What to Do When You're Stuck
Earlier this week we touched on NaNoWriMo, and one of the things that plagues those taking part in the “novel-writing in 30 days” process is getting through the blocks so that you can get the book written in such a short time frame. Admittedly, I’ve already come across that myself – I am sitting below pace as I write this piece – and I would be even further behind if it wasn’t for a few tactics I put in place to jumpstart my writing.
But it isn’t just writers (or November writers) that face this problem. Everyone does. At one time or another, you hit a wall. There are a number of reasons for it – burnout, lack of project scope, a waning interest in what you’re doing – but there are also several ways you can push through the work stoppage and get moving again. The sooner you realize you’re stuck, the more effective each of these tips will be because you’re not too mired in the mud of stagnation.
So when you get stuck, give any (or all) of these tips a try to get you from inaction to action:
When you’re just not moving forward on something you really need to step away from it for a while. Take a break to recharge, move on to something else that needs doing, have a snack or go for walk. The bottom line is that in order to get unstuck you need to move – and the only way you’re going to feel as if you’re moving when you’re stuck is if you move yourself away from the thing that is keeping you at a standstill.
Sometimes stepping back won’t cut it. Sometimes you need to clear your mind just so that you can move forward, almost like starting with a fresh sheet of paper or a newly-formatted hard drive. Meditation can help you do just that. With enough practice, you’ll be able to let things come and go and just focus on breathing while you meditate. Just emptying out your head for a few moments a day can really add a new perspective to your work and life. Mindfulness and productivity aren’t so far removed that they can’t work in tandem. When you meditate, you’ll get that much closer to marrying the two. And then you can go forward…and move forward.
There are some things that you’d really like to see done, but aren’t critical to the big picture. It may be a passion project that you’re not quite ready to handle or one that you just can’t wrap your head around. If you have the luxury to let it go when you get stuck on it and can’t seem to get unstuck, drop it. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to come back to it when you’re ready, but it does mean that you’re freeing up the energy it was taking just sitting there staring back at you waiting for you to do something with it. And if you can’t afford to drop it altogether, see if you can delegate it to someone else. You might actually be helping a colleague who is stuck on their own work by giving something fresh to work on.
When was the last time you took a real vacation? Getting really stuck can often be the result of you not giving yourself enough time away from your work as a whole. We need to take prolonged breaks, where we can get away and enjoy the fruits of our labour. If you find that you’re really stuck on something that has never stumped you before or you’re stuck on a whole bunch of things that you’ve got on your plate, you likely need a vacation. So take it. Put all of your ducks in a row and go. Everyone will benefit from you escaping the workweek for a week or two. Especially you.
Remember that those who struggle while in quicksand sink faster than those who don’t. So don’t panic when that feeling of “stuckness” sets in. Just recognize it for what it is and pull yourself out of it. While you’ll never be able to prevent yourself from getting stuck, you can put measures in place that will give you the upper hand when you feel that you are.
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