Focus, momentum, and accomplishment

Lately, I’m a little fascinated by the interplay between focus, momentum, and accomplishment. Focus is the feeling of flow, the world around you fading away. Momentum is the feeling that you’re moving things along, getting stuff done. Accomplishment is stepping back, looking at what you’ve done, and feeling like you did something good. These factors play out differently in the three activities to which I decide much of my time.

When I’m building software, I’ve found that momentum leads to focus, accomplishments yield momentum, but focus does not necessarily yield accomplishments. Yet, the most exciting moments seem to come when I’m focused and building momentum. Those times when my attention is fragmented but I’m working through a list of stuff that needs to get done doesn’t feel like accomplishment, but it does seem to get the job done.

Anecodotally, it seems that, by definition, Monday is the day of the week that lacks focus but still possesses some form of accomplishment. It’s the sacrificial lamb of the work week.

When I’m reading, writing, and organizing information, I’ve found that momentum is not much of a factor. It’s all about focus. Stick my head into a cluster of ideas, focus on what I’m reading, how I’m thinking about it, or how I’m writing it back out. Keep the problem state in my head, admitting as few distractions as possible. Come up for air periodically, review my progress, and decide to either continue or move on to other things.

Of these three activities, I’ve found that I’m most methodical about how I use momentum when I’m thinking. It’s sort of a rate limiter; after I’ve read something particularly dense, I’ll immediately do something banal like catch up on social medias. Not sure if this tendency is enhancing or diminishing my thinking.

I spend several hours a week training. The coffee shop (thinking) and the gym (training) are my third place(s). Recently, it feels like I’ve leveled up. I had a few consecutive workouts where I was more focused than I’ve ever been whilst exercising; no worries about my breathing, or if I was pushing myself too little or too much. From this focus I found momentum. A couple minutes on the treadmill would turn into tens of minutes, then a half hour. One set of strength exercises would blend into the next. I was able to push myself to higher levels of accomplishments. It felt awesome.

Interestingly enough, I’ve found that I need a day off from each of these activities. As awesome as it sounds to have the kind of intensity that lets one make awesome things every day of the week, I’ve found it necessary to relax and take time away from coding, thinking, and training. As it turns out relaxation is an important part of a balanced diet of focus, momentum, and accomplishment.

Adam Keys @therealadam