How To Beat Inertia And Why Logic Doesn’t Work

Three Month Vacation:Online Business Podcast

Is resistance a game?

It can feel a bit like that when you’re almost always on the losing team. But often the reason why we lose to resistance is because we don’t realise how the brain works.

And this brain stuff was studied by researchers at the University of Cincinnati. What they found was astounding. In just over 10 minutes, our brains start to waver and we lose focus. So how can we make sure we don’t give in to resistance? Find out in Part 2 of the Resistance game.


Right click here and ‘save as’ to download this episode to your computer.

Imagine you had two loans to pay back

Loan A was $100,000 at 19% interest per annum. Loan B was $200 at 1% interest. Which loan would you pay back first? Loan A or Loan B? If you chose Loan A, then almost every financial consultant on the planet would agree with you.

Except Dave Ramsey

To everyone, but Dave, the logic is clear. Loan A has a much higher rate of interest. Logically you should pay back the higher rate of interest first. But as you’d expect, Dave disagrees.

That’s because Dave understands inertia better than most other financial consultants

So what is inertia? I learned a funny definition in physics class at school. It went like this: A body in the state of rest or motion is inertia.

Hah, that made me laugh. How can you be stuck and moving, and still be in the same state? But apparently that’s how inertia works. And this is Dave’s advice to people who are struggling with debt.

First list all the debts on a piece of paper

All debts need to go down. Student loans, credit card, mortgage, blah, blah. Then you need to rearrange the loans based on the size of the loan. So the smallest loan goes right at the top and the biggest one right at the bottom.

And everything else in between (depending on the size of the loan). And then he instructs you to pay only the minimum payment on every debt–with one exception. After the minimum payments were made, every available dollar needs to be put towards the first debt on the list.

Incredible as it may sound, Dave is telling you to wipe out that tiny, itty-bitty $200 debt with the pathetic interest, instead of taking on the painful big amount/big interest debt.

Logically it makes no sense

But your brain doesn’t always work logically when it comes to inertia. While you’re lounging on the sofa, watching endless and pointless political debates on TV, your logic is telling to get off your butt. It’s telling you that the debates are endless (and did we say, pointless?).

Your logic is also telling you that you should be doing some work or exercise instead of engaging in mindless drivel. So logic doesn’t work. And the same applies to the debt. When Dave’s clients wipe out the first debt it’s not necessarily logical, but it creates a factor of momentum. First the $200 is wiped out. Then the $350. Then the $800. And so on, right up to the ‘monsta’ $100,000.

The motion is what matters

A body in a state of rest or motion is inertia. And going from rest to a state of motion is impossible if you decide to take on the biggest task first.

Logic tells you that you should fix your website right now. Logic tells you that you should write that 300 page book. But Dave would say, “Go brush your teeth first.” That simple act of doing something–anything at all–gets you off your caboose and into another state of inertia: a state of motion.

So if you need to get something done, fool yourself

-Don’t go for a 60 minute walk. Instead put on your shoes and decide to walk for just 7 minutes.

-Don’t try to write a complete article. Just write for 14 minutes. Then stop.

-Avoid trying to clean the entire bathroom. Just attack the sink.

These tiny bits help you get to the bigger bits. Because even as you go for the 7 minute walk, you know very well that you’re not going to turn around in 7 minutes.

You’ll go longer and further. But the goal always needs to be 7 minutes or 14 minutes or the $200 debt. The itty-bitty bits are important, more important in fact, than the bigger goals.

When people say they feel inertia, they mostly refer to a state of laziness

Of not wanting to do anything at all. But as my physics teacher would tell you: “There’s inertia and there’s inertia.” And to get from one stage to another, you need to make the list in descending order of importance. Then attack the list.

And as Dave would say: Start small.


Dave Ramsey’s ‘Snowball Debt’ and ‘Switch’ by Chip and Dan Heath. P.S. Yes I know. You’re headed to Google these names, aren’t you? You think you’ll find out more about this book and this method of reducing debt, aren’t you? But you already have the tools.

You have a piece of paper. You have a pencil or pen. And you have the methodology. So don’t muck around. Get to work. You need to change that state of inertia right now.

Next Step: Listen to or read Part 1: Can Resistance be Beaten?

Useful Resources

Why Do Most Plans Fails? Find Out The Critical Importance of Chaos in Planning.

DartBoard Pricing: How to systematically increase prices without losing customers

Article Writing: How To Speed Up Article Writing With Simple Outlines



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  1. William (Andy) Cranston says

    Great article. I have been a big fan of “shortest job first” for years. Get the small stuff out of the way so you can focus on the big task. But I never knew why this worked – well now I do.

