When we fall into a rut, positive momentum is the last thing on our mind. Thinking of a good day or a blast of productivity is simply alien to us. We are often just marinating in negative emotions. We are sitting in a bad mood, and our work is mirroring just that. It can often be a mystery to us where a good day starts and what makes it different from a bad one. I am of the opinion that what we think plays a greater role over the course of our days than we realize. Do other people play a role in things? Absolutely they do. With that being said, you are in charge of how you react to what other people say and do, and it is your choice how much you let other people affect you and what you do. Obviously, this is not always true and only applies to most human interactions. How we think plays a big part in how much risk we take, how much slack we give our team members, and how we communicate. To just name a few. All of these factors play roles in the flow of our workplace. Whether you work in a 500 person team or you work mostly on your own. Your mental state effects your productivity, and I am of the opinion that what goes on in our heads has a greater effect on our work than we think. Think about it. If you are feeling negative, you may be less likely to communicate with others. You may be more inclined to hide mistakes. You may communicate and collaborate less. All of these things are contributors to the quality of our work. On days when we are not feeling our best we long for that feeling when things are in a flow.
When problems are analyzed, assessed, and dispatched quickly. When communication is seamless and concise. These are the days that we all wish could be commonplace. Of course there will be off days but if we could focus and facilitate the continuation of our good days, then our work would be more enjoyable. Moreover, it would be more productive. Isn’t that what we all want? The issue is that good days are about as predictable as the weather next month. Pretty hard to pin down. However, I believe that there are specific principals that, when followed, can help us generate that positive, good day momentum. The principles are one, never cease communication. Be it with your team or your loved ones. When we stop talking with our team we pit our single brain up against what ever work problem we are dealing with. Instead of letting others lend their brain power towards our plight. Two, never keep banging your head against the wall. When a problem is going nowhere we have to recognize this, and lend our brain to another task. It is amazing the effect that “sleeping on it” can have on an obstacle in our way. Three, force yourself to stay positive. That’s it. Right there. I said it. Let nothing compromise your positive mindset. With a positive mindset it is easier to maintain motivation, think of solutions, remain disciplined through tough times, keep at a difficult task, take failures in stride, and bounce back from disappointment. When I say a positive mindset, I do not mean running around with your head in the clouds shouting about how everything’s going to be alright. I define a positive mindset as the result of a meld between tenacity, resourcefulness, and self-belief. In other words, it’s the “I’m going to find a way and I’m not going to listen those who say I can’t do it” attitude. A positive mindset might be the most important and integral principle on this list. And finally, number four: be disciplined, even when it isn’t easy. It’s easy to stick to what’s best when things are humming along, but when things get bumpy it is way harder. When thing simply suck, it can be so easy to compromise and take the lazy or easy path. Not necessarily the path that is best for us.
Thus, we want to carry forward the positivity and productivity of our good days, and these four principles can help with that. Furthermore, they can help to see us through tough times. They can help to pop us out of a rut and get us back on track. They can help to get the wheels turning once again. Once this has occurred we can generate some momentum. Positive momentum, much like its inverse, can feel like a bit of a run away train. And once we have it, we have to run with it. I define positive momentum (roughly) as that sweet spot where good decisions meet with good communication and a clarity of intent. We all hate it when we loose that momentum and don’t know how we got it, and hence we don’t know how to get it back. One of the keys is after we loose the momentum we continue the good practices and instill them as habits. Those practices are the principles listed in the above paragraph. That feeling when you just have the wind in your sails, be it personally or professionally, can drive you towards whatever you set your mind to. It is as amazing as it is elusive. We all wish that it could last forever, but we will inevitably pop out of it. Even fall into its opposite spiral. If we can instill these principles, then we can raise our baseline and, hopefully, increase the frequency of positive, productive days.
