“When you find yourself in the thickness of pursuing a goal or dream, stop only to rest. Momentum builds success.”
As some of you may know, at the time that I’m writing this article I have been working on creating a new online community called The Profoundery for several months. It’s been a LONG process, because I wanted to get it right and make sure that all the elements worked well before launching it to the world.
One of the trickiest parts of the creation process is maintaining your momentum over the long haul. It is hard to stay motivated when you’re building something in secret. You’re taking so many steps, but most of them are invisible to the outside world! As a result, the conditions are prime for stalling out, feeling demoralized, or procrastinating on completing the project altogether.
So how do we keep our commitment game strong when things are feeling tedious? Here are some of my favourite ways to boost my motivation and just keep swimming.
1. Dig deeper
It’s helpful to understand that there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.
- Intrinsic motivation: doing something because it is personally rewarding to you
- Extrinsic motivation: doing something to get a reward or avoid a punishment
Most things in life evoke a bit of both types of motivation. We may choose to create a new offering because it will bring in a certain amount of money (extrinsic) but also because we think it will be genuinely helpful to our clients (intrinsic). We may be motivated by the praise of others (extrinsic) but also deeply love our work and feel we would do it for free (intrinsic).
For better or for worse, we tend to rely heavily on extrinsic factors to motivate us to get things done. Why do you think we spend so much time posting on Instagram?! The likes & comments are clear extrinsic motivators that keep us feeling positive and engaged.
The trouble is that when we’re quietly working on a big project, we’re usually getting a lot less feedback and praise (extrinsic motivation!) than usual. So my recommendation is to dig deeper. Figure out the intrinsic motivators that are inspiring you to work on this project. Create visual reminders of those reasons so that you can tap back into your motivation when you’re feeling down.
While building The Profoundery, I intentionally tapped into my own internal reasons for pursuing this project. I reminded myself of how the program will serve my past clients, and how I’m building a powerful community for people (including myself!). I also remembered how much I love learning new skills, and tried to enjoy all little steps of creation, from branding to marketing to logistics.
2. Share sneak peeks
All of the above being said regarding extrinsic motivation, it can still be really nice to get feedback and praise along the way! There’s no reason you can’t share behind-the-scenes content as you go. In fact, it’s a surefire way to get people interested in what you’re up to.
Jason and Caroline of Wandering Aimfully are the masters of building new projects in public. When they were creating their brand, they made a whole website devoted to the build process and showed ALL their work. By doing so, they created lots of buzz and no doubt felt an extra boost of motivation from all the feedback they were getting along the way.
You might not feel comfortable or excited about building as publicly as they did (after all, it’s also a lot more work to share your work!) but sharing glimpses of your process is still a great idea. People love to see the behind-the-scenes, and generally feel more invested in the project as a result.
In my case, I shared little peeks on Instagram stories, sent lots of links to friends, and generated buzz through my email newsletter. Even this blog post is a way to share a piece of the process! Every time I put something out there, I would get some positive reinforcement, which gave me a boost of momentum to keep going.
3. Work on the pretty parts
One of my favourite work mottos is: when in doubt, make it pretty. It may sound superficial, but it makes a huge difference! I can’t tell you how many of my clients have gotten a huge surge in motivation after we’ve made their idea into something tangible and beautiful. Even if the version we create is very much a rough draft, the fact that it exists visually makes it feel real and exciting.
So if you get stuck, find a way to make your project visual for yourself. Preferably in a way that makes it look good or otherwise brings it to life! Here are some examples:
- Source photos that give you the feeling you’re going for
- Create the visual branding for your product or service
- Create a new slide deck using a template you love
- Revamp your portfolio or sales page with new photos
- Create a mockup or wireframe of the design
- Set up a new system with your brand colours
Over the course of building The Profoundery, I used this trick several times. Whenever I was feeling a slump in my motivation, I would pivot away from all the strategic or technical stuff and make it visual. My favourite day was when I set up the Slack for the program! I created a new account, added all the brand colours, wrote whimsical channel descriptions complete with emojis, and customized the whole space. Suddenly it felt like a real thing just waiting for people to join it. That tiny process, which only took a few minutes, motivated me for the rest of the week.
4. Use a master to-do list
This might be the most obvious item on this list, but in my experience, it’s often overlooked. So many people resist using to-do lists! But when we avoid making lists, we sacrifice one of the most helpful tools we have at our disposal. Here are just a few reasons why making a list helps with momentum:
- You can match your work to your energy levels. If you’re feeling tired, you just look at your list and choose an easier task to complete. This means that you can modify your pace and your responsibilities on any given day, without losing motivation or momentum completely.
- Checking things off feels good and is intrinsically motivating. When we can visually see our progress on a project, we naturally feel motivated to continue working on it.
- We don’t have to be in decision-making mode all the time. When we have a list, we sit down at the computer for the day and don’t waste time deciding what to do. We simply look at our tasks and get to work.
- We don’t waste brain power trying to remember. Our working memory is limited! By writing everything down, we don’t tax our cognitive power trying to keep track of all our responsibilities. We delegate that job to the computer or paper system, freeing us up to do the work itself.
Personally, I use Asana to manage my tasks and projects. I love the feeling of creating a new project and brainstorming all the tasks needed to bring it to fruition. Then, each day I can move things around depending on how much time I have or what I feel like working on. As always, the system that will work best for you is the one you’ll actually use.
Keep On Keeping On
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for keeping your momentum strong. In fact, it probably won’t always be strong! But the point is to keep moving, even if you take breaks. Or as Confucius put it, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”
I’d love to know: What keeps you motivated when you’re working on a big project? How do you maintain your momentum over the long haul? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram, @stephpellett.
PS. The Profoundery is launching very soon to the waitlist with limited spots! Want to be one of the first to know? Click below to learn more about the program & join the waitlist.