Inertia is a powerful thing. We are creatures of habit. Over the course of our lives we develop habits (both good and bad) and those habits essentially dictate what we do everyday.
In order to overcome inertia, you need to destroy bad habits that are standing in your way and replace them with good habits that are going to help you reach your goal.
It really doesn’t matter what your goal is – whether it’s weight loss, starting a business, improving your finances, or any other worthwhile goal, each of these things will require you to adopt a new set of behaviors.
But breaking ingrained habits is really hard to do and creating new habits is just as hard. So how do you do it?
That’s going to be the focus of this article. I am going to discuss 9 of the best strategies that I have used to overcome inertia successfully time and time again.
I want to start by saying I’m no behavioral scientist or anything like that.
But I am a lawyer working fulltime in the financial service industry. That in itself requires a lot of long and stressful hours. But the more important thing (and the thing that is relevant to beating inertia) is that I have built up a real estate investing business (I own nine rentals worth nearly $3 million combined) and started multiple successful online businesses that generate thousands of dollars per month on the side and in my spare time.
After an exhausting day, it’s easy to fall into a pattern where you just want to unplug and relax. I’m sure you can relate.
But I was able to beat that impulse day in and day out. I don’t have any superhuman willpower or anything like that. All I did was put in place some simple strategies that worked to get me off the couch and doing the things that got me closer to my goals.
That’s what I’m going to share. So let’s get into it!
If you would like to see a condensed version of this article in video format, check out my YouTube video on the topic below.
1. Have a Clear Goal and Come Up With a Plan
The first step in breaking out of inertia is identifying your ideal end state and working backwards from that goal to come up with a practical plan for achieving it.
For example, if you want to start a business, there are steps you need to follow. You will need to come up with a simple business plan that provides a roadmap of how your business will make money and operate. You will also need to establish your business entity, figure out a name and logo, create an online presence, etc.
There is a lot involved, but the first step is to always sit down and come up with a plan.
Related Reading: If you are interested in starting a business, check out my complete beginner’s guide to starting a business. It will take you step by step through each part of the process in detail.
If you want to get in shape, you need to figure out what “in shape” means for you and find the best strategies for achieving that goal. Some strategies may emphasize weight loss, while others may emphasize strength building, cardio fitness, or proper diet, to name a few.
Pick the one that aligns with your goal and plan out how you are going to implement it.
I have found that whenever I want to try to improve something in my life, coming up with a tangible (and written) plan to get there is essential. It makes it real. It also makes it easier to get started. A vague sense of “I should do this” is never going to get you unstuck.
You need to sharpen your focus and think, I must do this and here’s how I’m going to do it.
2. Get Organized and Come Up With a Routine
Once you have settled on a plan, start fleshing it out. What are the things you need to do each day (or at least on a regular basis)? Map them out and then set aside some time to do them.
Try out different times and see what works best for you. It’s ok to make adjustments (in fact, you should always be trying to improve your routine).
In my case, I like working on my goals early in the morning before I start work (but after my morning cup of coffee!). That way, I know I can get my time in before any of the day’s other priorities and unexpected crises happen (which can derail you if your designated time is in the evening).
3. Start Small and Build Up
When you are trying to form a new habit, sometimes it is easier to start with a “micro habit.” As the name implies, it is a small act or habit that you can easily start doing.
Let’s give an example.
Let’s say you want to start reading more. A micro habit would be to read just one page before you sleep each night. It’s a very attainable goal because reading a page make take just a minute. But it’s something you can build upon. Before you know it, you will have an established routine and will be reading much more than one page every night.
This can be used for exercise, writing, or any other endeavor that requires daily dedication. It’s perhaps one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal for building new habits, so use it. Just remember, it can take (on average) around 66 days to form a new habit, so keep at it.
In just a couple of short months, you can develop a great habit that can help you get closer to your goals.
4. Strike (Hard) While the Iron is Hot
Motivation is not an unlimited resource.
You’ve probably noticed that your level of motivation ebbs and flows based on your mood, energy level, who you’re with, and a host of other factors.
Sometimes you will be extremely motivated to do something. It could be after reading an article (hint hint) or watching a video or listening to an inspiring speech. Whatever the reason, you should not waste it when it’s there.
Recognize when you feel those rushes of motivation and get to work on the things that you need to tackle. And try to focus on the harder stuff first. You don’t want to waste that motivation on easy tasks.
