Momentum // an Ode to "Deep Work" (#24)
Maintaining momentum is the key to long-term goals being accomplished. This is a major factor in the "Dead by Tomorrow" mindset, as consistent and positive choices made daily are some of the most impactful, and most difficult choices one can make. In this episode, we talk about how to maintain momentum, why it matters to focus on doing so, and a fair bit about the book "Deep Work" which helped bring both of us into better focus with why maintaining momentum matters. This is a chapter from our book, so if you want a deeper dive, go check out Dead by Tomorrow on Amazon. CHALLENGE: Read Deep Work by Cal Newport, or take out an hour every day this week and work on something difficult that you've put off.
"In Newtonian mechanics, linear momentum, translational momentum, or simply momentum (pl. momenta) is the product of the mass and velocity of an object. It is a vector quantity, possessing a magnitude and a direction. If m is an object's mass and v is its velocity (also a vector quantity), then the object's momentum is: p = mv. ( The momentum of a particle is conventionally represented by the letter p. It is the product of two quantities, the particle's mass (represented by the letter m) and its velocity (v)"
"One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you'll achieve extraordinary results."
"Have you ever wondered why some people seem to do far better at getting their dream job or embarking on an exciting career while others flounder? In fact, you may feel that you, yourself, are struggling, and you wonder what the secret is."
Eating the Frog
"Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it."
"Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something."
"The Konami Code (Japanese: コナミコマンド, Konami komando, "Konami command") is a cheat code that appears in many Konamivideo games, and some non-Konami games. In the original code, the player can press the following sequence of buttons on the game controller to enable a cheat or other effects:"
https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=filthy%20casual "“Filthy Casual” is a term used on message boards and in comments to negatively describe a gamer who only plays casual games, or a game in any genre that requires a low level of commitment and often has simple gameplay."
For example, see Andrew's failed attempt at remembering the Konami Code in the episode. Sugar Sugar
Psychological Momentum https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5006010/#s1title
"One of the most fundamental characteristics about humans is their desire for success, especially in highly competitive societies. What does it take to be successful? Is success simply a matter of better performance, and if so, what specifically is it about performance that determines success? A long research tradition suggests that psychological momentum (PM) plays a critical role in goal pursuit and achievement. Accordingly, sequential runs of success are an essential feature of high levels of performance, meaning that better performers perceive and experience momentum of success more frequently, ride it as long as they can, and as a result, become more successful in the end. Theoretically, momentum is a principle vehicle of performance that will significantly augment future success and facilitate goal achievement. Consequently, an overall performance consists of occurrences of momentum that vary in frequency and duration. The higher the frequency and the higher the duration, the more likely is success. Research suggests that the main psychological processes that underpin momentum effects are confidence, perceived competence, and internal (ability-skill) attributions. Based upon related research, it is hypothesized that PM starts as a conscious process but subsequently becomes a major facilitator of nonconscious automatic execution of human behavior and performance."
(unedited, forgive us for the many transcription errors, we don't edit it and it's obviously not perfect).
Andrew: [00:00:19] Hey guys, welcome back to dead by tomorrow. We're thrilled to have you on this episode, Daniel and I are going to be talking about momentum.
So with that said, Daniel, do you want to give us a quick definition of momentum?
Daniel: [00:00:32] Sure. And I think there are a lot of different definitions of momentum. So there's a decent chance that I turned this question back on you. So when I think about momentum, I think back to my days in physics at Texas a and M and the kind of the engine nearing weed-out classes, and think about what that technical definition is, which is mass times velocity, and to make it super simple.
It's basically the bigger something is and the faster it's moving, the more momentum it has. So I'm curious, is that what you think of when you think of momentum or do you have a different definition in mind?
Andrew: [00:01:02] So, yes, but because I never took a weed-out physics class part of my major was actually very specifically tailored to avoid any classes like that. a lot of what I chose to do in school was specifically, so I didn't have to do any higher math classes, which at this point, everybody probably was like, Oh yeah, that makes sense.
