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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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    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 March 13, 2019

    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. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well 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. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    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, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which 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 a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up 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. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    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.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    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.

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    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 end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

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

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    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.

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    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 why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    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, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

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

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. 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. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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