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How to Get Unstuck

How to Get Unstuck

Ah, procrastination—the silent killer of dreams.

You’re probably familiar with the feeling you get when you know there is something you ought to be doing, but you just can’t seem to get to it. When you’re feeling stuck, motivating yourself to get going is just the hardest thing to do. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself: the sneaky voice that suggests you contemplate giving up on what you really want…

“Downsize your dreams.”

“Compromise.”

“Don’t reach so high… you’ll only be disappointed”, it says.

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It’s not your fault you have these feelings of doubt now and again—not at all—and the really good news is there is something you can do to get unstuck right now. This method doesn’t involved trying to motivate yourself artificially, but it does involve getting back into your natural flow.

Let me explain:

What is Your Natural Flow?

Have you ever had those times when things just seem easy? When everything falls into place, and you bounce from one task to the next effortlessly; time flies by, and your productivity goes through the roof whilst everything is harmonious and fun. You know what I mean, don’t you? These are the times when you are working to your natural flow.

Now by contrast, when you’re not in your natural flow is when you feel STUCK. Everything seems to take forever, and each task gets more and more tedious, almost like your energy is being zapped out of you. I bet you’ve also had times like this too… am I right?

Well, don’t despair, because there is a way out of it, and it’s easier than goal setting. It doesn’t involve discovering your life purpose, and it doesn’t mean you have to rely on pure willpower and determination. In fact, the solution lies in two simple lists. More on this shortly.

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The Root Cause of Your Pain

The pain and frustration you experience lies in doing things that keep you out of your flow. You see, we’re all wired in our own ways, and while some of us light up in front of an audience, others may feel that giving a speech is the biggest stress they could ever imagine. While some people love picking up the phone or networking, others thrive on the detail of a spreadsheet or a process map.

The point is, there are some things we each love to do, that are within our natural flow, and there are things that make us feel stuck. The key to getting back into flow and overcoming the stuck-ness is simply a case of spending a greater proportion of your day on tasks that are within your flow. The degree to which you can do this, is the degree to which you will THRIVE.

The first thing we need to do is define when you are in flow, and when you are stuck.

A Tale of Two Lists

These two lists are things that anyone who masters anything is on some level aware of as they go about their day. Here is the quick-fire way that you can adopt the same approach and make it work for you—starting right now.

Step 1: Grab a pen and paper and divide it into two columns. At the top of the first column write the title “Things That I’m Doing When I’m Stuck”. At the top of the second column, write “Things That I’m Doing When I’m in Flow”.

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Step 2: Think of all the times you’ve been stuck, and write down the tasks you were doing in the first column.

Step 3: Now think of all the things that you put off, or dread doing. They should also go in the “stuck” column.

Step 4: Now do the same for all the times you’ve been in flow, and pop those into the second column.

Step 5: You guessed it; now you need to think of all the tasks you look forward to doing and put those in the second column too.

Great job.

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Now what you’ve effectively done is create a Flow List and a Stuck List, and these can then form the basis of all your decisions around where you choose to put your focus. Essentially, what you want to do is to spend the maximum amount of time on things in your flow list, and a minimum time on things your stuck list.

If you can do this—either by picking your projects carefully, outsourcing or reallocating tasks within your team—you will very quickly find that being stuck is a thing of the distant past!

You’re in the Driving Seat

Okay, now it’s over to you.

Knowing about this won’t change the way you do things, but sitting down and making these two lists is the beginning. Once you’ve defined on paper the things that make you stuck and the things that keep you in flow, then you’re able to make productive decisions about what you do and don’t do. It all starts with getting those lists well defined first: you have to do something, and the easy and most productive thing you can do right now isn’t to try and get more stuff done.
Instead, it’s to define where you are in flow and where you are stuck, so let’s get those lists done now before you even click away. Go ahead—grab a pen and paper and create your two lists now. You can download an example stuck and flow list here if you need some help. You’ll be amazed at how quickly things start to shift for you.

Leave a comment and share some examples, or simply let us know how you got on with this very quick life hack! I read every comment, and I’m here to help.

To Your Inevitable Success!

Laura Leigh Clarke

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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