3 Ways to Overcome Inertia


The smartest thing you can do is start.  — Unknown

In the past, I’ve gotten caught up in perfectionism, procrastination, fear (of both failure and success), over-planning and analysis paralysis (to name just a few of the mental obstacles that can get in the way of starting something). However, over time, I’ve managed to get to a point where I’m much more likely to just start things off and correct my course as I go. Here are a few examples of ways you, too, can begin overcoming those mental blocks and start getting things underway in your business.

1. Deadlines are your friend

I recently started a new radio show. While there are plenty of imperfections in its setup, by focusing on my weekly deadline, I’m much more concerned about rolling out the show and am concentrating on the content, rather than things like sound quality and making the product super-polished, at least at this point. If I got too wrapped up in those kinds of details, the show would never get produced, so instead of focusing on perfection, I focus on the deadline and on lining up the best possible topics and guests that I can for each show. Certainly, not having a stellar setup comes with its own set of challenges, but already, the show has led to some amazing opportunities, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t started it.

Sure, as time goes by, I’m fine-tuning my show. I’m modifying the segments, making tweaks to the lineup, adjusting the setup, etc., but the content and the deadline take up the bulk of my attention, and as I find the time, I polish it in small ways.

2. Find another route

Many times, it’s our own creativity (or lack of it) that gets in the way. We think we have to do things a certain way in order for them to work, when really, if we’d just think outside the box a bit, we could get them off the ground sooner and perhaps even more successfully than if we went the more “traditional” route.

For instance, I recently was thinking of creating an e-book. I had been asked by many people about a particular topic and decided that there was an opportunity for me to write a book around it, but who has time to write a book? By the time I’d written it, I would have forgotten who was interested in it! Plus, that’s deferring all the benefits that might come from creating it to well after I write it, which would take months — that’s not very motivating. I have bills to pay and other obligations that need my attention right now.

What’s the alternative, though? I’ve certainly seen some very successful membership sites, where the founders create their content over time and subscribers sort of “pay as they go,” but the thought of creating a membership site and building it to a respectable and worthwhile size seemed very intimidating.

I needed a way to start faster than that and really get over those mental blocks that come along with the magnitude of writing a book (a whole book) or starting a membership site. I decided to create my own sort of “mash-up” which is half book, half membership site so that I could get over my intimidation. Instead of thinking of it as a book or as a membership site even, I thought of it as a “program,” or an ongoing class, in a sense. That made it much easier for me to wrap my mind, was far less intimidating, and instead of thinking about creating content for an entire book, I would only have to think about this week’s “lesson,” which was much more doable.

3. Play “Red Light, Green Light”

Back in my real estate days, I operated by the book “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent.”  It was my bible. In it, Gary Keller says that you have to play “Red Light, Green Light” with your expenses, and I was reminded of it just a couple of days ago. My accountability partner was thinking of starting a newsletter, and we were brainstorming ways she might brand it, which immediately made me think about the look and feel for the design. I was imagining all the cool ways we could design it, and for a second, I thought, “Well, what if she wants to create something very customized?” I then thought about a person who could design something for her from scratch, but I stopped when I realized that would set up the likelihood of procrastination, which wouldn’t help her get her newsletter off the ground.

I think that’s a common sticking point. In her case, to overcome it, she could think about getting a general look and feel to start, something that’s quick and lower in cost to set up.  Then as her vision develops, she can spend more time, energy, and money in perfecting and polishing it.

So many factors can get in our way and prevent us from launching that new business, product, newsletter, etc. We have great ideas, but getting from Point A to Point B seems too far a leap. Sometimes, as the saying goes, you just need to jump and trust that you’ll either fly, or find ground beneath you.

What’s your best story of making a leap — and finding your wings or new ground?

Photo by Flickr user abnelphoto.com, licensed under CC 2.0

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J Munro

I agree with the sentiment that you should just start doing something & not worry too much over the initial details.

When I write copy or a cv etc, I generally find that if I over-think the whole thing then it never gets started as I’m too busy worrying about getting it perfect. But if I just write down EVERYTHING then it’s much easier to pare that down to something polished & workable. It’s unrealistic to write something perfect first time & you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it.

I’e always liked the tip:
One thing at a time
Most important thing first
Start now


Heidi Glatfelter

Great post – I can totally relate to the issues you discuss. I am trying to get my own business off the ground and often find myself idling in productivity while I try to “work out the details.” My perfectionism makes me want to wait until I have it perfect before I launch. I have been trying to incorporate the techniques you suggest and have been having success. I am now following the motto “Take baby steps.” It keeps me from becoming too overwhelmed. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in this!

Jay Papasan

Thanks for the great post, Amber. Thanks so much for the mention of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent. Love that it’s helping such a diverse group of business people. Your post reminded me of the parable of the pots, we tell in the book where two groups of students are graded by different measures for their pottery. One group is tasked with making one perfect pot over the course of the semester and spend all their time planning and perfecting. The other is graded on the total weight of pots they create, an incentive to make lots and lots of them. In the end, the second group not only makes the most post (an obvious outcome) but through repetition and practice also makes the best ones. A great reminder to balance planning with actual practice. Thanks!

Amber Singleton Riviere

Absolutely love the book, Jay. Even though I’m no longer actively in real estate sales, I still apply a lot that I learned from it to my business now.

Thanks for adding the story of the pots, too – funny how quality can take care of itself, if we’d just stop obsessing about it!

Ralph Leon

I think one of my earliest leaps was switching my career to advertising. I was scared at first, but just stuck with it and worked hard and I can really see it paying off. I am too a perfectionist and I always see myself going back to my ads and trying to make them better opposed to starting something new. I think your deadline advice is great and something that is essential in advertising. Enjoyed the read Amber

Amber Singleton Riviere

Thanks, Ralph! I’m glad you liked the post. The deadline definitely keeps me in check. It frustrates me at times, because I’d like to have time to polish, but the good benefits far outweigh the bad, and I know it’s the main reason I get it done without fail.

LaVonne Ellis

Excellent advice — thanks, Amber. I so relate to your story about not letting perfectionism get in the way of putting out your radio show on a timely basis. I was a radio news director and did hundreds of interviews, all far from perfect, but they got on the air on time, and that was the important thing.

I had a volunteer who did a weekly public affairs show for me [one of those early-Sunday-morning shows], but sometimes there would be no tape left for me at the end of the week. I would have to pull an old tape and rerun it. After this happened several times, I spoke to her about it. She told me that she was trying to make them as perfect as possible by editing out every ‘um’ and ‘ah’, and she ran out of time.

The words that came out of my mouth surprised even me: “It doesn’t matter how perfect it is if it doesn’t get on the air.” Good words to live by. :)

Btw, where’s a link to your radio show? I want to listen to it!

Amber Singleton Riviere

Totally agree, Lavonne.

My motivation, in part, for getting the show out on time each week has been NOT wanting to do a rerun. First, if I’m not going to commit to getting it done like clockwork, what’s the point? Second, I want to save reruns for “me time,” like holidays and vacation time. Even then, though, I plan on making it count by picking the “best of” shows to play again.

I take it seriously, and if I didn’t honor that commitment, I’d be sending the opposite message to listeners.

Thanks! Here’s the link – http://www.rockyourgenius.com/ .

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