It doesn’t matter how big or small your company; the sweet spot in business comes when you gain and maintain authentic commercial momentum. Once you have momentum, the day-to-day happens with greater ease, making room for marketing, innovation, expansion, and the life you want.
The issue for many business owners is that they believe they need more time when, in reality, we all have access to the same 24 hours. How we use it and what we concentrate on determines what we reap from our time and effort.
So how do you leverage your time and effort to establish momentum? I speak to many business owners exhausting themselves to maintain an illusional momentum recognisable by its unsustainable pace. They desperately need solid foundations, without which gaining and maintaining commercial momentum is nearly impossible.
Time Allocation + Commercial Value + Rest & Rhythm = Sustained Momentum
Time allocation, commercial value, and rest and rhythm provide solid foundations for business and life. The key is establishing them in the right order and combining the components to achieve authentic, sustained momentum.
Business as usual has changed forever
Before we dive into what it takes to create sustained commercial momentum, let’s step back and examine the changing face of business. If we’re to build businesses that attract customers and staff alike, we need to know how to navigate the new era.
Industries worldwide are experiencing a generational transformation driven by technology and hastened by events like the global pandemic.
Rise of the intrapreneur People are searching for meaningful careers and a sense of ownership but without the risk and cost of their own organisation. Meet the intrapreneur, highly engaged and innovative like the entrepreneur but works in an organisation.
Intergenerational transfer There is a shift from hierarchical and linear generational transactions to flatter and more collaborative intergenerational connections.
Freedom, flexibility, and fulfilment —the 3Fs for Business Owners
Insisting people make business their primary focus is a thing of the past. Instead, collectively, we’re making the main thing the main thing again. Relationships, rest, sustainable rhythm, and meaningful work are the way of the future.
Sustainable momentum is the pathway to freedom, flexibility, and fulfilment. The key is to recognise that your business is a journey, not a sprint to the finish line, and patience is one of your most precious commodities. Patience is critical to developing and setting your underlying rhythm. But a note—it needs to be a realistic rhythm that includes your life and your business. Ignore your life rhythm at your peril.
You need to know yourself. What do I mean by that? You need to understand what you want from business and life. Then you’ll be able to put your time and effort into establishing your unique rest and rhythm, gaining momentum and then increasing your pace realistically and sustainably.
If you know why you went into business and, more broadly, what you want your life to look like, you’ve made a good start. If not, it’s never too late to begin the process.
There’s a big difference between managing and allocating your time. So, how do you know which one you’re doing? Here’s an easy test; if you’re at the mercy of the demands of your business and caught in the daily grind, you’re managing time. If, on the other hand, you’re actively assigning time to work on your business, dreaming and planning for the future, you’ve moved into time allocation.
You can allocate your time in a few ways, some helpful, others not. For example, you can spend your time (and effort) building the pace of your business, or you can invest it in establishing rest and rhythm, letting the pace increase naturally.
Top Tip: unrealistic deadlines equal an inferior time allocation process.
Walk this way!
By way of example, I walk every morning, and strolling at an optimal pace requires allocating the right amount of time to the activity. If I try to achieve 12,000 steps in the time it naturally takes to walk 10,000 steps, I feel rushed, slightly anxious, and robbed of enjoyment.
However, if I allocate time to stop, take a few photos, talk to fellow travellers, and stay at my natural pace, the journey is enjoyable and beneficial for my physical and mental well-being.
Are you allocating time to activities and goals that allow you to travel at your natural pace, or are you managing time in reaction to the demands of others? Unless you understand yourself, you’ll be exhausted by the speed imposed by clients, customers, and suppliers.
Getting off the hamster wheel
I know it’s all very well to tell you to slow down, but what do you do when you feel hostage to outside forces? Many business owners are pushing themselves to meet goals set by themselves, business coaches, financiers, and boards.
