Gaining Momentum

I was thinking today about how important it is in a new job, an old job, or even just in life and your personal projects – to gain and keep momentum.

Momentum always stays constant, according to nature, in a closed system. But professional life is ANYTHING but a closed system. Affecting you on a daily basis is a wide range of co-workers, time, budget, and skill restraints, bosses, managers, people who think they are bosses or managers, not to mention all the things in your personal life that can affect you.It might be important to think of these things as a sort of friction – or better yet… think of all these things as a wonderful city built of legos. A lego city built by your arch nemesis. It would be a lot of fun to take it down, like it was a game.

It’s time to go all Godzilla on it.

They say (you’ll discover I hate saying that phrase) that life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it. So, it would stand to reason that taking the stance that all of those impediments to progress, the things that slow your momentum, the things that cause you to delay, the things that stand in your way – looking at all of these things as ‘friction’ is self-defeating.

After all, friction is one of those ‘natural’ things… that is, that it exists in nature. Have you ever tired to tangle with mother nature? She’s meaner than a Vegas dominatrix. Nuff said. My point is, ‘friction’ requires lots of energy to overcome. Traditionally, a LOT of directed energy to overcome, although not necessarily well-organized.

That ‘well-organized’ part is the reason why the ‘friction’ paradigm is so self-defeating. Everyone knows throwing energy at a problem is no way to solve it… at least not efficiently.

A game… well, that’s different. You don’t put so much energy into that – because your energy is focused. You know how to win, you know the goals you have to meet to win, you know the rules, and the consequences for violating them.

Games are great – because they allow you to focus your energy on what’s important.

The trick to facing down your challenges, to overcoming ‘friction’ and to gaining momentum, is to make a game out of your challenges. Take down that Lego city – it’s gonna be fun! You can do it any way you want!

I find the whole concept of world domination very appealing.

So – look at whatever is standing in your way. I don’t mean ‘the mass of crap’ stopping you from whatever it is you want or need to do, I mean one thing in particular. Create your game based on this one, individual thing. Take, for instance, a huge report that is due in one week.

Warning: Now, this is all very heady and goes into theory. You can do this all in your head in about 5 seconds. I’ve just outlined it here because if you’re like me, I’m BIG into organization. Here’s the cliffnotes version:

  • Define ‘How To Win’
  • Define Goals, Associate Value
  • Define ‘How To Lose’
  • Define Rules
  • Define Consequences
  • Define Steps To Victory

How do you win? Creating a report in one week, right?

Wrong. That’s achieving a goal, not winning the game. You win the game by accomplishing goals.

To win the game, not only do you have to create the report, it has to be accepted and appreciated. This is defining how to win – the best case outcome of your efforts.

In order to know what the best outcome is, you have to set goals – SMART ones. (Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Reasonable, and Timely – more on this in another article). You need to know what will impress your boss the most, what criteria you are being judged on.

You also need to determine how much each of those goals is worth – if you get the report in earlier, can the company profit faster or more? If you have errors in your report, will your company lose money? And how much? Will you get fired? What happens if your report is late?

You’d think that just by failing to meet goals, you might lose. Really, you might be able to lose in a host of other ways… such as failing to communicate openly with your team, bad luck on your presentation day, and so on.

Defining the most probable ways you can lose the game (more than just failing to meet goals) can also help you to avoid pitfalls.

Set up rules – guidelines to follow for maximum success. This is where things like weekly meetings go… status reports, or deadlines for mini-projects. Once you have rules in place, you can determine consequences for failing to follow the rules, and in knowing that, determine how serious a violation is when it occurs.

Say you have a huge project due in three weeks – you need two weekly meetings with your team, as a rule. If you miss your weekly meetings, you don’t get updates as a team and fail to function efficiently, and you may miss your deadline – even if you miss one meeting. That’s a pretty serious rule.

‘E-mail Free Fridays’ is a less-serious rule when not adhered to. With all this information, you can create a clear-cut path to victory. You know how to win, you know your goals along the way, you know the rules you have to adhere to to meet your goals, and you know the consequences of failing to follow the rules.

Creating games out of your own challenges can help you organize your energy and turn a bad or confusing situation into a completely manageable one. Just by changing your perspective, you can gain a LOT of momentum!

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