So to me, momentum is more of this idea of gaining. Not necessarily a velocity, but it's more like a space version I think is my Saifai coming out. I think of momentum is something that the more you add onto it, the further it goes. And I could probably be mixing things up. But when I think of momentum in my life, I'm thinking, Hey, the more I do something that the more often I am achieving, the more often for me that momentum will help me achieve more.
If I'm following my habits, the more habits I follow, it gives me momentum. So it's almost a, that, that way that you can do space travel is why I said scifi, where you don't have any kind of friction space. And so if something's accelerating, it just accelerates indefinitely. That's kind of how momentum works in my mind is I am accelerating by.
Achieving something by achieving it. It actually adds further momentum, further velocity and acceleration. And forgive me people who actually know physics because I just butchered some things in there, but that's kind of how I see momentum as this weird idea of gaining without interruption by gaining
Daniel: [00:02:22] Yeah, so really momentum is just this I don't know this train, that's just picking up speed. And the more you add to it, the harder it is to change the harder it is to overcome. And whether you go with Andrews. Space analogy of you know, acceleration being frictionless and your velocity can increase indefinitely.
The more you add to it, or as you were talking about it, the way I sort of think about it is as you just solidify habits and you add more and more to something you're doing and going back to a concept we've talked about before identity capital, just continuing to say, okay, I've done this thing and I did it yesterday.
And I did it the day before that I can continue to add to it. I think about that as sort of increasing your mass. If we're talking about this momentum formula, either way, whether you're increasing your mass, your reps or your, your velocity, your speed, like you're sticking with it, you gain more momentum.
And what we come around to here is. The more momentum. Something has the harder it is to stop it, to change it, to slow it down.
Andrew: [00:03:23] I want to jump in from what you're saying there, because I love it, obviously since we, this was a book chapter, so we both agreed that we really like this kind of thing. I was looking at studies related around momentum. Right. And it kind of goes with both of these definitions. And what they talked about was there's actually psychological effect of momentum.
And it was really cool. Steph Curry came up as one of the examples. There's a bunch of different athletes, a bunch of different successful people. It's something they see a lot in stock traders, people who are on a winning streak in the stock market. They just do better than they should because of this momentum.
And what happens is as somebody. Being successful or achieving something. their confidence level increases. And that confidence level has a disproportionate increase to their ability to do something. So if you want to zero it down to like, the workplace or a basic habit, like going to the gym, the more you're doing it, you have this disproportionately large effect of confidence that brings you to a whole different level.
And so, Hey, I crushed this Excel sheet. You start picking up these bigger projects and you start gaining momentum in the workplace that , even if you're doing a good job, but you weren't building that momentum where you're gaining the confidence, you don't recognize it.
It won't actually have the same magnifying effect. Whereas if you can not necessarily recognize it, but you build that confidence because sometimes it's not exactly conscious, but by. Succeeding and achieving and following through with these daily habits or your goals or whatever you're doing, you actually psychologically increase your ability to do those kinds of things.
And I said that backwards, I think, but essentially psychology will make you more able to achieve based on the momentum you're gaining in that field. So a stockbroker will make more money in the stock market because he's making more money in the stock market. And it just has this almost parabolic curve.
So there's a lot of psychology behind gaining this momentum that. It's not just Daniel and Andrew being like, Hey, do things everyday because
it's good for you.
Daniel: [00:05:18] Well, yeah, and I think we see that all of the time. If you watch sports, you see, you mentioned Steph Curry. If he hits a couple shots, chances are it just seems like he's going to hit. Everything from then on out. And the team recognizes that they'll feed him the ball and you just get hot. You get in the zone.
And then conversely, if Steph is missing those shots, it seems like things just don't fall. Like, it seems like every shot becomes a miss. a, And a lot of times the basketball explicitly, announcers will talk about, they just need to see the ball go through the net. And a lot of times the answer is.
Drive in, get fouled, get a free throw, which is if you're a good basketball player, it's kinda tough to miss a free throw. And so just seeing the ball go through the hoop can help flip that switch in your mind. It kind of help you get into that zone. So we observed that in sports, but I think if you pay attention to how you go about your day, whether it's in work or whether it's kind of doing chores, I think you will notice.
That you kind of have the same things happening. Exactly. The, like what you're talking about, there's the studies behind it. But I think if you take a look at your day, you see that it's true. So if you come in, you start your day and you're able to, address a couple emails and get things done.
