What's Your One Thing?

The best way to break out of inertia – whether it's financial, professional, or personal – is to get moving, but how can you get started when the list seems a mile long?

I have written previously on investor inertia, and how dangerous it can be to your current portfolio and future retirement plans. One of the reasons inertia can be difficult to overcome is that the tendency toward inaction builds up over time, leading to a to-do list that itself becomes intimidating and becomes self-perpetuating. This can be true of not just your financial situation, but your physician practice, and even aspects of your personal life.

Physicians can be particularly susceptible to inertia, in part because of the demands the profession entails, including caring for patients, conducting clinical research, keeping up with the latest medical research, and often running what amounts to a small business.

The best way to break out of inertia — whether it’s financial, professional, or personal – is to get moving, but how can you do that when the list of things you know you should be doing is a mile long?

Different Ways to Get Started

A lot of self-help strategies recommend overcoming inertia by making to-do lists. Others recommend taking on a small, preliminary task that is easy to complete. The thinking behind that is that because objects in motion tend to stay in motion, completing that first step will get you moving to complete more.

Both of those strategies can be effective, but they both have a pitfall. For some, making a to-do list makes the hill to climb seem that much higher. For others, identifying and completing that one small task, however inconsequential, may seem like enough of an accomplishment for today. That might leave significantly more important tasks put off until another time.

Find Your Pain Point

A strategy that might work better is to borrow a concept from each of the two strategies above, but with a twist. Make a to-do list...of one item. Tackle that one task first...but make it the single most important thing you’ve been putting off. Chances are, you have a pretty good idea what that item is. Maybe it’s saving for retirement. Maybe it’s starting the college fund for your children. Maybe it’s overhauling your patient charting system, or implementing that electronic medical record you’ve been wanting to introduce into your practice.

You know what your pain point is. You probably already know how to address it. Some obstacle is preventing you from tackling it. That pain point is probably creating either a personal or professional log-jam. By treating that pain point, you may be poised to enter the “object in motion tends to stay in motion” phase. If so, fantastic. If not, at least your biggest pain point will move from the “to-do” column to the completed column.

That’s quite an accomplishment all on its own.