I N E R T I A


The last post I published was almost 8 months ago. 

During this time, work kept me very very busy, frequent and long business trips, and I just could not dedicate time to something I started – the initiative called ‘L E G’. 

Did that mean I stopped thinking about it?  No, I didn’t. 

I continued to scribble my thoughts, observations and ideas on my note pad, started writing about some of them – 19 to be precise, and read a lot. 

But if this was the case and if I actually started writing these articles, why did I not post any one of them for so long? 

Well, that is the dilemma; it is called ‘inertia’. 

Most of the articles I started to write, they could either not reach to a conclusive end or did not make me feel comfortable about posting them and honestly, after a point I became stationary with those articles.  I got stuck to and with them without realising it and while I would read them, make an attempt to finish and publish them; I never got around to doing it.  

I was then in, what I’d like to call, state of ‘negative’ inertia – when things are immobile, they stagnate and really, it’s you who stopped progressing on or with it.  And soon comes a point when you start wondering…

Should I do it or do I have other things which demand my focus at the moment? 

Or…

Uh oh, it’s become so complex – ideas and thoughts are just not coming to me… why? 

Something which I think of so much and while I want to do it, why am I not able to focus on it and reach a conclusive state? 

Why are things stuck?

And out of all this, there is one resultant feeling; that of frustration and dejection [on one’s self]…and all of a sudden the very thing you started / initiated starts to appear difficult and overwhelming – and more often than not, you will start giving or finding yourself a reason on why you could not or didn’t do it.  It was never that you did not want to but because it’s the vicious cycle of negative inertia; you lose your drive, focus and sheer enthusiasm-joy of doing it.

How often has it happened to you?  Happens from time to time, right. 

Have we ever wondered why does it happen?

I was actually pondering upon it myself as I was stuck with it [and this was not the first time for sure] and I felt the following to be some symptoms of when it is about to creep in…

[1] Time lapsed:  Time that has passed by and there is no progress

[2] Loss of Interest and Drive:  You have actually lost interest or are convinced it is not good utilisation of your time at the moment…thus the drive which was present initially now seems to be missing

[3] Lack of recognition or following:  You’ve started something but there is no one or only a very few who seem to be interested in hearing your story

[4] You’ve had way too many expectations:  It can happen, you may overestimate the potential and expect too many things out of it, but when it doesn’t meet your expectations, it starts to drain your enthusiasm and drive

[5] A tough choice to make?:  You may have to make some tough choices, like between what you ‘wish’ to do [the initiative] against what you are ‘required’ to do [day to day tasks] – like your pet projects against your daily tasks list which just doesn’t get over…and you have a choice to make, which in most cases is obvious – forget the initiative and stick to the task list.

[6] Procrastination and deviation from the track you were on when you started with it

There could be many other reasons to it but the ones above, I feel, really brings out the essence of what indicates, as a pattern, that you are slipping into a state of negative inertia.

You would ask – Well, fair enough but if I am doing what I am ‘needed’ to and could not continue on the thing I started [which of course I always wanted to do but couldn’t] then how does it affect me?  Right question. 

Here is how it affects you and your professional life [and thus businesses]…

[1] All of a sudden you transform into a ‘task player’ from a person who used to ‘think’.

[2] It affects your overall confidence.  It’s simple, we all as humans like our plates clean and tasks accomplished; it’s in our nature.  But if you initiated something and it gets stalled, it will keep lingering in your mind – there by affecting it…it will keep coming back to you and you will, in a way, start to feel awkward [for the lack of a better word] about it – and that’s it, your confidence is starting to get affected by something which you yourself started.

[3] It will rob you of your creative thinking, at times, as you would not be sure if you can see / lead it through to the end – because if you couldn’t accomplish one then how sure you to accomplish another?…it’s all in the mind and it plays on you.

[4] You will become a meddler from a hero, become reactive from being proactive and start taking instructions rather than assessing the situations and taking a lead in putting measures in place.

[5] A resultant feeling of non-accomplishment and disappointment seeps in.

[6] You will do your job [day to day tasks] well no doubt, but you ‘may’ not enjoy it because you know something else needs to be done as well however you are not able to get to it or finish it.

And if the above affects your professional life…it affects your personal life too.  No matter how hard we try, our professional and personal lives are interestingly intertwined – because at the end of the day it is the same mind and heart that is working for you both at work and at home.  So if there is something that has ruffled your mind at work let’s say, it won’t let it be 100% at home too.

Let me give you a few examples…

Sit in on a project that has been going on for some time now.  You will see marked difference.  If the project is on track then you will see most of its action items, in work breakdown structure, will be marked with one of the two statuses; WIP [some portion] or Complete [most of them] and those which are WIP are on track to meet the timelines.  Against this, if a project is getting delayed or has lost the track, the action items will have a very high percentage in WIP or Not Started; and those in WIP would’ve had their timelines being missed or changed a few times.  And have you ever gotten a good, confident feeling coming out of review meetings of such projects?  Rarely.  This is a clear indication that the project is slipping into negative inertia.