Then you just start to feel more productive. You start to feel like you're in the zone and then you work through more things and more things. As opposed to, if you come in and you just drag your feet and you look at one really hard email and you don't get anything done starting out two hours of the day, you get in this negative head space.
And again, it just becomes a lot more challenging to actually make progress and everything feels like an uphill slog. And so there really is something to Getting into the zone and having this compounding effect where, when something goes well, other things tend to follow and do the same.
Andrew: [00:07:15] I really like that. It's a good way to look at even basic stuff like chores or, that work assignments you don't want to do, or, there's all those kind of things that we look at negatively and we don't want to work on, but really that could be part of what kind of builds momentum.
And it should be something like, Oh yeah, this is something that's knockout. And I get to build off of it.
So with that said, what do you find hardest to maintain momentum on? Is there. Tasks that you're generally like, Hydra don't want to do this every day, or, where would you see that?
Daniel: [00:07:48] Yeah, I think a lot of times it's trying to do something I've never done before, or I'm just not sure what the clear path forward is. It's pretty hard for me to get into the zone, working on something like that, because I may have to sit and think about it for a while to figure it out. And in the meantime, there may be other things piling up and it's just super tempting to be like, you know what responding to this.
Particular ask or working on this project. It's hard. I don't know what to do. I've never done it before. There's not a clear action path forward, but this email that just came in, I know how to handle this. This is super easy. So it's very tempting to hop away from the hard thing and do the easy thing. And I've seen this happen with a lot of my peers as well.
It's not just something that's impacted me and it's made it to where the thing that is the highest priority. Actually, it gets pushed to the end of the day because it's hard to do. They're not totally sure how to do it. And they just keep doing all of these easier things. And so they're knocking down a bunch of stuff.
They're getting a bunch of stuff done, but it's not as high priority. It's not as value adding because it's all these things that are easier to do. And so then, you know, it comes back around to, Oh, you're not very reliable. You're not taking care of things. You're not prioritizing, but it's because of that, this this just really tough.
Way to get into the zone on something like that. At least for me,
Andrew: [00:09:17] I get that I think the term is eating the frog. Whenever you're doing that first thing in the morning, I love that by the way. also shout out to adventure time. One of my favorite quotes from adventure time is exactly what you're talking about because you're not the only one almost everybody doesn't like doing something they haven't done, especially adults.
Like kids are generally okay with it because they're all flexible and malleable and stuff, but like most people. In their job, like, Hey, this isn't what my job title says. Like, I'm not supposed to do this. I'm not, this isn't something I've done before. So I don't want to do it, or that's not in my job title notes, however you want to put it description.
So I'm not going to do that. And the shout out to adventure time is one of the episodes that is a line that Jake tells the fan is the first step at being good at something is being bad at something. And I quote that so much because, and I might've butchered a little bit there, but it is just. It's so spot on because nobody comes out on something and is just amazing at it.
It doesn't matter what it is. There's natural talent, but natural talent does not make you naturally good at something before you've tried it.
Daniel: [00:10:16] Yeah. I completely agree. So it sounds like for you. You would agree, like those are the hardest things to get momentum on. Do you feel like aside from quoting adventure time, there are ways that you found to kind of work around or to maybe cheat a little bit and get yourself into the zone in order to tackle that really tough project or eat the frog, as you said?
Andrew: [00:10:37] well, besides, you know, like left, right, right up down. Uh, BA I hope I got that, right.
Daniel: [00:10:42] I don't know. I, I never what does that Konami or.
Andrew: [00:10:45] yeah, the Konami code,
which I didn't learn about until long after it was out of style. So I'm just a filthy casual, but for me, Getting into the zone is definitely something that I am. I try and work on. We've both read deep work and that is a factor of, or at least what got me to even paying attention into getting into the zone.
Getting into the zone for me usually is a ritual, I guess you could say. So. If I'm struggling, let's say I'm trying to sit down to write, or I am having trouble doing a task, like I'm building on a campaign or something I will generally kind of get alone. That's usually the first step is people interrupting makes getting the zone very hard.
