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Productivity: Pick a Small Corner

Productivity: Pick a Small Corner

I was marveling over a new friend’s site, Big Bottom, which is not about that, potty brain. It’s about bass players. Musicians. Take something as big as music, and specialize down to bass players. It’s brilliant. The idea is small enough to drive very specific traffic, and yet large enough to include a lot of people who can appreciate the idea.

So how’d Dale do it? He picked a small corner, and went to work.

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Applied to Life Hacking

There are LOTS of jobs that just look too daunting when you view the whole thing. Dishes piled high in the sink after a party always look 300 times higher than they are. Writing a novel sounds horrible when you consider all 300 pages that have to be written. You can go another way and say that just blanket saying, “write a novel!” is too big a thing. Jason Fried preaches about the beauty of constraints all the time at 37 Signals, right?

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Pick a Small Corner

In GTD terms, this is pretty much Next Action space. But perhaps this is kind of like completing a series of Next Actions without trying to look too hard at the bigger picture. Just accept that it’s out there, and believe that what you’re about to do is going to move that goal along eventually, but squint about it. Don’t think too hard. Just go into doing.

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  • Accept that the project is big. Just do this first thing.
  • Accept that this first thing is complex. Just take the first step.
  • Accept that failure might come early. Stop. Take a breath. Go.
  • Set tiny goals, very tiny goals. (When I started running, I’d say all throughout the run, “I’m going to stop at that tree up there. That’s totally where I’m gonna stop. Okay, you can stop there,” I’d say to myself. When I got really close, I’d say, “Forget it. I’m already here. But I’m only going to run as far as that tree, then.” )
  • Don’t stop to pat yourself on the back. Notch the milestone, and move forward.
  • If you lose focus, say out loud, “Small corner.” Say it again.
  • Finish as much as you can manage, celebrate what you’ve done, and try moving to something else for just a minute.
  • Come back and do more. You can pull off tons of false stops and move things forward.

On that higher level, picking a small corner means understanding that there’s lots that you could do, and that it becomes a matter of taking a look at the larger chaos, squinting, and then narrowing your goal down to that one thing that you think you can accomplish as a small corner goal. Remember that constraints — especially those that are self-imposed — are good for helping you move foward. (I use constraints in building processes for myself and my new business).

Let me know what you think of this one. Personally, I think learning how to execute the small bits is what gives you confidence to pull off the larger plays. We’d love your feedback.

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Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com], when he’s not appreciating Big Bottom (the website, silly!)

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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