How To Overcome Inertia And Get Things Started

Habit Change

Note: The following is a guest post from ADHD expert Beth Main of Regardless of whether you have ADHD or not, the tips and strategies offered below will support your efforts to find more focus, energy, and minimize distractions.

A body at rest tends to stay at rest.  A body in motion tends to stay in motion. That’s the definition of inertia, Newton’s first law.

People experience inertia too. It’s stronger in those of us with ADHD. Once we get moving, it’s hard to stop us. But it’s really hard for us to get moving!

How To Overcome Inertia And Get Things Started

Blaming ourselves for our extra inertia is kind of like blaming an army tank for not being able to reach top speed in 3.5 seconds. It’s just the way we are.

Our executive functioning is impaired, which means we have trouble with things like planning, memory, problem solving, and organization. And starting things. This difficulty with executive functioning is like friction that we must exert extra force, every time, to overcome.

Here are some ways to overcome your inertia and get started:

  • Fuel up. Our “fuel” includes nutritious food, plenty of water, good sleep, and exercise.  Your brain needs these things to function at peak performance just like your car needs gas (or diesel or electricity).
  • Find the track. Think through the steps required to do something, create a checklist, and follow it. This can be incredibly powerful because it separates the planning from the doing. Usually we can plan, and we can do, but we can’t plan and do at the same time.
  • Rev your engine. Raising your energy level can be a critical first step to getting moving. If you’re on the couch or at the computer (i.e. a body at rest), it may be unrealistic to expect yourself to spring into action and instantaneously become a body in motion. Start by simply wiggling your fingers or swinging your legs. Gradually increase the energy until you’re up and moving.
  • Set your wheels straight. Evaluate your options, and decide what you’re going to do.  Don’t second guess yourself.  If you tend to belabor the “what to work on now” decision, or start a bunch of different things without actually doing anything, you may need to practice giving yourself permission to be wrong.  Spend a reasonable amount of time making the choice, and just do something already.
  • Rely on automation. Anything you can automate is one less thing you have to exert force on, saving your energy for other things. Automation includes things like computer programs, online bill pay, and direct deposit. Routines are also a form of automation. Having a repeatable process for things you do regularly means you don’t have to think them through every time.
  • Remove the boulders. De-clutter your environment. Eliminate distractions. Make a list of questions that are keeping you stuck in the same place, and find the answers.
  • Start in first gear. You won’t get far trying to start out in fourth. Break the task down into small steps, and focus only on the first one.

Just like you wouldn’t expect an apple to fall up from the ground into the tree, don’t expect it to be easy to get started on things. But the good news is that once you get rolling, you can expect to keep rolling for quite a while! The laws of physics can work in your favor.

Beth Main is a Certified ADHD Coach and the founder of ADHD Solutions. She helps people with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder develop the skills, systems, and strategies they need to overcome their challenges and achieve success. Find a host of resources and information on coaching with Beth by clicking here

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