They exert all their effort to set an unrealistic pace that they must maintain, stuck on the proverbial hamster wheel. They end up exhausted and disheartened while doing everything they’re told should add up to success.
It sounds completely counterintuitive, but you need to stop. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but most of us do it. You won’t suddenly discover the freedom, flexibility and fulfilment you long for if you’re rushing from one thing to another, bouncing from one meeting to another, meeting one demand after another, and never taking a break.
Moving onto the second part of our equation, commercial value. What do we mean by commercial value? Simply put, you must ensure people want what you’re selling. The bottom line is that you must add value for customers and clients. If your product or service isn’t wanted, it doesn’t matter how you invest your time and effort; you’ll never move beyond the lack of demand.
So, let’s assume you have a product or service that people want. Next comes effort. Nothing happens without initial effort. It’s the ebb and flow of business. Your actions start to pay off when you allocate your time efficiently and effectively to move your business forward. Small, consistent steps are better than a giant leap.
“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”—Simon Sinek
Rest & Rhythm
And here we come to a critical yet often misunderstood and entirely undervalued element in gaining momentum in business and life: rest and rhythm. Without them, sustained momentum is impossible. It’s tiring being responsible for all the aspects of a company and then being accountable for the effort to maintain momentum.
Something has to change, requiring a shift in perspective and a different mindset. It means stepping back and investing time and effort to establish rest and rhythm in your life and business.
The secret to rhythm is rest.
Think of it in terms of a piece of music. The rests are as vital to the rhythm as the notes. What’s not played is just as important as what is. Rests in music aren’t just about separating the notes. Rests create the order and the rhythm for playing. Without them – we’d be left with a frantic mess, a cacophony instead of a symphony.
In music, rests sets the rhythm. In life and business, the essence of rhythm is time allocation.
The rhythm of your business will be as unique as you are. Again, that’s why you need to know what flexibility, freedom, and fulfilment look like for you. And you can’t be all about effort without creating space for a rhythm that includes rest. If you do that, you’ll never move from effort to momentum and exhaust yourself and everyone around you.
Shameless plug moment. It’s why I created Rest & Rhythm for business owners. I help business owners recognise and implement their unique rest and rhythm to help them establish sustained momentum, allowing them to succeed commercially and find freedom, flexibility, and fulfilment.
Rest and rhythm enable you to convert your time and effort into sustainable momentum.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”—Seth Godin
Here’s the secret to pace—it comes after you’ve set your rest and rhythm. If you try to insert it before creating rest and rhythm, you’ll have to keep expending energy to sustain it. It will always require effort to maintain.
Once you’ve discovered and established your rest and rhythm, you’ll start to pick up the pace naturally. My advice is to start slow. It’s much easier to speed up than to pull back on the reins because you’re going faster than is sustainable.
Rest and rhythm together provide a framework that allows you to step back when needed and then move consistently forward at a sustainable pace.
With this framework, you can consistently move forward rather than in fits and stops.
Momentum is the strength or force gained by motion or a series of events.
When you know yourself, allocate time, and develop rest and rhythm, you can set a realistic and sustainable pace. When these elements are in place, sustainable, authentic momentum will find you as much as you will find it. Momentum is holistic, involving every part of your business working together. That means you need to look at your business as a whole rather than discrete parts.
If you set the foundations, you’ll get a positive return on your investment of time and effort. And remember, small steps are more effective than giant leaps. Creating momentum means doing a little more of what moves you forward and a little less of what holds you back. Some days those things will feel like an inch, while others feel like a mile.
Beware of illusional momentum
It’s possible to end up with “illusional momentum”. It’s momentum that initially looks sustainable but requires constant effort to maintain. It usually happens when someone else sets your commercial rhythm, and it’s also more likely if you haven’t established rest and rhythm.
Illusional momentum has its roots in effort and pace without establishing rest and rhythm. If you don’t take the time to create rest and rhythm for your life and business, your life and business will set one for you. You’ll find yourself at the mercy of the demands of others.