So much of keeping a positive flow in our day to day work is how we bounce back from losses. Winston Churchill once said
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”
We can all learn a great deal from that. In coordination with how we carry on the momentum and boldness from our positive days. Of our four principles, number four is perhaps the hardest. Maintaining your discipline in life and work month in and month out is cumulatively difficult. It is exceptionally tempting to let things slide just a little bit and the issue is that, unfortunately, if you are not careful, that can lead to a decline in discipline. Letting things slide nine times out of ten has a pernicious effect on our discipline. It is imperative that we install discipline as a habit on our mental hard drives. Preforming something on autopilot is simply easier, regardless of the difficulty. However, getting it installed in the first place is the hard part. Society generally seems designed to subvert and discourage the installation of discipline as a habit. One of the only habits society seems to want us to install is compulsory behavior leading to a purchases or leading to clicks. In my view, your environment plays a big role in productivity and the frequency of positive days. Especially with regards to what you take in. We have to be vigilant against lazy, compulsory behavior.
Alexander the Great’s army was experiencing this power at the battle of Gaugamela(in my view). They faced The Persian king Darius lll. Alexanders army had won their two previous battles with the Persians at Issus and at Granicus. Even so, at Gaugamela they were outnumbered by (according to some estimates) 120,000 to only 47,000. They were facing a force that was more than double their size. Yet this did not deter Alexander. He and his army won a decisive victory that day. Now was this victory all down to positive momentum? Likely not, there were other factors. Such as Alexander’s excellent strategy, and luck was likely a factor too. All of that being said, Alexander’s army was riding on a good deal of momentum, and this (in my opinion) played a part in their victory. All of that was psychological though. All in the heads of the soldiers on both sides. Alexanders men loved him and believed in him. By contrast, the previous two losses was almost certainly on the Persian soldier’s minds. This goes to illustrate that your mental state plays a big part in how successful you are.
All that being said, When you have the positive wind in you sails, you have a unique ability to identify what is your next task to crush, or the next key communication that needs to take place. It is important that you recognize that days like this are infrequent and you have to make the most of them. And carry their momentum for as long as possible. I wouldn’t listen to critics who say: “Your momentum will just be there one day and gone the next.” I know that you can carry this momentum on long after the good day has passed. Some may ask: “what if you making headway and progress is dependent on others?” I would say to that that, obviously, you can only make progress within your sphere of influence. Our actions have a much greater effect on our days than others actions if you think about it. You can choose how you respond to bad news. You can choose how you spend your free time. You can make a conscious decision to be focused. We have way more power over the quality of our days than we have been led to believe. We have control over how awesome of mediocre our days are. Yes, even when large-scale progress is dependent upon others. There will always be a way that you can improve proceedings within your sphere of influence. We all have to take this on as our responsibility. And if we do, then we are going to raise our baseline productivity, and we will be in better spirits because we are accomplishing more.
This may be a lot to take in, so let me wrap it all up for you in a nice, bite-sized bow. We all hate getting in a rut and positive thinking, optimism, and communication tend to shut down when we are in one. If we can just keep these channels open, we will be able to get back on the right track quicker. We all love that feeling of flow, but it is tough to make it last. Thus, we fall back on our four principles: one, never cease communication. Two, never keep banging your head against the wall. Three, force your self to stay positive. Four, be disciplined. If you follow these principles you will be able to extend your momentum. Even long after that magic day has passed. You should instill these as habits, so that they are always polished and ready for you. A huge part of your productivity is decided by how many distractions are present in your environment. Do your upmost to eliminate all distractions. When you divide your attention between two things, the quality of your attention lessens for both. You have to devote your attention solely to a task if at all possible. If a portion of you progress is dependent upon others, then you should focus on your sphere. And continue communication and collaboration with other spheres. This will maximize the potential for progress. Bounce back from your losses quickly. Stay disciplined and stick to your routine and don’t compromise, even when it is hard. All of the above applies to life as much as it does to work. It is astounding what you can accomplish with the wind in your sails, yet it is very fleeting. Thus, we have to nurture and protect it, so as to maximize its effect.
Challenge #1: Next time you have a bad day, use the mental principles in this article, and see if it gets you out of the mud quicker. Odds are is will have a marked effect.
Challenge #2: After an especially productive day or set of days has passed try and carry forward the energy and productivity for a whole week, no matter how difficult it may become. Use the principles listed above. We have to instill them as habits, for they will raise the quality of our time at work and our free time.