I’m Stuck; Now What? 4 Strategies to Re-start Your Momentum
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
You promised yourself you would start a new chapter in your life—and you did. At first, fueled by the novelty, the challenge, and the initial adrenaline of hopefulness, you struck out on a new path. You changed your diet, you started exercising, you set up a website for the business you intend to create, you wrote the first two chapters of your first novel, you scheduled meetings to partner with organizations that could enhance your company’s reputation, you bought a motivational cd, you started journaling—or any of the hundreds of other things a person could do as they start out on the journey to a better, more productive, more purposeful, more fulfilling life.
And then one day you get up in the morning and you don’t feel the fire in your belly, and you don’t take any forward steps on that day, and even though you tell yourself that it’s only temporary and you’ll get back on track tomorrow—or next week—the days slip into weeks, and then a month has gone by and you finally confess to yourself that you’re in a rut; you’re stuck.
These periods of inertia can (and do) happen to everyone. The difference between those who stay stuck and those who don’t is often just a matter of knowing what strategies to use to get unstuck.
So let’s get some blocks under your tires, and leverage you out of that mud pit!
I am going to share some strategies with you that will allow you to F.A.C.E your demons of inertia.
FOCUS: the loss of focus is, arguably, the #1 killer of productivity. You lament that you don’t have time to do something, when what you really lack is the single-minded focus that will allow you to achieve what you want to achieve. Distractions are everywhere, and they will lead you into a time-waste cesspool if you do not manage yourself effectively in the midst of them. Simple things like turning off your e-mail and social media updates, re-locating your work-space (like going to a different room, or even getting out of the house all-together if you do some work from home) can significantly enhance your ability to stay focused. If your focus gets broken at work, divide your day into specific chunks of time that are used for specific purposes—and don’t let the items in one category spill over into the others. A very simple strategy is to set a timer and commit to doing nothing else but what you set out to do until that timer goes off. If it’s reading, exercising, starting a project, creating a training plan for new-hires, doing research for your business venture, writing in your journal, outlining your newsletter, making some critical phone calls—whatever—choose your topic and set your timer. (I strongly encourage using an actual timer rather than glancing at the clock and figuring out what time it will be in 20 minutes. There is a psychological component to setting a timer that will keep you on track better). Not only will you get something tangible accomplished in that time—even if it’s only a small accomplishment—you will feel better about your day and more motivated in general because you took a specific action and moved forward.
ACCOUNTABILITY: Tell someone what you are planning to do. Better yet, set up a daily or weekly check-in with someone you trust, and use that “pressure” to keep you on track. You can also be the person who keeps them on track. Having someone to encourage you, motivate you, and hold your nose to the grindstone as needed is a great resource. Even simply telling your boss about something you plan to do, and the date by which you plan to have it done will prevent you from changing your mind, or bowing out before you reach the end goal. In school, when you knew the teacher was going to check your work, you were much more motivated to do it than if he/she simply assumed it was getting done. Grant yourself this gift of discomfort so that you will press on past the rough patches.
CLARITY: Be clear on what you want to accomplish. Focus is hard to achieve when you don’t have clarity. (I’m going to set my timer for 20 minutes to do…what, exactly?) Know your intentions, get organized, and create a plan. Take some time on a Saturday or Sunday (or whichever day represents your transitional point between work-weeks) and plan your coming week. What are your big goals? What are the things you want to do each day that will move you closer to the achievement of those goals? If you don’t know, then that is undoubtedly part of the reason why you are stuck. You cannot take action on something you have not identified. So spend time with this (an hour on one day before the start of your work week), and then break your larger goals into smaller, actionable items. Put those items in your schedule. You don’t want to waste your time on any given day wondering what you should be doing to move yourself forward—that should already be laid out for you. Every night at the end of the day, review your action plan for the following day. This gives you a tremendous psychological head-start. Go to bed knowing what your purpose will be when you wake up the next morning.
EXECUTION: All your good intentions to do something different/better with your life will avail nothing if you don’t take action on those intentions. Do take the time to get clear on your goals, do put those things in your schedule, do make yourself accountable, do make the changes in your routine that help you stay focused. Don’t talk yourself out of executing on your ideas because you suddenly doubt their usefulness or efficacy. Unless you have come up with some brilliant alternative plan (and bravo to you if you do!), continue to act on your others. They may not be the thing that gets you where you’re going, but you never know who or what you may discover along the way that will. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that imperfect plans are worse than no plans at all. That is the quintessential recipe for continued inertia. Don’t fall for it! Dream up ideas, and take action on them.
Feeling stuck is not necessarily a bad thing. If you get stuck, it means you allowed yourself to tackle a really tough road—and that actually speaks volumes about you, in a good way. Writers are often told to give themselves permission to write crap. This is because the need to write good is a momentum-killer. If you can’t move forward well, at least move forward. I have a sign posted on my wall: “Get it done. Get it right later.” Don’t give up because you feel like you’re not good at what you’re doing, or you’re not seeing perfect results. This is a journey, and the journey itself will teach you what you need to know to get better—as long as you don’t stop.