Momentum Is Everything!

Newtons cradleYou know how people seem to see everything in their life through the lens of their passion or career? How engineers want to solve everything analytically, economists want to determine the motivations and rewards that cause people to behave a certain way or how doctors think that medicine can fix any ailment? Well, I must have been a physicist in a previous life because I’ve boiled down almost every problem I have ever encountered to Newton’s Laws of Motion. For most people the law that seems to have the greatest relevance is Newton’s First Law:

Newton’s First Law

  • An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force.
  • An object in motion will not change its velocity unless acted upon by an external force.

The first part of the law is borne out by how people rarely take the initiative to do something unless something forces them to. That’s why a lot of people start exercising after a heart attack or start a business after they are laid off and can’t find a job. For entrepreneurs, that’s a good thing(the lack of motivation in others, not the heart attack or being laid off). While others continue doing the same thing day in and day out, we keep changing direction and velocity and take opportunities that others pass by.

As an entrepreneur I capitalize on my ability to ignore Newton’s First Law, as much as possible. That gives me a built in edge over the majority of people who can’t be bothered to start a company. For that reason, Newton’s Second Law applies most often to the issues I experience on a daily basis:

Newton’s Second Law
The change of momentum of a body is proportional to the force applied on the body, and happens along the straight line on which that force is applied.

To put it simply, the more force is put behind something, the more velocity it will develop and that velocity will be directly proportional to the total force put behind it. When it comes to my projects, I definitely find that to be true. I can build up some tremendous steam if I can rid myself of distractions and just start working head down for a couple hours. Once my head of steam is large enough, I can hit a distraction, deal with it and move on without slowing my momentum much. However, if I have just started on a project and little things keep popping up, I never develop the inertia necessary in order to make any real progress on the project.

Over the years I’ve devised a system for minimizing those roadblocks that prevent me from building up a head of steam:

  1. Set aside a space where I do nothing but work
  2. Schedule work time, when others know not to interrupt
  3. Close my email client and RSS reader
  4. Play ambient music just loud enough to drown out any outside distractions
  5. Don’t answer phone calls or text messages that aren’t urgent
  6. If bogged down on a task, move on to something more productive and revisit the other item later
  7. If on a roll, stay on it for at least a half hour, preferably an hour before switching gears

Those tips won’t work for everyone, but they definitely help me. The key is finding those tricks that allow you to gain momentum. Once you have real momentum, that’s when the real work gets done.


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