So. If I'm around people, maybe we'll put headphones on and I love the sugar, sugar song. I don't know why I love that song so much, but it seriously pumps me up. So maybe I'll play that or I'll play, some of these older songs I have that kind of trigger me thinking like, Hey, it's time to get to work.
So either silence, one of these kind of pump up songs, trying to get away from people. Generally I have a cup of coffee or tea as well, because there's something about. Having a beverage that helps trigger me, like, Hey, it's time to go. And maybe it's just the years and years of working in coffee shops.
Like my mind is like, Hey, I have two sips of coffee. And then like, you have to do something for five minutes because that's how I've trained myself over the years. I kind of take those kinds of actions and then. At that point, I can usually dig in and get some work done and I'm usually kind of in the zone.
And that's basically how I build a lot of my habits anyways, is trying to stack that kind of thing. You know, Hey, here's your, here's your coffee? Here's your music or silence or away from people. Generally, it's a set time, which obviously with coffee is usually in the morning. So try and get my into the zone tasks done in the morning.
And I just kind of build it all together and just kind of flow with
Daniel: [00:12:29] Yeah, I think I do something similar. And just to bring back our sort of mass times velocity definition of momentum One thing I do is I will try to take care of some of the little things that might distract me. I'll knock out some of that quick stuff. So it's less things to kind of pull me in different directions, because if you think velocity that's just speed and direction.
And so what I'm trying to do is make sure that the things that I'm knocking out are. Aligning me to go in the direction that I want to go. So I'll knock out some of those little things. I will definitely have coffee and probably some sort of snack as well. That, that just kinda gives me a little bit of that boost.
And then the big thing that I will do is just carve out time where saying to myself, all right, from this hour to this next hour, I'm going to work on this thing. I'm going to just chunk away at it. Even if it's slow going, even if it's painful, I'm going to only work on this thing chipping away, chipping away, kind of adding to that mass, so to speak of putting me in the right direction.
And then what almost always happens is eventually I have that breakthrough where things start to click. I start to get into the zone. I start to feel like my ideas are flowing. And then it feels great. And then I'm able to kind of knock that out and what I'll do my best to do at that point is protect that time.
So maybe I need more than an hour. I'll do my best to move meetings around or go and do not disturb until I can really get something done. Or if I finish that really tough task while I still have that positive momentum. I'll say, Oh, w what's another tough thing. Let me go ahead and jump in and try to work on that as well.
Andrew: [00:14:10] okay.
So something interesting there that I kind of want to see what you do on that. So for me, like, Where I'm coming from on this is I don't do the little tasks. Like I'm like, Oh, I'm going to avoid all these little things. I'm not going to check the emails and we're going to mess with the text or the little stuff, because for me that can end up being this like massive time sink.
That next thing you know, it's lunch because I'm aiming for mornings. So for you, do you have a set, like, Hey, I'm only going to do, let's say it's 8:00 AM. I'm going to pretend in this hypothetical, unless you have specifics. Are you saying I'm only setting aside X amount of time or till X time in the day, and it's at the same time that you're doing this, or are you saying like I'm only checking emails from eight, eight 30 and then I jumped into the deep work stuff and try and build that in.
And by deep work, I mean like that intentional, Hey, this is a momentous project I'm gonna work on, here's this kind of thing. And the gym doesn't count here, obviously. Cause that's like a, Hey. Wednesday nights every night at 5:30 PM, I'm going to go work out. But in a career sense, are you setting off certain time to not do certain things?
Or are you saying like, Hey, I can do whatever I want until 10:00 AM. And then I'm going, I'm going down the momentum rabbit hole to make sure that I had maintained this project that I'm working on or maintain this goal. I'm working on.
Daniel: [00:15:21] the way that my day is structured work-wise is I have a lot of meetings throughout the day, and I know I'm not going to be able to do a meaningful, deep work where I'm focusing on something really complex and challenging. I'm not gonna be able to do a task like that in the middle of the meeting.
What I tend to do is look at my day and say, okay, you know what? Like I've only got 30 minutes, 15 minutes, or, zero minutes between meetings for this block. Like, those are times for me to focus on these shallow things, knock those out. And those little chunks of time that I've got if it's a meeting where I literally just call in and listen, which is a handful of those, maybe I'm multitasking a little bit knocking out some of those shallow tasks.
