Keeping Momentum and Loving Your Work
by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 10/20/2010
Momentum is a precious commodity and wielding it well is among best productivity tricks. Accomplishing big, artistic things and staying on track to do so requires momentum, and daily mental tricks to prevent derailment. It’s not like you sit down and create a great big achievement all at once. It’s broken up over days, and those gaps between work sessions where you sleep, eat and live characterize your accomplishment as much as the work-sessions themselves.
In particular, getting back into the work-flow every day is where the project is MOST characterized. You infuse the love and the clarity for your work back in, creating the desire to tackle it, fists blazing, and knowing exactly where to hit. You may be tracking a few thousand things in your head at this moment, and their relationships to each other. Conversely, you may come to hate your work and allow your mind to muddle the details. You hate getting started, because you hardly know where to begin, and can’t sort out multiple conflicting priorities. Breakdown ensues, and the whole day is a lost cause.
This magical moment of getting started each day is where the momentum of a project is won or lost. Once engaged in a project and getting into the zone, its easy to stay engaged as one interesting thing builds upon the next, and you hardly want the day to end, or to sleep from exhaustion, and such. Silly interruptions at this point can be devastating, because you have to again go through the exhausting mental trick of re-engaging yourself. A 30-second interruption can easily be a half-hour of lost productivity–or maybe even knock you off your stride for the day. But this post specifically addresses how to make that re-engagement work well–and its all in loving your work and WANTING to get back to it.
Ensuring that the “love your work” scenario plays out can be greatly aided by wrapping it in a narrative. A daily journal can help–purely for your own sake that you never intend to publish, but wouldn’t hurt you if you did. Picture yourself being quizzed about your work by someone you respect, and how useful a passionate, knowledgeable reply would be to your cause. Picture your future-self explaining back to you the importance of those small decisions you are making today. Picture facing your greatest adversary in a sudden showdown, and crushing him/her due to anticipating every possibility and building in that preparation.
In those lulls between work-sessions, you should be anxious to get started again, and resolve that last little challenge you put down. It should not take much time or effort to get into the groove again–you should be able to jump right in–with BETTER than perfect continuity. Why better? Because your unconscious mind has had about 15 hours and a night’s sleep to work on it. You may not realize it right off, but you are in a much better position to tackle that challenge. The purpose of the daily journal is to just tease it out of your subconscious and prevent you from doing something your future-self would smack you in the head for.
Your project is a sculpture, and each day is a chance to take a chisel strike at the rock to reveal the beautiful shape hidden within. It takes thoughtfulness, imagination, and familiarity with the medium. Hit too hard, and you break off an arm. Hit too lightly, and it will never be done. Pretend to hit, and you’ll be decommissioned pretty darn quick (unless you work in education or government). It takes guts to take those chisel strikes. It never feels urgent, and is rarely understood by those around you, because they lack your vision. You may even encounter ridicule or derision. As long as you know you are right, ridicule is a good sign, as it shows you will be meeting unpreparedness with preparedness.
The price of this passionate and continuous work methodology is de-prioritizing, or perhaps even blowing off the urgent work of the day. And sometimes that type of work is what pays the bills and allows you to sculpt–which adds risk to the equation. It’s hard to get anyone to pay for art before they share the vision. But its worth taking the risk. Do the bare minimum of the drudgery work that pays the bills and rush to get onto the work that you love. Eventually–again, IF you’re right–a flip-flop will occur, and people will realize the brilliance of your vision and pay you to do THAT thing instead, because you are much more valuable for your art than you are for the drudgery work that anyone could perform.