Find peace of mind
Peace of mind comes when you know you’re on track and heading in the right direction, and it follows naturally once you’ve established rest and rhythm and gained authentic momentum and sustained commercial success.
Realise your dreams.
Your dreams are just that, your dreams. Your definition of success doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. But the only way to realise your dreams is to start at the beginning and work your way through.
You won’t just wake up one day and find your dreams have come true. They won’t just find you. You have to do the work, but it’s worth it.
In case you’re tempted to skip a step
I’ve been thinking about the order of the steps and whether or not you can skip any or even change the order; here’s what I came to.
There’s no escaping that you will need to exert effort, but then you knew you’d have to work hard at your business.
I can’t encourage you strongly enough to exert your effort to create rest and rhythm over pace. Once you’ve got a sustainable rhythm based in rest, you can pick up the pace and gain momentum. If you choose to go after pace, you’ll find yourself in a constant state of effort rather than becoming a self-perpetuating rhythm and momentum.
Pace requires ongoing effort. If music isn’t your thing, consider the 100m hurdles. What does the runner focus on? First, they create a rhythm in their running that facilitates hurdling. Pace is only added once the rhythm is established.
“To be a good hurdler, one must be a good dancer. One must learn to step into the rhythm created by the space between the hurdles and the height of the hurdles. One must learn to become one with that rhythm. Then, after having mastered it, one must be willing to break it down in order to create a new one. It’s an ongoing process that never ends. Rhythm is the aspect of hurdling that is personal, that can’t be imitated, that can’t be coached. You can imitate another hurdler’s trail leg, or lead leg, or lead arm, or lean. But you can’t imitate another hurdler’s rhythm. No one can teach you how to dance. You have to learn it on your own.”
Just like hurdlers, you can’t adopt someone else’s rhythm. You’re unique, and your rhythm will be too. That’s why you must start with knowing who you are, personally and in business, so you can allocate time and learn to work on and in your business.
If you focus on creating a rhythm, you’ll find it easier to pick up the pace and build momentum that drives growth with ease. If you focus on speeding up, you’ll have to sustain the effort to maintain it. A regular rhythm allows you to gain traction and make room for momentum.
Establishing a rhythm will often include taking a step back in pace and slowing down to build back up—sustainably. You may feel like you’re going backwards – but think of it like a catapult. The sling gets pulled back before it launches the projectile forward. The further the catapult is pulled back, the greater the distance covered. So what may look like a backward step is setting you up for success.
The essence of rhythm is time allocation – to gain and maintain momentum and peace of mind.
Daily, weekly, or monthly rhythm?
I’ve noticed that when business owners go after pace, they have a daily and weekly rhythm but nothing beyond that. Don’t get me wrong, you need daily and weekly rhythms, but you need to recognise them for what they are—the rhythms of your processes and procedures.
You need a monthly rhythm if you want to establish rest and rhythm, add pace, and gain and maintain authentic momentum. A month is long enough to enable you to include reviews and be regular enough to make necessary changes.
Your business rhythm needs to be repeatable and consistent. Yes, it will include setting up the daily and weekly processes, but it must go further and be measurable to establish sustained momentum leading to commercial success.
Signs you’ve established a sustainable momentum
- Work energises you
- Peace of mind is your default
- You’ve allocated time to work on and not just in your business
- You have time for the things that matter to you
- You have time to dream and plan for the future – marketing and innovation
- You’ve set a consistent, sustainable commercial rhythm
- You have the emotional and mental capacity to invest in others
Time Allocation + Commercial Value + Rest & Rhythm = Sustained Momentum
You’re a person with businesses, not a business owner with a personal life.
It may sound like a lot of work, and it is, but what’s the alternative? If business owners want to move beyond the constant hustle and trying to meet unrealistic deadlines that create the illusion of success but leave everyone beyond exhausted, something has to change. The status quo has failed generations of small business owners; it’s time to make our businesses work for us.