The other example if when we have started an initiative for our teams or ourselves.  How often have we procrastinated, resulting in tasks being piled up?  How often have we promised ourselves to get on to it the next day as today was very busy…and that ‘next’ day has taken a very very long time to come?  In worst case, how many of our initiatives have seen a dead end, not because they were bad but because they just lost the traction?  We all would’ve experienced this either as those who were leading it or those who were a part of the steering/executing team.  I for one have experienced a few of them.

When I could not post my articles, it was because I was in the state of negative inertia.  Being in negative inertia does not mean everything you do will start slowing down or falling apart…as I said, you would do just a fine job at things which you ‘need’ to do but will struggle a bit for those which you ‘really want’ to do.  This state doesn’t hit everything, it just hits one or two of so many things you had/have to do and it is from these one or two things that it starts to slowly affect others…but thankfully most of us do a fine job of carrying out our daily routine tasks / task lists very well.

Likewise, so many of us would’ve had great ideas about how to improve our processes, our functions or businesses.  Let me ask you this…how many of these – really good ideas – have you been able to initiate and see then through till the end?  The answer would be, very few.  That is because all of us slip into negative inertia at some time or the other.

Does this mean there is nothing one can do about it?  No, that is not true. 

Negative inertia is just the state of things or really, the state of mind.  Like negative inertia, I believe; there is a state of motion – ‘flow’, state of progress [though slow but gradual] and this state is what I call the state of ‘Positive’ Inertia.

Map out the companies who have really done well, or your peers at work who have really progressed…and you will find one common string; they have always been in motion, they have always seen their initiatives until the finish line and thus are generally proactive, driven and upbeat about any new concept / idea / initiative – they clearly stand out, don’t they?  They knew some tricks which a lot of us didn’t or struggled to understand / follow. 

So I started to think what would they be…and I derived the following methods:

[1] Take your ideas / concepts / initiatives etc. and put them on the table; review – assess them until you clearly know [a] how long it will take, [b] how complex can they become, [c] what will you get in return out of it once it is complete, [d] how to stay on track – this is critical, [e] so what are the distractions you run into and need to avoid, and finally [f] should they thus take it up or park it – not kill it, but simply park it for being taken up later.

[2] Always know the value of being in motion – so you should always target the low hanging fruits, take up things you know you can accomplish faster…in the end you want to finish what you started, right.  You would feel good and confident if you finished the task you undertook and are waiting for the other to be undertaken…you have the motion at your side.

[3] Never or avoid getting stuck on one thing, or at one step or at one question; always remember the important lesson from our school / university examination days…that is, you have a finite time and you have to hit a target, so if you remain stuck at something which you can’t address or resolve then move on to the other which you can, and come back to the earlier one once you are done with those you can resolve / address.  You work actively to find ways and paths through the puzzle.  Use these skills you knew for so many years.

[4] Do not expect too much, be realistic.

[5] Estimate correct efforts and focus needed from your side.

[6] Of course, discipline and determination without saying.

[7] Avoid procrastination…if you planned to do something today then find time and do it today, because ‘tomorrow’ is hard to come.

[8] This one I guess is important…if you believe in what you are doing and the value it will deliver, no matter what following you have or what recognition it is bringing to you, just stick to the task and only think about the end state… ‘if you didn’t get it then, you will get your cake in the end

Again, there could be many more to add to the list, but I believe these are some of the key pointers/ways to stay in the ‘flow’ and in state of positive inertia.

Yes, the road would be tough, but persevere and you shall reach the destination…and really, the beauty is seldom in reaching the destination but it is in the journey to the destination – that is when you learn the most and experience the most.

So, always try to be in the state of Positive Inertia, because best results come out of you when you are in the ‘flow’ – or as it is said in the music world; being ‘in the zone’, and in the sports world; being ‘in the groove’.

If you read this post, do share with me your thoughts on this topic…I will be interested to know your perspective on it.

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2 Comments on “I N E R T I A”

  1. Pushkar Says:

    Hi Nimit,

    Came across your blog and I thought to drop you a note to share some feedback for your article Inertia.

    I felt that you have made some interesting observations on the symptoms of negative ‘inertia’ and I fully support your thoughts for the impact this would have in our personal as well as professional life.

    I also feel that it would have been a good read if you had elaborate on your own journey from the state of “negative” to “Positive” inertia as that would have been a good “Take Away”

    Nevertheless I think your article is “good food for thought”.

    Keep it up

    Regards

    Pushkar


  2. Thanks for your thoughts Pushkar, greatly appreciated. I intended to keep it objective and thus cited my observations on why we slip into negative intertia – and to establish the case, I shared my experience. But I do gather your intent and I agree it would’ve given it a personal touch. Thanks again for sharing your comment, it will help improve the content on this blog.


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