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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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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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