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Why Ask Why?

Why Ask Why?

Why are we here? Why do we get up every morning and aim to achieve something? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Why ask why?

“Why?”

It’s a powerful question.

Philosophers use it to better understand the human condition and seek out the answers to The Big Question. Scientists use it to cure diseases and The Carpenters once asked it to make a pretty catchy song.

The good news is, we can ask that question ourselves on a regular basis to aid us in the all important mission of getting things done.

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Have you ever sat down to make your to-do list of plan a series of goals without thinking too much about why you’re going undertake a particular task beyond the simple excuse that it just has to be done?

Have you ever found yourself half way through a deadly dull, time-consuming task and suddenly thought what the hell is the point of this?

If not, more power to you. If so, welcome to my world.

Too much to do

I suspect I’m not the only one who has ever found far more on my plate than I can possibly handle. Sprawling To-Do lists, bursting at the seams with endless amount of actions spiralled out of control. Projects which seemed important sat forever half-finished and progress on long-term goals had barely begun.

There was just so much to do. More than I could ever possibly conceive finishing in anything like a manageable time scale  and I had to do all of it.

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I didn’t ever stop to really think about why I had to do something I just knew, even subconsciously, that it had to be done. After all, if I didn’t have to do it, why would the thought even occur to me to scribble it down on a To-Do list?

It created a habit of assigning too high a priority to what were pointless or unnecessary tasks, spending so much time on those tasks that I never had the time to accomplish anything that was really important to me.

That was, quite frankly, insane.

Asking Why

So I stopped. The next time I came to plan out my goals and lay out a To-Do list, I forced myself to think long and hard about why I was planning to do all this stuff.

  • Why is it important that I finish this project?
  • Why is it important that I reply to all those e-mails as soon as possible?
  • Why is this long-term goal on my bucket list?
  • Why do I need to spend my whole day working on something that will ultimately have little benefit?

By employing such thinking every time I came to plan things out, I came to see that I was wasting a great deal of time on things that didn’t really matter, either because priorities had changed, because I’d convinced myself something was important when it really wasn’t  or even because somebody else had said it was important.

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It was the latter bunch that I struggled with the most.

After giving much thought to certain tasks, it turned out that the only reason I had to do something was because it was expected of me by somebody else.

I suspected that those people hadn’t given much thought as to why this had to be done either. On closer inspection, it was an entirely pointless exercise designed to suck time and keep busy. Still, people were expecting this of me. How could I justify not doing it?

I asked another question.

What’s the worse that can happen?

What’s the worst possible thing that can happen if I don’t complete this task? Or, as I so dramatically liked to think of it: Will anybody die if I don’t do this?

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More often than not, it turned out that nobody would die, nothing terrible would happen, and I could therefore feel confident in eliminating that stuff on my list to focus instead on what was really important.

Justification

Of course, there’s a problem which this approach; if we spend enough time thinking about anything we can easily find a million excuses to justify doing, or not doing anything.

That’s why it’s important to be honest, perhaps harsh, with yourself when undertaking this approach. Is this really important? Will it matter in the long run or does it just seem like it right now? Can I delegate this to somebody else? Can I let it go altogether and concentrate on what really matters?

If not, get it done. If so, let it go. The only person you’re really letting down if you don’t ask why is yourself. That way, you’ll have much more time to focus on what really matters to you, like answering the bigger questions in life such as why we’re here, or even why birds suddenly appear.

Featured photo credit:  Gorgeous young brunette in thinking posture via Shutterstock

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Chris Skoyles

Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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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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