Banishing the No Momentum Monster

We want to again welcome guest author Alex Fayle, the writer and professional organizer behind the helpful anti-procrastination website Someday Syndrome. This is his second post of three in a series on fighting procrastination.

In my first post in this series on Unclutterer, I talked about vanquishing the Getting Started Monster and hopefully you were able to defeat your own personal Getting Started Monster.

Great! If it’s an organizing project you’ve started, you’ve probably cleared a surface and streamlined your stuff. Maybe you’ve even managed to clear off the dining room table for the first time in years. Momentum has supposedly kicked in and you’re ready to keep going.

But you don’t.

The rest of the space stays disorganized and the papers start piling up again on the dining room table and you feel totally discouraged. Why bother when it’s just going to get cluttered again?

I’m the same way with my writing. Unless I’m vigilant about my writing, I can let it slide by the wayside and without really noticing I’ve come up with enough excuses not to write for over two weeks.

Not good.

You think I’d want to write every day. After all, it’s my passion and writing every day brings me closer to my goal of being a published author?

Yes, but it’s also work. Hard work. And there’s no immediate pay off. Yes, I have the reward of 200 or 2000 words written, but I get nothing, no gold star, for doing so and my long term goal is still a long way off.

Unfortunately, just like with getting started there’s no trick to continuing. You can use positive enforcement of mini rewards, or picturing how happy you’ll be after you achieve your goal. You could also use negative motivation by imagining how much regret you’ll feel for not doing the thing that you’re procrastinating about.

In the end, however, there’s only the choice to continue.

The Power of Choice

There’s a saying about courage: A brave person feels fear and continues anyway. For getting around to it, a productive person feels like quitting but continues anyway.

Looking at it another way — every single day is a new start so getting back to a task you did the day before is exactly like starting it all over again facing the same Getting Started monster.

Almost every single goal I can think of requires a series of smaller steps to complete. Many times those small steps are repetitive and require a long-term commitment. The longer the commitment the easier it is to lose energy and enthusiasm until you’re moving less than a run-down grandfather clock.

If you’re the sort of person this happens to (I certainly am) all you need to do is make a choice to keep going. When I don’t feel like working, I remind myself that I’ve chosen my goals and if I don’t want to achieve them I don’t have to. Of course I wouldn’t be happy letting most goals fall by the wayside so I say “okay, fine” and get back to work.

With some goals, however, I truly do lose interest and I realize that the goal isn’t for me. By offering myself a choice to continue or not, I sometimes do choose to stop, often with a huge sense of relief.

So, how do you make sure you remember this choice? By repeating it to yourself every day.

I’m not big on affirmations where you stare in the mirror and tell yourself good things that you’re supposed to believe about yourself. The phrase in this exercise is meant as a daily wake up call, reminding you to keep the autopilot turned off and to stay engaged in everything you do.

And just what’s the super fantastic phrase that’s going to keep you motivated and moving forward?

I choose all my actions including what I’m not going to do.

That’s it. By taking responsibility for your actions, every day you’ll make a choice to continue or not, but remember – it’s your choice, no one is making you do or not do anything.

8 Comments for “Banishing the No Momentum Monster”

  1. posted by Barbara Tako | Clutter Clearing Choices LLC on

    Yes! I am an author also. Great ideas. It is all about making conscious choices–even the conscious choice to quit or let something go. It is hard. I think we all struggle with staying on task at certain times or many times in our lives. Maybe we could try to get better at accepting ourselves and the choices we have made in the past. When I am feeling better about myself (more forgiving), it is actually easier to make a better (more positive) new choice. When I beat myself up, I tend to stay stuck in the same rut.

  2. posted by Jordan on

    I’ve been having this exact problem lately, and this post was very helpful and motivating. Thank you!

  3. posted by chacha1 on

    Lately I am choosing to spend my precious Saturday mornings cleaning and Sunday afternoons cooking for the coming week, instead of working on other projects (or doing nothing, which is what I generally *want* to do!).

    Staying on task gets very difficult indeed when you need daylight. Hmm, sounds like I need to get out in the sun a little more often.

  4. posted by joan V. on

    i think this type of mantra would help with things like quitting smoking, by every day allowing yourself to make the choice and choosing to do the right thing. it’s a very good way to stay positive too!

  5. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    Yes, we often fight ourselves by looking back at our past and using it as a reason to judge ourselves in the present and stop ourselves from doing things in the future. With my writing for example, I used to have a hard time with description so I could easily tell myself now that I can’t do it and then avoid writing it in the future, making my writing worse. Instead I say “Hey Alex, you’re still learning! Write and get better” and then I choose to make mistakes as I improve.

    Glad to help!

    Being aware of our actions is the first step in changing them – once you recognize what you’re doing is not what you want to do you can figure out what to change. Well done for seeing that!

    @Joan V
    Yes, when I quit smoking socially (I smoked for years and refused to give it up totally for some reason), I would look at others smoking and say “I can choose to not smoke” and it suddently became easy not to smoke.

  6. posted by The Simple Dollar » The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Freebies Edition on

    […] Banishing the No Momentum Monster Without some sort of crutch, I find it’s really hard to maintain the momentum of continuous work, like writing or exercising every day. For me, the “chain method” works well – I have a printed calendar on the wall in my office and each day I accomplish my specific goal, I put a big colored X on that date on the calendar. When I get a string of them going, I *really* don’t like breaking that chain, so it gives me motivation to do it. (@ unclutterer) […]

  7. posted by Peter on

    This is a great way to look at it.

    My goals are something I can’t bare to give up on, by questioning myself in this way certainly would help.

    I’m going to try it next time I don’t feel like working on something.

    I will ask myself, “Do you wan’t to continue and achieve your dreams, or give up on this goal?”

    If I’m honest with myself I’ll say no to the goals I no longer wan’t to achieve.

    Great article.

  8. posted by The Cure For Inaction is Action « Vasta Diem on

    […] Banishing The No-Momentum Monster […]

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