The challenges of staying focused or motivated during mid and long-term projects.
Let’s take a quick look back at the first week of this year. With all the political happenings globally, the fresh memories we have of them, feels like yesterday, but it’s already a month and a half since the new year! It is easy to have squirrel moments and lose focus; when we snap back to reality, we can see time didn’t stop, and now we need to catch up!
Losing focus is widespread, and more so if we are setting project goals, like the ones we start on New Year’s or at the start of a new quarter. These projects take time to produce results and can lead us to become impatient and lose energy.
We’re six weeks into 2021, it’s normal to have lower energy reserves compared to the start of the year. This is not an excuse to give up! It’s time to assess our progress and sharpen our focus.
Today, we will reflect on renewing our motivation and staying focused for the weeks to come.
Here are three thoughts to provoke, two ideas to inspire you, and one item for you to act on!
Three Thoughts to Provoke
Number One. Productivity & Chaos
When we reached the middle of 2020, I wrote a post entitled Productivity Amid Chaos, which I’d love to revisit.
Today’s chaos is quite different from the uncertainty of 2020, yet it’s still chaos…It disrupts, challenges, and grabs our attention, but we need to coexist with it, and embrace it. The disorder will always surround us.
There have been times when this chaos left me stressed, and overwhelmed, or made me beg “Please not today.” Amid discomfort and tiredness, laziness can be attractive, but it doesn’t satisfy.
To stay productive, I look back at the steps I take each day: no matter how small they were. I might be tempted to be negative and say, “I only made it this far,” but I’ll find more relief by telling myself, “I’m this much closer to my goal.”
Work on your mindset and find more relief by focusing on the positive. Always Remember, I’m this much closer to my goal.” Give yourself a boost and find satisfaction with the progress that’s keeping you on the path of success.
Number Two. Taking Breaks
One of the most common mistakes we make when facing long-term projects is to think that is a non-stop race, that we should keep moving to the finish line and carry out our goal. That sounds good, but it is unwise to approach a long-term project as if it were short-term project. It is almost impossible to keep the focus and intensity of a sprint with long-term projects.
We are humans, and resting builds resilience.
When we’re in a non-stop mindset, we tend to go all guns blazing and over-perform at the beginning of our project. We realize that pace is unsustainable. Once we’re feeling the burnout, our focus goes from “finishing to accomplishing a goal” to “finishing for the sake of finishing.”
Is that fair to us and our projects?
I am currently in South Carolina working on Mom’s house. Mom passed away at the end of November, and I have been working here off and on. I never knew my Mom was such a packrat. Every time I open a cupboard or a drawer, there is a new stack of stuff to go through, find a home for, and organize. Sometimes, I want to walk away. When I reach that point, I do need to walk away, I do something else, and reset. My mind and body are exhausted.
Breaks are far from being setbacks; I use them to keep track of my progress and see where I am and evaluate what I’ve been doing lately. Then I adjust the things that could use improvement and keep up the things that are giving me results. It also allows me to keep my mind fresh and my energy well distributed!
Number Three. Resources
Resources are a pain point people tend to bypass. It’s clear that to carry out a project, we need resources such as time, money, and tools while other items depend on the nature of our plans.
As I related in the blog post, Pushing Through Resistance, I default to being a perfectionist. I think I need to have all the resources on point to kick-start a project. I can’t move from stage to stage without making sure everything went according to the plan. I am not advocating this plan. It is not the healthiest approach, and I work hard to accept some flaws and allow myself to begin without having everything in hand.
Being real helps me advance more smoothly and focus on the main goal instead.
Are you waiting to have the perfect resources so you can start or continue? Is that driving you closer or farther from your goal?
Learn to start with whatever you have!
Two Things to Inspire
Number One. Adaptation
The first step towards achieving a long-term goal is careful planning to develop a strategy, but as said many times before, chaos won’t leave us anytime soon and will disrupt those plans. We must embrace it and adapt.
Publilius Syrus once said in Rome:
It’s a bad plan that admits no modification.
There is no perfect plan. A dramatic situation can lead us to lose momentum and focus. Look at your strategy and write down things that could stop your momentum.
Here are some examples:
- Upcoming vacation
- Holiday gatherings
- Medical procedures
- Kids school and extracurricular activities
Think about your past projects. What were the main challenges you came across? How did you overcome them? The answer to those questions can help you to overcome the current challenges you are facing and keep your focus to the finish line.
Number Two. Spirit and Discipline
Napoleon Bonaparte once shared this interesting thought:
There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.
The same thing happens with motivation and discipline. Both are strong forces that, in a way, depend on each other. Overall, it is discipline that prevails. Why? Because motivation gets you started, but discipline keeps you going.
Motivation has helped me create long-term projects, strategies, and plans. Discipline sharpens me, helps me build systems, and allows me to reach my goals.
Your Action Item
Is your focus unclear? Then take a deep breath, rest, and recharge your batteries. Build your reserves. Acknowledge that you are frustrated, overwhelmed, and tired. Remember, rest builds resilience. Now is the time to jump back into that project.
What are the breakdowns, and how can you turn them into breakthroughs?
There is no need to speed things up to “save” the first quarter of 2021. You can always re-evaluate and set a fresh start in the new quarter.