ve done your most important task: “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain,” he says.

By creating and riding on momentum, create a new behaviour pattern. The more momentum you have, the more things you get done. It’s like habit or success stacking, the energy of momentum always feeds on itself.

This principle holds true in almost every pursuit — academics, business, relationships, self-improvement, etc. Actions create momentum, and momentum creates results.

Momentum is motion — progress towards a goal.

It’s a simple idea, but a very powerful force that can help you finish what you start. It’s like a domino effect where one success follows another.

When you are in motion, things happen effortlessly and growth comes quickly. Little victories lead to big victories. Small wins create a snowball effect which leads to bigger accomplishments.

When you’ve built and created momentum, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to get into motion. Your next actions happen with little effort. It’s like compound interest — if you put money in an investment account and it starts to generate interest, you create momentum automatically. Those gains from the compound interest will produce gains of their own and so on.

When you start a new exercise routine and keep pushing yourself every day to get better, you create and ride on momentum.

Identify your focus and create a growth plan

The biggest challenge we face related to focus is not just distractions, but it's our lack of clarity. Many people go through life looking through a foggy and fuzzy lens. They don’t clarity. When you are certain about your next steps, it’s easier to get started and create momentum.

To grow or get more things done, first, get focused.

For meaningful productivity, you need a strong bias toward action that keeps you on track to doing your best work day in and day out. Resistance to doing work that matters will come from within and without.

Make an actionable growth plan. Identify the destination you seek, then identify the necessary steps to bring that destination into reality. Think things through in the smallest detail. It’s one of the best ways to create the change you want. Change is challenging, but it beats stagnation and regression.

When you are in motion towards something meaningful, you improve your chances of growing your skills, knowledge and getting results.

Think through where you want to land tomorrow. Growth just doesn’t happen; nor does success. Both need focus, a decision, a plan, action and a continual commitment with little or no distractions.

Small distractions can have big consequences

How often do you feel frustrated at the end of the day because your most important tasks are still not done?

Losing momentum slows progress. Every day, you face the “villains” of life and work that can overtake your energy and initiatives. They forge roadblocks and make you detour down a path of shallow work.

According to Udemy’s survey, nearly 3 out of 4 workers (70 percent) admit they feel distracted when they’re on the job, with 16 percent asserting that they’re almost always distracted. The problem is biggest for Millennials and Gen Zers, with 74 percent reporting feeling distracted.

Don’t underestimate even the smallest distractions. Even as a simple phone call can be the bigger diversion.

“Working with 95 volunteers, psychologists Jeff Moher and Joo-Hyun Song at Brown University, along with Brian Anderson at Johns Hopkins University, found that subtle distractors change what we are doing more than obvious ones. But they do not have the same effect on what we see,” writes Diana Kwon of The Scientific American.

People experience distractions differently. Some people can deal with them better than others. Two people will react to a distraction in their immediate environment differently.

Distractions can compromise your effectiveness at work. Your brain requires a significant amount of metabolic resources to process information and perform complicated tasks.

Every time you switch your focus to a new task or stop what you’re doing to take in the distracting element, you lose a portion of that energy.

You lose momentum in the process. It takes even more energy to reach the same level of attentiveness and intellectual capacity you were using before.

By allowing occasional distractions to interrupt your work, you use more brainpower, get tired easily and lose focus.

While building momentum can carry you towards your goals, losing it can be costly to your energy. When you stop performing an action and then start it again, you basically start at the beginning and need to build up the habit again.

While the downside of losing momentum may not be immediately visible, you can be sure that eventually, it will catch up with you at some point in the day.

To perform at your peak, take control of your momentum, and plan your breaks according to allow you to resume at your own pace. Proactively carve out a block of time to rest, recharge and get back to doing what you do best.

Keeping your momentum going can be a challenge – especially when you feel that you don’t need to continue pursuing an action since you already become proficient in it.

The minute that you lose momentum, you lose the thread. You become extremely vulnerable to distraction— you could doubt the possibility of success, other people’s demands creep in, vying for your attention and focus.

You start to generate other new ideas that may seem more worthy of execution, tempting you to move onto the next big thing without ever finishing what you’ve started.

If you can keep moving on your tasks every day, it’s infinitely easier to stay focused, make and feel progress, and blast through the roadblocks that inevitably come up.

“When it comes to momentum, frequency of execution is perhaps more important than the duration of execution. Even if you’re working on your project for just an hour a day that’s enough to keep your objectives and recent activities top of mind. Then, when you sit down to work on it again, you can slip quickly back into the flow,” says Jocelyn K. Glei of 99U.

Consistent execution is paramount to your progress — it keeps your head clear and focused; it rewards you with a constant feeling of progress; and, most importantly, it keeps the ball moving forward.

If you get to the end the day feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything, try treating those less important tasks as distractions. Focus on a few things you can get done that move you closer to your work goals.

If you want to get in shape, write consistently, make great art, eat better, or anything else, build momentum and watch out for distractions.

Workflows, habits, and routines can degrade over time, evaluate them monthly or quarterly to get rid of unseen distractions. Build a system to block out distractions.

Work consistently and put the odds in your favour. Show up every day and you will build enough momentum to build better habits or improve how you work. When it comes to performance, the key is to get moving and keep moving.

The Startup

Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder at AllTopStartups | Author | Creator of Thinking in Models and Kaizen Habits | Featured at Inc. Magazine, Business Insider, Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc.

The Startup

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