Stop Fighting Momentum

Strike While the Iron is Hot

It’s about 9:30 PM here on a Sunday night. My spouse is sleeping, or at least trying to since I am clicking away on the laptop. Normally I force myself to turn off around 9 PM when the house goes to sleep, regardless of whatever I am working on (I know, we’re fuddy duddies when it comes to bedtime).

However, tonight I am going with momentum instead of fighting it. Interestingly, the victim of this late night writing was also the instigator.

My husband is very project-oriented. If he lays his hands on a project that piques his interest, I won’t see him again until it’s finished. The most recent project was triggered by a $40 bargain on a cherry red 1968 Honda CT90. An undertaking of this scope will consume his attention for at least a week and the bike will be completely transformed.

Our neighbor, and his close friend, is similarly wired. They recently remarked on the strange phenomena that occurs when one sets down an exciting task only to have all of the positive energy completely drain out of you, resulting in little project piles (or idea post-its in my case) here and there that never get picked back up.

Luckily for me, my husband has a serious OCD bent and piles can’t exist in his reality, but this tendency to shelf interesting ideas, hobbies, and projects for “tomorrow” seems fairly universal among the rest of us, hence the saying: Strike while the iron is hot.

When you have excitement or energy to do something that will move you forward, you simply have to go with it.

For whatever reason, we tend to only benefit from velocity when the spark first lights or when a deadline is approaching. The beginning and the end.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try to set deadlines for myself, they’re always more like living lines than deadlines. They keep moving and evading my focus.

If I want to achieve a major personal goal where there is no boss or client to set an end date, I have to be okay with dumping gasoline on that first spark, letting it burn out when it’s ready, even if I disrupt the sleeping or miss some emails. The iron is rarely hot and ready from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Does this hold true for you in your personal deadline-less goals?

  • Done by Forty

    $40 for a classic Honda CT90? That’s just stealing. :) I think it sounds like a great project, too.

    I notice the same pattern that you do with productivity. Blog posts are written quickly, either right as the idea strikes me or right before a self-imposed deadline (e.g. – trying to post 2-3 times per week). I similarly move my self imposed deadlines though…a lot of my tasks get moved to tomorrow. It’s a habit at this point, and a tough one to break.

    I have a post in the works called “Do It Now” (complete with Arnold’s line from Predator) that’s along the same lines. If I walk by a task (dirty dishes, unfolded laundry, reminding myself of an errand), the process is to simply work on it, right now, for five minutes. At the end of five minutes, if it’s done, great…if not, no big deal, stop and go back to whatever more important thing I was doing. The process is really for smaller things rather than the important ones you’re talking about, but I’m hoping to establish a small good habit of doing things right away rather than prioritizing (or procrastinating). Maybe the good habit will spill over to important things, too.

    In fact, I am going to start writing for five minutes right now. :)

    • Emily Capito

      Love this new small, good habit. I typically walk past small tasks (or create them by being lazy in how I do things, like leaving my shoes out) and it is so much easier to take care of it then. Looking forward to your post on the topic!