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How to Get Unstuck and Get Back On Track to Achieving Your Goals

How to Get Unstuck and Get Back On Track to Achieving Your Goals
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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.

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.

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Let me explain:

1. Find 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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2. Understand 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.

3. Create 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:

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  • 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”.
  • 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!

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.

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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’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!

Featured photo credit: averie woodard via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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