We all know what it feels like to get stuck. Perhaps we have a “be perfect” working style which means we can’t let go of a project, or even start it, unless we know it’s going to come out exactly right. Perhaps the context keeps changing so rapidly we can’t keep up, the project is spiralling out of control, and we just don’t know what to do anymore. Perhaps we thought a project was about one thing and now it turns out it to be about something else entirely–and we’re stuck. Whatever it is, we’ve all been there.
One problem with being stuck is that it can impact not just what we’re doing but also how we see ourselves: if I can’t even manage to get the laundry done before I run out of socks, how will I ever finish that job application, or write that novel? I must just be bad at doing things. The ‘stuck spiral’ can be insidious, making us lose touch with our full capabilities. We forget all the times that we we were successful in our efforts, overcame things, triumphed, made things happen. The times when we were our fullest selves, setting our mind to something and achieving it. And the longer we leave it, the harder it can feel to get unstuck: the mountain just gets bigger; the goal seems farther away.
Fortunately, there’s a simple yet effective technique to getting unstuck: just do something. It doesn’t matter what the something is. Peel one potato. Take a five-minute walk outside. Wash one dish. Water one potted plant. Anything that isn’t nothing. Whatever you do doesn’t have to be related to whatever you feel stuck about–in my case, when I feel ‘stuck’ at work, I often cook something. Do anything that gives you a sense of your own capability and resourcefulness, no matter how small that is. You don’t need to tackle the whole of everything at once, just do one thing that lets you know you’re not stuck, and you have the power to do things. That’s the first step to moving forward with your big project.
When I feel especially stuck, I often turn to a tool called the ‘done list’ to remind me just how much I AM achieving each day, no matter how small. Maybe I’m not always working as quickly as I’d like at EVERYTHING I want to achieve, but looking at the done list reminds me just how much I am accomplishing, even when it feels like there’s nothing happening. Give the done list a try–I bet you’ll be surprised by how much you’re getting done.