Have you ever dreaded starting that overwhelming project? You put it off and put it off…
Then one day, for some reason, you just start. You get a ton done. It feels great. It wasn’t that hard. And you wonder why you didn’t just do it ages ago.
One of the biggest issues most people have is getting started. They have a good plan, they have a goal, but they just can’t seem to get things in motion…they can’t overcome their inertia.
What is inertia?
Inertia is the resistance of any physical thing to change its state of motion. You may remember it as Newton’s first law:
”An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
An object at rest stays at rest…unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. So you need to create an unbalanced force, just enough to tip the scale, because according to the other piece of the law – once you get moving, you’ll stay moving!
It only needs to be a tiny little thing to get you started.
I can’t count the number of times over the years that I have procrastinated around doing something, but once I started, it often flowed along pretty well, and I spent hours on it, or in other words – an object in motion tends to stay in motion.
What creates the unbalanced force?
As far as starting a project goes, the first problem is the word “hours”. It is often enough to stop us from starting, because the time commitment is just too big, and too overwhelming.
The second problem is the thought of “where do I start”… it’s absolutely incapacitating. The cost of starting is just too high.
The problem is when you look at the size of the effort to do the project, the amount of energy required to create an imbalance of forces so that you will actually start is huge! Who can pull forth that amount of effort and determination to start? Few can.
Lower the cost of starting
The trick to overcoming inertia is to lower the cost of starting. How do you do that?
One way is to set up triggers, to make the right choices easy to reduce the energy commitment of starting. I talked using triggers in my article Triggering Excellence.
Another way is to lower the commitment level required to start, and there are two elements to that – time and focus.
You purposely make the time commitment very small, well below the threshold of what would stop you from doing the task. What do I mean by that? You get to check that task off your list even if you only do 30 seconds that day.
But, you say, the task isn’t done. True. But the second element of overcoming inertia is knowing what to focus on and the mistake most people make is setting tasks and goals that are too large and not specific enough, so they don’t know where to start.
If you break the pieces down small enough, the task is done for that day. So if 30 seconds is the task, then the task was indeed completed for that day. However, there is no rule that says you must only do 30 seconds. If you want to do more because now you are in motion, have at it.
I’ll give you an example in my writing. I’m writing a book and have been struggling to get anywhere with it. So I set a daily task for myself that all I have to do is write 10 words. That’s it. Of course, some days I write a lot more, and other days all I write is the 10 words. But over the course of weeks, I’m finally getting somewhere and I’m starting to get excited about it because it’s finally taking shape.
The same technique can be used anywhere. Whether it’s doing your taxes, cleaning your house, doing a big business project, or training your dog, set a goal that you can easily achieve.
Create pressure by putting a hard deadline that the project has to be done by. Set up a consequence or an expectation so it’s not just a random date that you can easily let pass by. Some of my best work has been done under deadline, because I bring all my energy, focus and creative juices to bear.
Just take the first step
How can you start to create systems to help you get moving. Just one step. That’s it. Get creative with your ideas and share them below!
JOIN THE CONVERSATION! Please share your comments at the bottom of this article, so I can keep bringing you material that is helpful and relevant. Your email is not visible and will never be shared.