So that. Whenever I have a span of one or two hours in between meetings. That's time that I focus on the tough things, the challenging things. And so my day does naturally kind of gravitate towards that. I have to be intentional about it. I can't let those shallow things bleed into those one or two hour blocks of time.
Otherwise my day is shot, but that's kinda how I go about it is look and see the time schedules that I have. Decide, what type of tasks best fit in those, do those things so that I really am freed up to, go deep and work really on really challenging things.
Andrew: [00:16:38] Okay, so you're kind of pudding. You're a lot more flexible than I am. You're saying like, Hey, here's my Workday. And I know I need to work on a momentum focus, task or project, but I'm not going to say like, I'm only doing it this time. You're saying I'm gonna look at the day and I'm going to say, I need an hour at least.
And you're going to find the hour in the day. And that's when it happens. Instead of saying like I'm building in an hour at this time, you're kind of, you're shooting a target at the beginning of the day and be like, Hey, there's my spot. I'm going to work on this then, because that's
Daniel: [00:17:08] Yeah, that's generally what I'm going to do now, assuming that I don't have a particular deadline on something, maybe I need to have that thing done by noon. And my morning is full of meetings. That changes the game a little bit. I may have to switch up how I approach things that may look like moving meetings or just having to.
Have a fragmented mind, unfortunately, work in 30 minutes there, 30 minutes here. I do my best to avoid that because I know that's not going to be my best work, but in an ideal world, yes, I'm looking at my day kind of painting. This is going to be an ideal time to kind of get this deep work done.
And then I'm trying to make sure that I've limited my distractions as much as possible or eliminated my distractions as much as possible. Whenever that time comes up.
Andrew: [00:17:52] I see, I like it. One last bit on that. Whenever you are looking at this, so you have projects, you've got this, you're trying to gain momentum on certain things, because obviously it's not something you can knock out and do either. It's a habit, it's a larger project, whatever you're talking about. How many of these do you have both career-wise and personal cause like.
Obviously you're going to have your work stuff and you're going to have your personal, like gym relationship, you know, whatever things you're getting momentum on and that work-life balance. Do you usually focus on a certain number? Do you cap yourself or how do you maintain that balance on what gets the attention that you're trying to give momentum to?
Daniel: [00:18:29] It, again, it sort of depends, like I would say four. Relationships there aren't a ton of things that necessarily require deep work, at least for me. It's more so just showing up and taking care of the little things and all of that. So it's, it's more so not letting. There'd be so many big, like challenging projects that I have where it's difficult to show up and personal life.
It's difficult to, spend time with people. And so, work definitely has tasks and projects that are big and challenging things. I think at any given time, there are usually three or four things that I've got that I'm kind of working through that take a lot of thought, but usually they don't all come up at the same time.
And then outside of work, it's the podcast, it was the book for a long time. I'm doing a um, or I'm on the advisory board for this college certification program. And so I'm going through some coursework for that. So those are kind of the things that take up my time, but I know what the levels of priority are on those things.
So my job in terms of deep work things, it takes a higher precedent over advisory board and unfortunately, over the podcast as well. And so if my job is keeping me so busy that in order to hit things like the podcast or these advisory board courses, it would mean sacrificing time with my family or just even sacrificing.
Some of that time to relax a little bit. Then those are the things that I pulled back from first. That's kinda my release valve, my, my safety valve.
Andrew: [00:20:01] you're just building up pressure on the moment and you're like, Hey, I'm not going to cap myself. I'm going to, I'm going to give momentums, you know, all the different projects, all the different things. I want to maintain, maintain momentum on precedence, but you've got this kind of internal priority list where it's like, Hey, if I hit capacity, this is going down.
Like, you know, for me, fitness is going to be one of those things like, Hey, I'm I might miss one workout, but like, I'm going to make it up that week. And then over the week, I'm not going to miss a certain number of workouts. I'm not going to miss a certain number of, projects at work. Like I might give up, you know, I might push off somebody saying like, Hey, I need help with this.
