Setting a goal creates a road map for the future, but if you don’t know how to reach it, it can also be a recipe for getting stuck. Anything new or different is cause for losing momentum, says Jason Womack, coauthor of Get Momentum: How to Start When You’re Stuck.
“What many people do when they get stuck, overwhelmed, or stressed is to clear their calendar, get out of the office, or make a list,” he says. “All you really need to do is take the next step.”
Sounds easy, but how do you know what is the next step? “The fastest way to regain your momentum is to ask different questions,” says Womack. “Not better; different.”
He offers these three that will help to create forward motion:
1. What do I want to be known for?
This question isn’t about your legacy; it’s about defining a mission and spending your time accordingly, says Womack.
“Let’s say someone is putting together a presentation for an annual conference,” he explains. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I want to be known for after I step off stage?’ Identifying a role and time period acts as a motivator for regaining momentum.”
Write down the answer to this question. “You need something to slow down your thinking,” says Womack. “Handwriting takes time. You can see with your own eyes what you’ve committed to. It can be where you center yourself and where you give more control to the controllable.”
Then use your answer as a guide for your calendar and to do list. It also helps you identify what not to do, adds Womack. “What can you say ‘no’ to today and it will be okay?” he asks. “Then double down on what you want to say ‘yes’ to.”
2. Whom can I learn from?
Sometimes talking to someone who’s had experience in what you want to do can help you become unstuck. “It could be a mentor who is willing to help out,” says Womack. “It could be formally on the job, or informally with someone you follow on LinkedIn or someone who puts out articles.”
Knowing who might serve as inspiration helps you narrow down what to do next. For example, watch another TED talk, go to the library, or attend a conference.
“Because there is so much information available, you could engage with a variety of mentors, teachers, or coaches,” says Womack. “They can be inspiration for your next step.”
3. What are three subprojects that I can commit to?
Using a three-month time frame, set milestones that will help you organize your days. For example, if you want to submit a book proposal by the end of the year, complete the framework within two months, dial into the people you need to interview, or make a list of the specific stories you need to tell within four months, be ready to produce, and ship your proposal in six months, says Womack.
“The goal of momentum is to make consistent progress,” he says. “Identify a very specific outcome or goal to achieve in the short term. Choose a series of small subprojects. Then clearly identify the tasks, routines, and habits that will keep you moving toward the larger goals.”
Womack suggests using the “30/30 Rule.” “Spend 30 minutes at a time thinking about, working on, and discussing anything that’s not due for at least 30 days,” he says. “In 30 days I guarantee there will be something you wish you had thought more about. You’ll experience momentum when you begin important projects early. The reason we’re so overwhelmed is because things on the calendar sneak up you.”