Inertia & momentum

Published on
August 10, 2015
Chris Taylor
"Ideas are only valuable when applied."
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“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

We’ve all heard the quote and, by and large, have found it to be true; busy people can take on a task—and then deliver—faster and more consistently than a non-busy person. Have you ever wondered why that is?

I’ve heard a couple theories (feel free to add yours in the comments below):

  • These people possess better time management skills
  • The busy schedule allows less opportunity for procrastination
  • Somehow those overachievers have cultivated a stronger willpower

I personally believe it has to do with momentum and inertia. A less busy person often takes breaks or “downtime” between tasks or activities. (A reward for a job well done, and all that.) But there’s a fine line between the appropriate breaks—short ones, done for the purposes of exercise, food or mental clarity—and the prolonged delay of starting the next thing. The more time we allow ourselves to think — to worry, project fears and listen too closely to the naysayers—the more momentum we lose. The closer we come to a state of inertia. It was Newton who said that an object at rest requires the maximum level of effort to move (I’m paraphrasing here), while an object in motion continues the trajectory of its motion until acted on by an opposing force. It was Csikszentmihalyi who said it takes roughly 30 minutes to find and enter a state of flow. Most professional sales people will tell you there’s nothing better than a hot streak; leveraging the confidence borne of success in one sale to positively impact the next.

Wherever your focus and whomever we choose to listen to, there’s a strong argument to be had for the value of leveraging our small wins to build momentum into the next project.

If you’re coming off a win/complete/new-experience, take a moment to appreciate the accomplishment, but then don’t stop. Move onto the next piece with the confidence of knowing that Newton’s 1st Law is on your side.

If you find yourself in a state of inertia, just know that the first step is the hardest. It gets easier. Figure out the absolute smallest first step and start there. Momentum begets momentum.