    However I am certian that if I had to deal with debts I would go the “logical” route. Very odd.

    That pesky brain – it just won’t do what you expect :-)

  2. says

    I faced exactly that situation a few years ago. I was in lots of debt and whenever I choose to pay down my credit cards, I chose the “sensible choice.” I never did pay down all the debt and ended up going bankrupt.
    It would have been nice if I’d knocked off the smaller debts first.
    I would have shown some progress and who knows what could have happened then.
    For me it wasn’t so much about inertia as making progress that I could see.
    Knocking of one source of debt is a lot more visible than simply reducing debt.

  3. fran says

    Thanks Sean! Helpful – so very – for emotional overload/overwhelm too. Thanks for the reminder. First things first and keep it simple – all solutions to all problems/conundrums dont have to be sorted NOW – and chipping away works. Micheal Angelo didnt do the thinker with one chip of a chisel! and a sense of progress/achievement is good for momentum xxoo

  4. says

    Hey Sean,

    I don’t know why but my logic would be exactly like Dave’s.

    The less number of debts (even if they have lousy interest rates) are a better choice than dealing with throwing money at the monster debt and still having every single tiny debt alive.

    I’d rather get rid of the small ones, work my way up while having closure and I think that I would end up with a more un-cluttered view of what’s actually happening.


    PS. It would be less stressful as well.

  5. says

    I love to listen to Dave. Not that agree with all he says. But he runs such a great business while helping people to build a better life.
    Would love to know what other lessons you have learned or can apply from what he talks about.

    The question is also how does someone in New Z eland know about Dave?

  6. Nathania says

    I have long been a follower of Dave Ramsey. I was in debt, making my payments, not giving much thought to using credit cards or taking out car loans. I listened to Dave Ramseys CD course and not only did I get rid of all loans and credit cards, I put my teenage daughter on a cash-basis lifestyle as well. The mantra in my house is “if you don’t have the cash to pay for it, you cannot afford it.” Cars included. I can tell you that spending cash is a powerful wake-up call. It’s not just a number somewhere. It’s real money. Overall, we spend about half what we used to. And we still have PLENTY of stuff!

  7. says

    Thanks Sean for the great article. A good reminder to just keep going and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Small actions lead to small accomplishments but eventually will result in the fulfillment of larger goals.

  8. says

    Works for me! Especially when it comes time for housework. Which still has to get done whether you work at home or not. I need to do less surfing and more scrubbing! Great article Sean!

  9. says

    Sean, your article got me to thinking… I was under the belief to always place my toughest “to do” first on my list so that once completed, the rest will be easier. It’s a logical concept but in real practice, sometimes that tough task just stops me cold.

    Perhaps by placing a smaller, “doable” task first, I’ll build up the momentum needed to overcome that next tougher task. Food for thought…


    • says

      We were always told to handle the toughest thing first. And sometimes, that’s what we’ve got to do. If there’s a fire, we can’t go around planting the roses. Gotta deal with the fire first. But for most other occasions, it will stop you cold and drive you crazy. :)

  10. Christopher Jones says

    Dear Sean,

    Thanks. That was just what I needed to hear today.

    It doesn’t hurt that I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan. :)

    Am setting my 25-minute timer after I sign off here…

    Thanks again!

    • says

      Yup, because that’s the first thing people do. They think there’s this pot at the end of the rainbow, when the pot is right there. In NZ, we have a saying: Fish at your feet, first.

      • Christopher Jones says

        If you sign up for Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to be Rich (.com) insider list, occasionally as a bonus he gives access to a 1-hour interview with Mr. Fogg that is very packed. Sethi says the info was worth millions to him.

  11. says

    Having reaped the benefits and seen the fruits of using Dave’s Debt Snowball, I can attest that it works. But I have never applied it to my daily life and my blogging habits. Thanks for the great reframing, I cant wait to get started using these techniques!

  12. Dawn says

    Your point is so true. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction from scoring something off of a to-do list. It always leaves you feeling like you’ve accomplished something, even if it was only a small task, and that fuels motivation.

    The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time!

  13. says

    A very wise position to promote, Sean!
    Trying to tackle a big issue without breeaking it down into bite-size bits (what I would call a task analysis ) is mind-numbing. And the end product is often substandard too – it’s a bit like building a house with no foundations. It just won’t stack upfor very long. Superficially the product looks ok, but will be fundamentally flawed. Taking time, doing a little will bring outcomes with built-in longevity.
    Make today a good one- it will be a step towards a good year!

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