If you can make really awesome progress during these surges, you won’t feel as guilty when you need to slack a little because your motivational tank is nearly empty.
And when you are feeling low on motivation, remember how you experienced those prior surges of motivation and try to replicate it. Read some inspirational quotes, hang out with like-minded people who share your goals, re-read articles or re-watch videos that gave you a jolt in the past.
5. Reward Yourself When You Hit Milestones
This is important to sustain motivation once you have established a good routine. I use this all the time. In my real estate investing business, I would go out to a nice steak dinner to celebrate each time I bought a new property. It was a small thing, but it kept me going.
On an even more micro-level, I reward myself after I finish each blog post by taking an hour to watch my favorite Netflix show and eating my favorite snack (half a portion of an apple turnover). This simple act motivates me to really give it my all when I am writing, so that I can feel I “earned” my little reward.
On a related note, make sure you actually track your progress for various milestones.
For example, I started calculating my net worth every quarter starting in 2013. It was depressing when I started, because I had a negative net worth at the time, but over the years, it became a really motivating exercise. When I started to see real changes to my net worth, I become even more motivated to succeed.
Bottom line: Measuring your progress can be a powerful motivational tool when used correctly.
6. Make It Easy on Your Future Self
Sometimes I am faced with a task that is hard and complex. I want to avoid it at all costs because I dread getting started. But there is a way to overcome it.
The key is to make is as easy as possible to start that task.
Maybe it is collecting all of the materials and information you will need to do the task in an organized place. Maybe it is writing out the various steps you need to do to accomplish the task (this one’s huge for me – I love roadmaps and checklists).
Basically do all of the prep work and have it easily accessible, so that when you finally sit down to do the hard task, all you need to focus on is the task itself.
I have found that this little tip makes it much easier for me to tackle that tough task. It’s weird, but doing the pre-work and having it sit in front of me all neat and organized actually makes me want to dig in.
In fact, even for more routine tasks, I think it’s a great idea to get the prep work done first. For example, when I finish each blog post, I am still in “work mode,” so I go ahead and dig up the next topic I want to write about and create a draft with the title and a bare bones outline.
When it’s time to write again, it’s amazing how much easier it is to start when you know this small amount of pre-work has already been done and all you need to do is “fill it in” a bit.
7. Tell People About Your Goals
When I committed to quitting smoking (one of the toughest things I ever did), I told everyone. I did this deliberately because I wanted everyone to hold me accountable.
It’s a simple trick, but one that can be really effective. People don’t want to be viewed as failures and so they will try hard to follow through on their publicly professed goals.
It’s easy to fail quietly in private – much harder to do when everyone knows.
8. Get a Solid Support Network
Everyone is going to feel discouraged at some point along their journey. Maybe you are not making as much progress as you hoped. Maybe a life event throws you for a loop. Regardless of the reason, you will want a robust network of people you can turn to for motivation and support.
How do you find this network?
Obviously friends and family can be a good option if they are reliable and trustworthy. But you can also find support by joining relevant organizations or groups (these days you can go to online forums and facebook groups and meet many like-minded people).
Having this network is important. There’s a reason why people who are trying to break awful addictions don’t do so in isolation. Human contact and support is an incredibly powerful thing.
9. Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
I am not a perfectionist, but my wife is. There are pros and cons to being a perfectionist, but when it comes to reaching goals, you want to set aside any perfectionist tendencies you may have.
This applies to every phase of the process. Don’t wait to start on your goal just because your plan is not perfectly laid out. Get a decent and well-reasoned plan in place and then just start. Don’t be plagued by analysis paralysis.
And once you have started, don’t give up because you fail to meet all of your expectations.
Any difficult and worthwhile goal is going to present obstacles and setbacks. You will make mistakes along the way. You will fail along the way. You don’t lose when these things happen. You only lose when you give up. So don’t let the fact that you did not execute your plan perfectly stop you. Bulldoze through it.
As the saying goes, if you aim for the moon and miss, you might still hit a star.
So remember how far you’ve come. And when you fall off, remember that failure is just a lesson. You’ll be better and stronger having learned that lesson and overcoming that failure.
So there you have it – 9 ways to overcome inertia and position yourself for success. Hope this has been helpful and best of luck reaching your goals!