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What to Do When You’re Stuck

What to Do When You’re Stuck
    Photo credit: AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker (CC BY 2.0)

    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.

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    So when you get stuck, give any (or all) of these tips a try to get you from inaction to action:

    Break Away

    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.

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    Meditate

    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.

    Drop It

    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.

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    Vacation Time

    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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    More by this author

    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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