How I Find Momentum

It's so easy to get stuck on projects you don’t really want to do. Don’t you hate that? I do. To avoid this problem, I decided to figure out my most common reason for avoiding a project.

There are plenty of reasons that people get stuck. For me, it turns out that I avoid tasks I’m not confident about.

That usually means that I’ve said, “Yes” to someone, even though I needed more information. Or I’ve done it before, but didn't get the results I expected. Or I assume I can do a good job when I take on the task, but then keep starting over when my results don’t seem good enough.

Sometimes all I need to do is go out for a walk to clear my head with some fresh air. But if that doesn’t do the trick, I've got a routine that helps me get going.  I start with making two lists.

List #1 is everything that I can think of that I need to do as part of the project I’m stuck on. If any task will take longer than an hour, I break it down into sub-tasks. 

List #2 is a list of other things I need to do, but that I’m not stuck on. It doesn’t matter if these are all part of the same project. The point is that these are easy to knock out, and take 15 – 30 minutes to complete.

I start with something from the easy list, to get things moving. Then 15 – 30 minutes later, I take the first thing from the not-so-easy list.

Because I’m not looking at the whole project at one time, this one task typically doesn’t stall me. And I know that at the end of the hour, I’ll get to go back to the easy list. Then I alternate between the lists until I'm done, or at least don't feel stalled anymore.

The beauty of this process is that not only do I finally finish my tough project. I also get a fair amount of other things accomplished at the same time. The tasks are smaller and more manageable so that I've wasted much less time dreading the big project.

Working this way builds momentum.

Finishing a task, especially one you’ve been stuck on, builds confidence.

Often, that’s all I need.