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Opportunity Overload

Opportunity Overload

    You’re not alone if at the end of each day you feel like you didn’t accomplish enough. And it’s no wonder. Everywhere we turn we see and hear messages about ways we could be making more money, how to be a one minute manager, businesses we could start, technology that could make our lives easier, 1001 places you should visit before you die, cars & trucks that you should buy, relaxation techniques you should try, and on and on. We’ve got opportunity overload.

    There are so many opportunities to improve our lives, careers, relationships, etc., yet we have only a limited amount of time each day. How can we take advantage of some of these, and still enjoy our lives? How can we find the best and leave the rest?

    Top Down Approach

    Most of us are using a Top Down approach to life improvements. In this approach we sort of browse the universe of ideas that are out there, picking and choosing what looks interesting at the moment. The problem with this is we may be spending our time on things that are not really a top priority, thus crowding out the time we need for more important improvements. It’s like going browsing in the mall with your rent money. You buy some new boots and suddenly you don’t have enough money to pay the rent. We have to look at our time as just as valuable, even more so, than money.

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    Why do we use the Top Down approach? Simple. Because it’s much easier to browse than it is to analyze our needs and seek out the opportunities that will be most meaningful to us. But we pay the price of wasting our time and suffering unnecessary anxiety over missed opportunities.

    Better Approach: Bottom Up

    The better way to handle all the opportunities available is to approach it from the bottom up. That is with you at the bottom looking up at all the opportunities. Your goals become the filter. Think of it more like a decision tree. With the bottom up approach you start with the trunk (your goals) and then seek out only those branches (opportunities) that are important to you.

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    How to Use the Bottom Up Approach

    1. Review your life goals. What are you trying to accomplish in your career, relationships, finances, and life in general? Which goals are most important to you right now? These should guide your search for opportunities.

    2. Turn off daily input that is not targeted to your needs. For example you might stop watching the news and instead just read the highlights in a weekly magazine, such as The Week. Or you might turn off the TV altogether. Most people watch TV in the evening because they are too tired to do work on any of their goals. If you fall into this group, you might consider shutting off the TV, do some light reading instead and go to sleep earlier than usual. This way you can get up earlier than usual and work on one of your goals before work instead of watching mindless TV night after night and not making any headway on your goals.

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    3. Limit or stop random web browsing. Random inputs into our lives are good for creative sparks, but most of us get way more than we need and the creativity factor is far outweighed by the overload factor.

    4. Seek out targeted web inputs. Use Google search or Google Alerts to find opportunities that align with your goals. Subscribe to RSS feeds of sites that consistently have content that is aligned with your goals. Cut out RSS feeds that don’t add real value to your life.

    5. Be more targeted in your reading. Cut out magazines that you can’t keep up with. Cut out magazines that don’t align well with your interests or goals. If you read the newspaper, consider reading just certain sections that pertain to your goals or interests. Or you may want to just read the Sunday paper for the weekly recap. Again, there, limit the number of sections that you read. If it is a high priority goal to leisurely read the Sunday paper all morning, then definitely do that. If your goal is that you want to go places or do things on Sunday, then try limiting.

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    6. Capture the best ideas. When you do find opportunities that are a match with your goals, then write down those ideas in a notebook where you keep all your ideas.

    7. Review the ideas you write down at least weekly. If you haven’t already taken action on them, decide which ones are most important to you and set your first action step to take.

    8. At the end of the day take a few moments to review your day either mentally with eyes closed or through journaling. What did you accomplish? Did you make progress on your top priorities? Are you satisfied with that? What could you change tomorrow or going forward to improve? What was good about today? What are you grateful for? What will you do tomorrow?

    9. Be at peace with your day that has passed. Relax and rest for the evening so that you can face tomorrow with renewed energy!

    K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvement Should You Start Your Own Work at Home Business?, How to Stop Being “Busy” and Live Your Dream Life, How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less, and How to Be a Great Salesperson.

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    K. Stone

    The founder of Life Learning Today, a blog that's dedicated to life improvement tips.

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2020

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. A rut can manifest as a productivity vacuum and be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. Is it possible to learn how to get out of a rut?

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, or a student, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on Small Tasks

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks that have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate positive momentum, which I bring forward to my work.

    If you have a large long-term goal you can’t wait to get started on, break it down into smaller objectives first. This will help each piece feel manageable and help you feel like you’re moving closer to your goal.

    You can learn more about goals vs objectives here.

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    2. Take a Break From Your Work Desk

    When you want to learn how to get out of a rut, get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the bathroom, walk around the office, or go out and get a snack. According to research, your productivity is best when you work for 50 minutes to an hour and then take a 15-20 minute break[1].

    Your mind may be too bogged down and will need some airing. By walking away from your computer, you may create extra space for new ideas that were hiding behind high stress levels.

    3. Upgrade Yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade your knowledge and skills. Go to a seminar, read up on a subject of interest, or start learning a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college[2]. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a Friend

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while. Relying on a support system is a great way to work on self-care when you’re learning how to get out of a rut.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget About Trying to Be Perfect

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism can lead you to fear failure, which can ultimate hinder you even more if you’re trying to find motivation to work on something new.

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    If you allow your perfectionism to fade, soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come, and then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

    Learn more about How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up.

    6. Paint a Vision to Work Towards

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the ultimate goal or vision you have for your life?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action. You can use the power of visualization or even create a vision board if you like to have something to physically remind you of your goals.

    7. Read a Book (or Blog)

    The things we read are like food for our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great material.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. You can also stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs and follow writers who inspire and motivate you. Find something that interests you and start reading.

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    8. Have a Quick Nap

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep[3].

    Try a nap if you want to get out of a rut

      One Harvard study found that “whether they took long naps or short naps, participants showed significant improvement on three of the four tests in the study’s cognitive-assessment battery”[4].

      9. Remember Why You Are Doing This

      Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

      What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall your inspiration, and perhaps even journal about it to make it feel more tangible.

      10. Find Some Competition

      When we are learning how to get out of a rut, there’s nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

      Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, and networking conventions can all inspire you to get a move on. However, don’t let this throw you back into your perfectionist tendencies or low self-esteem.

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      11. Go Exercise

      Since you are not making headway at work, you might as well spend the time getting into shape and increasing dopamine levels. Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, or whatever type of exercise helps you start to feel better.

      As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

      If you need ideas for a quick workout, check out the video below:

      12. Take a Few Vacation Days

      If you are stuck in a rut, it’s usually a sign that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

      Beyond the quick tips above, arrange one or two days to take off from work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax, do your favorite activities, and spend time with family members. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

      Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest.

      More Tips to Help You Get out of a Rut

      Featured photo credit: Ashkan Forouzani via unsplash.com

      Reference

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