Maybe you’ve been here before
Working hard on a project and you get to the point where your brain just starts going in circles. The deadline is approaching, the boss is waiting, the client is watching the clock, and there you are – staring at the keyboard, staring at the wall, staring at the clock, repeating the same work you’ve done numerous times already – wondering how the heck you are going to get the project done.
Or maybe it looks a little different. You’ve been coasting for a while in life. Your job is paying the bills but you hate going in. Or you feel like your life is going nowhere, no matter how much you wish it would. You’ve tried to ‘do it right’ but it just hasn’t worked out. You’ve got that goal that you know deep down would make you happy, but it’s just too overwhelming to chase it.
You feel it in every fiber of your being. And it sucks! What do you do? Walk to the water cooler to waste some time? Hit the couch to catch up on another season of Lost? Have a few drinks to take the edge off that feeling of unease, and tell yourself that tomorrow will be better? We’ve all been there at some point and it isn’t fun.
What if there was a way to get un-stuck? What if you had more than just hope to get you there? Here’s what has worked for me and my clients to get unstuck fast.
Step one – Create some space
The first thing we need to do is get out of the problem for a little while. This can be a challenge when you have a deadline and you can’t spare a second, or when your whole life seems to be the problem and getting out seems impossible.
There are a lot of ways to create some space. A lot of them might require you to feel a little silly while you do them. Involve your body and focus on something other than the problem. If you are at home take the dog for a walk or play with the kids, or work out (make sure to truly focus on the activity). If you are at work you can do a short meditation to get some headspace, or go outside (or to the bathroom) and pull off a Tony Robbins state change (this feels the silliest, but also seems to work the best).
When you get your body involved and change your focus, suddenly you’re brain has a chance to separate and get a change of perspective.
Next – Get some clarity
Now it’s time to look at your project/life/whatever the problem is from your new perspective. Keep the mindset and body feel that you got while building that space and take it into this step. If you start to lose that state, go through your state change process again. Make sure you’ve got something to scribble on as you go into this process as you will want to keep whatever you come up with.
How you get clarity will depend on the issue you are stuck on, and your personality. Some of the most common ways to get clarity are:
- Talk it out with somebody. Not because they have the answers, but because our brains work differently when we are explaining a problem and our attempted solutions to somebody else. In a pinch, I’ve talked things out with my dog just to get the words and brain flowing. Explain all the boring details if you have to, but start with the outcome you are trying to achieve, what you’ve tried to get there, what is hanging you up, and what you can do to resolve those hangups.
- Ask big-picture questions. “Why is this project important?”, “What is the most important outcome of this?”, “How will I know if I am accomplishing success?”. Then make sure to take the time to ANSWER these questions (sounds like a no-brainer, but asking the questions isn’t enough to create forward movement).
- Look inward. What strengths do you bring to this project/life? What are the ways that you are uniquely positioned to create the outcomes that you need? What are the actual obstacles standing in your way? How could you get some help to overcome those obstacles? Who do you know that does this kind of thing in their sleep?
- If the problem feels like it is too big, break it down. Write down all the different pieces of it, which piece seems like the most important for moving forward? Write down all of that piece’s smaller parts. Now come up with a plan to accomplish a few of the most important of those little parts.
Finally – Act on it.
Don’t wait around. Don’t plan on acting on what you’ve done ‘later’. Do it now, while you are in this state, while you are fired up, while you have the answers, while you feel like you can. Call that person that is really good at this, start executing that plan for the little parts, go back and hit that project like a tornado with your new found perspective.
Sound simple? It is! It’s also incredibly effective. But don’t expect it to be easy. Once you commit to approaching it from a different angle, you are almost guaranteed to get different results.