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How To Gain Momentum – and Keep It

How can we gain momentum and then stick to the good habits that helped us get there? For me, it’s all about my morning routine.  

Over the past week, I have had few people in my circle ask me about my morning routine and how I stick to it. 

As I reflected on the question, I realised this is not something I think about much these days – it automatically happens. But there was a time a few years ago that I struggled a lot with mornings and dreaded my alarm going off. I would stumble out of bed and for the rest of the day feel like I was trying to keep up with all the things that needed to be done. 

So how did I make the change from a late riser to getting up just after 4 am without an alarm?

By making small changes, every day, over time.

Double a penny a day.

You might know this story about doubling a penny a day, but I thought I would share it again as it is a great example of momentum and the compounding effect of taking small action every day. 

If I would offer to give you £5 million pounds today or a choice to double a penny every day for 31 days – which one would you choose? (I ain’t that great at math so the former option of £5m today sounded pretty good to me).

Like all good riddles, the unattractive option is the way to go –  doubling a penny a day gets you £10.7 million pounds by day 31, compared to the £5 million option to take the money today. 

If you look at the above image, it takes a while for you to start seeing those big returns. For example, by Day 20 you’re still only at £5k, you might be thinking that you have worked hard and made all these changes but aren’t seeing the returns you might have expected. 

But the magical thing here is that the compound effect really only takes place in the last 4 days. This is when you see the real gains. You go from £1.3m pounds on Day 28 to £10.7m pounds on Day 31. 

The result comes at the end, not in the middle, and not at the start.

This is the same as making changes in your life.

The thing about momentum. 

Now I am not going to lie – getting momentum can be tough. And sometimes you feel like you are working really hard and nothing is changing. 

I feel this way whenever I try something new or take on a new habit. Getting up at 4 am didn’t just happen. Over the years (multiple years) I have changed other habits to help support me getting up early. This included going to bed early, making sure I am well hydrated, and eating the right foods

I love this drawing by James Clear. It clearly illustrates the compound effect of making small changes and the incredible impact it can have on your life. 

By making a 1% improvement every day by the end of the year you are 37% better – if you do this for 3 years in a row you will literally be 100% better! 

That is wild to me. And also achievable. 

“Remember a rocket uses most of its fuel at the launch to break free from gravity. Your old habits are gravity.”  Anon

Weekly Rewiring Tip

One of my favourite tools I use to keep momentum is a simple habit tracker. I use one every day.

For example, I like to exercise 4 times a week, I mark this off daily in my habit tracker and I often exercise more than 4 times a week because I get satisfaction from the ‘streak’ I am on. 

Habit tracking is powerful for three reasons.

  1. It creates a visual cue that can remind you to act.
  2. It is motivating to see the progress you are making. You don’t want to break your streak.
  3. It feels satisfying to record your success at the moment.

So simple yet effective.

FInal Thought

It is always the hardest to start new things for a range of reasons, but the primary one is because our brains are wired to do easy stuff that we are used to doing. This is not surprising at all given the amount of work it has to contend with on a daily basis. 

This is why making small manageable changes is so powerful. Our brains can handle the small stuff. It’s when it feels insurmountable and tough that our brains are like “that’s all too hard” and we go back to doing what we are used to. 

Make it easy for yourself to get momentum. 

The thing about momentum is that once you have it, it’s easier to keep.

Other Interesting Stuff

Five of the best habit tracking apps – I have personally used  Streaks

Twofeetin Habit Tracker

How to get 1% better every day

14 books about building better habits