The Magic Of Momentum

Lately much of my time (and my writing) has been focused on the technology and workflows that help reduce the friction that keeps many of us (read: me) from achieving our goals. While I have become a big believer in these kinds of structured efforts, the problem is that they pale in comparison to the power of momentum. More and more, I find myself believing that once you strike a balance between structure and momentum, you truly become unstoppable!

Ok, I know that is all a bit esoteric, but stick with me. Let’s look at my efforts to write this site. While there is no exact way to measure this, I am fairly certain that my first two years of writing will go down as the worst blogging in the history of humanity. I was inconsistent, infrequent and generally all over the place. It wasn’t until I settled in on a posting schedule and found focus that things started to improve.

One of the biggest changes for me was getting into the habit of capturing the ideas that my ADHD-addled mind is incapable of holding onto. When an idea for a post pops into my head, I immediately stop what I am doing, capture it and go back to whatever I am working on. Later on, when I have time, I come back to these thoughts and expand the good ones into posts.

Then something happened. I was taking my regular commute back from work on the subway when an idea came to me. I jumped into Simplenote on my iPhone to capture it and before I knew what happened, I ended up writing the entire post1.

I thought it was a fluke, but then it happened again and again and… well, you get the point. The system I had intentionally created accidentally led to the momentum I needed to create. I found my own personal sweet spot, which is unfortunately different for everyone, where structure + momentum = velocity2.

You have to know what you want to do. You have to have some idea of how you want to do it. But most importantly, you have to allow for the momentum to actually do it. Give yourself some rules, give yourself some room, and I have a feeling that with a little experimentation, you will be amazed at what you can create.

Note: For those who are curious, this post was written in that exact style on the ever-inspiring B train.

  1. If you ask me, it is still one of the least bad things I’ve posted on this site.  

  2. Yes, I know I’m butchering both math and a metaphor.  

14 Responses to The Magic Of Momentum

  1. The worst blogging in history? You obviously haven’t read my posts :)

    Momentum for me is sitting down in front of my Mac and getting the word done. There is no secret, no 4hour work week shortcut, no super app. to make it faster, cheaper, easier, it’s just old school hard work. So this is for structure, the momentum follows.

    Great point Michael, I love butchering math, I did it through all my school  years :)

    • I don’t think there are shortcuts, but I think there are ways to reduce friction.

      Are there superapps, no. Are there tools that can help, absolutely. It sure as hell isn’t easy, but I’ve found ways to make it easier for me.

      If I tried to do my writing in the morning, I would struggle more. My brain just doesn’t slip into that gear until later in the day. It is usually why I like to consume in the AM and create in the PM. I found my own personal wave and rode it.

      There are no shortcuts, but there are smarter paths you can take.

  2. Hey Michael, I got here by following a link from. J. Falchetto.  I have absolutely no structure that holds up to the crazy stuff my family requires of me emotionally, mentally and physically! LOL! I can visualize it, and I’m working on it, but I still want to write amidst the chaos.  So I sat down this morning with NOTHING, no idea, just one person whose story was incomplete (I do family history). My thoughts kept telling me to start writing and it would come. And it worked! I found documents and facts that led me to new information and a second story! Felt like I’d opened a floodgate. I’m not a writer, so I don’t really know what everyone else deals with. But, long story short, doing is achieving.

    • @johnfalchetto:disqus is a great guy, isn’t he and agree with his point about just sitting there and doing the work (if you haven’t read Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, it really touches on just how important this is). However, here is a perfect example of how the right tool can help. I constantly found myself in the same position. Sitting at my desk, ready and wanting to write, but without an idea.  It is why I started capturing them all in Simplenote (bunch of posts about this here on the blog). This way whenever I am out and about and come up with a post idea, I capture it down. Many of them I’ll finish, but more often then not, they are my go to inspiration anytime I sit down and find myself without anything to write.

  3. Hi Michael,

    That evil Gini Dietrich sent me here. Sure glad she did.

    Well, The worst blogging in history, eh? You can all have a good laugh when I finally hit publish.

    Regarding tools and workflows, I’ve tried it all, from the GTD approach to timed blocks throughout the day. I’ve created mega-lists, short lists, paper lists, .doc lists and purchased software to keep track of my projects, goals, tasks and  … lists! This lead to Paralysis by analysis, so I’ve come back to the simplest solution of all, … where I started. I have a cheap spiral notebook and list the 3-5 most important tasks each day.

    But I am thinking of abandoning the lists altogether, because like you they introduce way too much stress in my life. The OCD in me keeps coming back to this counterproductive list-making approach (I can’t help myself), but I’m fighting it now more than ever. No lists, or very short list, sit down and do the work. And like you, if I have an idea during the day, capture it and save it for later.

    Simply: less planning, but more doing.    And more doing = momentum.

    Just read the War of Art and that truly resonated with me. As I started planning, writing for my blog, I now love just sitting down, opening the program Write Room on my iMac and writing away early in the day. This does create momentum for me.

    • She is so very, very evil… 

      I’m telling you Craig, no matter what you hit publish on take a look back at the bowels of this site… there are some scary rocks to be turned over. 

      I completely hear you on the paralysis by analysis (or productivity porn as it often called). I try to go one thing at a time and only incorporate the tools that foster forward momentum. I can be easy to get lost in it, but my current workflows (which are also cobbled together from things like GTD, Merlin Mann as well as my own trial and error) have made me more productive than ever. 

      That said, it doesn’t matter what technology you use, the best practice is exactly what you said, find the important crap, do said crap. I just prefer Omnifocus to pen and paper to identify it.

      Write Room is great, I also LOVE Byword for this. Always a pleasure to geek out on this kind of stuff and happy to see that you popped over from Spin Sucks!

      • Productivity porn. Love that! I’ve been totally sucked in over the years.

        Anyway, I’ve seen you commenting here and there, but didn’t have the chance to really check out your blog. Just glad I did. Congrats on posting over at Spin Sucks too.,

        • I’m fortunate that @ginidietrich:twitter has a big blind spot for me! It was a fun post to write and really cool that she was willing to play along. As for Productivity Porn, I still get sucked in from time to time, but just try to keep my eye on the output. We can lie to ourselves, but the pile of work never lies.

  4. Sorry, but I am going to change the subject (please don’t flame/delete me!). I just read your post over at Spin Sucks and thought it was hilarious. In order to beat Gini, I’ve decided to comment here instead (so there, GD). I really like your blog and will be back for more. Honest…I’m not just trying to beat GD when I say that.

    • Flame? Delete? More like praise and cherish! Glad you enjoyed my tear over at Spin Sucks! Had a lot of fun writing it and Gini is such a good sport (even though everything I said is clearly true). Happy to have crossed paths and hope I manage to do enough to keep you around!

  5. You fill my mind with too much to think about

    Okay that was a sad cop out. 

    I’m thinking that a little magic, with a little momentum thrown in can make all the right tools you and I have been talking about lately work that much easier.

    Sometimes the tools create the magic momentum and sometimes the magic momentum makes the tools that much more effective.

    God that was awful – but I hope you get my meaning.

    • I feel your pain, most of this kind of stuff comes from me trying to work this crap out for myself :)

      I’m also deeply concerned that I understood that all too easily… :) It is one of those virtuous cycles. Find a tool that works, gain momentum. That momentum leads and inspires you to possibly find another tool that helps add to that momentum. The only challenge is avoiding the inevitable productive porn. At first it is all good, but eventually it becomes too much. You want that cycle to continue, but the return diminishes with every additional tool. I’ve always loved Patrick Rhones writing on this. He focuses on the idea of “enough”. He even has a podcast and is writing a book on the subject.

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