And I can, I'm already working on four things. Go find somebody else to help you. Or, you know, the podcasts like, Hey, we could be doing a whole bunch of different stuff. It's like, Hey, this recording. Let's get the episodes up. We don't have to do crazy content creation or whatever it is. So it sounds like you've got a hose and I probably do the same thing where you've got the hose of I'm going to give it this much.
And if it doesn't fit in this hose, it's getting downgraded on a triaged, this and that. You probably have
Daniel: [00:20:55] Yeah, for sure. And that's sort of what I do to kind of call time outs when things are feeling like they're getting away from me, whether it's I'm not making the progress that I need to on a project or my. Family is suffering from time away from me, or I'm not hitting the workouts that I need to, or I'm just not in a good mental space.
That's what I'm going to do is sort of reevaluate. What, can drop where can I drop it in? And just being realistic with whoever I might disappoint saying, Hey Andrew, like. I got to take a break this week from podcasts. I got a lot of stuff going on and just being forthright about that. And letting you know, this is short term.
I don't expect this to happen. Long-term I just need to break this week or if I need to say, Hey, like my priorities have shifted, there's been a change in kind of what I've got going on. We need to take more of a long-term break. I'll do that. And I've even done that at work. I've had conversations with my boss of like, Hey, I can take this on.
But here's kind of what it's going to cost in terms of my work, output my capacity, because I do have other things going on and it's going to maybe decrease my ability in some of these other areas. And , if you're okay with this, then yeah, I can take it on. But just setting those expectations of the things that I do to try to keep things from getting away from me.
Andrew: [00:22:03] that's great.
I think being able to say ma not being able to say, being able to do the vulnerable honesty kind of approach. I think everybody understands logically that's the way to go. Like, Hey, if someone was just upright, honest with me, like, Hey, I can't do this because I have this kind of stuff going on.
Nobody would be like, Hey that's okay. I can't believe they did that. I'd much rather they lied to me about something that sounded important. Like the grandma died, but whenever it comes to actually talking to somebody else, Everybody in their mom's like, you know what? I need to give a more compelling excuse.
I need to come up with something, you know, I got in a car wreck, whatever it is. And it's just like, Hey, if you just tell somebody like, actually what's going on with you and you just give them the truth. Even if it's something dumb, people just respect that more. And it works out way better than all the weird shenanigans that people come up on a daily basis.
So I like it.
Well, Daniel, I think that is really great. And I think we've said it all. I think we're good. So with all of that, do you have a challenge for our audience since we're going to try and get that going?
Daniel: [00:23:03] Yeah, I'll give two potential challenges. So the first one is if you're up for it and if you've never read it, check out the book deep work. I think it does a really good job of just explaining the value and the importance of setting aside time to really go deep on something, to work on something challenging and what that can mean for your personal life and your career.
So I think it's a really great read. I mean, if you've already read it or if reading is not your thing the, my challenge to you is to just take an hour each day across this next week call out the time that you want. It could be 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM or whatever it is and use that time. To really focus on something that you want to achieve.
That's hard, whether that's a work project, like maybe you want it to learn how to code something for your job. And you just haven't had the time, you know, take an hour to work on coding and make some progress on that project. Or maybe you've always said that you've wanted to write a book or you've wanted to start a podcast, take an hour to really focus on that each day, put your phone aside, grab some coffee, whatever it is and just.
Less yourself only work on that thing over the course of that hour and do that for a week and see what happens, let us know what happens. I really feel like you will make some progress that you didn't think was possible just by forcing yourself to do it for that, that really small amount of time.
Andrew: [00:24:29] I love it, man. That is freaking great. And seriously take. Take the phone out of the equation. If you don't think that it is causing as much distraction, as we're saying it is try deleting Instagram for a day and see how often do you pull up your phone, trying to look at something that has no impact on your life.
And you'll be like, Oh, you know what, maybe you're right. Maybe for that hour, I can not have my phone because apparently I use it every two minutes. So with that said, thank you guys for coming on. We really appreciate everybody listening and. If you want to check out www.deadbytomorrow.com that's dead X tomorrow.
Dot com. Actually, we'd love to hear from you until next time. I'll
have a great day.