Updated: May 11, 2020
Finding yourself stuck on something that you really don’t want to do?
10 Tips on how to move forward right now:
1. Remove the barrier. Nothing more, nothing less. Instead of reserving three hours for a big project that you’ve been pushing out for the past month or so, schedule in 5 minutes to look at the task.
Just look at it. No planning, no tools, no action steps, just looking. Remember when you were a kid and had a splinter in your finger? When your mom said “I’m not going to do anything. I’m just going to have a look.” What happened afterwards? You showed her the sore finger and somehow her gentle voice convinced you to hold still and magically the splinter was removed. It’s the same with an undesired task. The art lies in tricking your mind that there are no bad consequences in giving this a go.
Just a quick look. Just allow yourself to check the task, no draining long hours of overwhelm, no pain involved. You are helping your brain learn and memorise that this project is easy and unthreatening. Which, in term lowers your apprehension towards making a start. When you look at it next time, you will find it a teeny-weeny little bit easier to have a go.
My tip: Keep scheduling 5-10-minute sessions for now and just see how they turn out. If you’re in flow and you really want to, keep going. If not, do another 5 minutes the next day. Pretty quickly you will train yourself to remove the barrier that comes with a big project and find motivation in achieving small things.
2. Bite-sized chunks. Ever tried to put a whole apple in your mouth? Of course not. You know it’s not going to fit and you might choke. Putting a big task upon yourself and expecting to get it all completed in one hit is going to put you off even trying. If you sliced that apple though, and ate it one wedge at a time, your chances are looking much better. And if you had enough and you couldn’t finish it all, it would keep in the fridge. Eating a whole apple would not look so daunting a couple of hours later, when there’s only part of it left.
Once you have read and understood the task, it is important to identify what is going to be involved in its completion. This will enable you to focus on one area of focus at a time. Using visuals, e.g. a whiteboard, can be helpful to remind yourself of the overall goal and help you not to lose track or getting caught up in details.
3. Create milestones. Divide the project into milestones to make the process more manageable and clear. Taking dependencies into account and highlighting them on your visual, will ensure a better workflow as it allows your mind to think more in a straight line.
4. Reward yourself. Every time you make significant progress or reach a milestone, treat yourself. Depending on the effort and amount of work involved this can be a simple and quick break, a walk to refresh your mind, taking time out to read a good book, taking an afternoon to catch up with a friend, etc. Keeping yourself interested in the process will make it much easier to go back to your place of work, knowing there’s a reward waiting at the end, aka light at the end of the tunnel.
5. Finish your workday on time. It is such an easy and common mistake to set a big task, expecting from yourself to complete this daunting chunk of work on that same day. This approach can leave you procrastinating all morning to then work under pressure and sit at your desk until late, because you feel bad for not having ticked it off you To-Do list...
Please don’t sabotage yourself in this way and remember: there is always tomorrow. Pushing yourself to exhaustion will only increase your apprehension towards starting again the next day. Make sure you look after yourself first. Unless you’re a surgeon in the midst of a heart transplant, allow yourself to be human and avoid letting a task or deadline rule you. Set your boundaries first. This could include not doing any work after 8 pm. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder. After a month you will find it much easier to leave your desk and enjoy the fresh attitude you experience in the mornings after that much needed time for yourself to ‘switch off’ at night.
6. Ensure positive Accountability. The type of accountability is crucial. My advice is, no external accountability is better than negative accountability. What I mean by that, is, you want to involve someone who is on your team and cheers you on. If you share your goal with someone who is critical or has only the slightest of doubts in your success, you will find part of your energy floating off to convince that person of your capability. You end up cheering them on to cheer you on… if you get me? This can cost valuable time and energy you so badly need for tackling the project. Be very selective who you share your journey with: The more important the element of social support, the more picky you need to be. The last thing you want is to add an element that drains your energy when you are already struggling to motivate yourself. Only tell people about your goal who have either done it before, are eager to do it themselves, or who you know will support you for sure.
7. Use Positive psychology. Results will be achieved more easily and the process perceived as more enjoyable if you focus on what works best. Striving to improve the positives, acknowledging your strengths and resources will get you further and move you forward much more quickly than trying to ‘fix’ what is not working well.
A valuable piece of advice I had been given few years ago:
“It is just as easy to enjoy an activity,
as it is not to enjoy it.”
8. Visualise the outcome. Following the thought of positive psychology, let’s imagine attracting our goals by picturing the desired outcome in as much detail as possible. This technique will attract everything we need into our life that is required for its completion. For the more rationally operating minds: focusing precisely on what we want, is going to help us make decisions more easily and more quickly. It will help to filter out what is going to support our goal and we will be more likely to recognise the already existing as well as upcoming resources in our environment.
9. Add meaning. If we add overall meaning to our goal, we are much more likely to stay invested over a period of time: In what way could the fulfilment of this project contribute towards our personal fulfilment in life? If you have a simple and clear answer to this question, you are half-way there to bring up the necessary motivation to keep you on track. If you have difficulty answering above question, perhaps that would be a good starting point for your first session. Take some time in a relaxed environment to establish the significance of this project in relation to the greater goals in your life. Once you have found the answer to the question in 1-2 sentences, go back to step 1.
10. If all else fails. If there is no importance for the project to be completed and no significant consequences associated with the delay in outcome, talk to your support team mentioned in point 6. They might be able to fill you in on the greater connection and how that particular goal can contribute to an overall objective. Perhaps someone else could be assigned to work with you or take it over completely? Free yourself from wanting to do everything on your own. If appropriate, invest some money, outsource the task and get on with your life. After all, that’s what money is for, right?
If the project turns out to be non-essential for the achievement of an overall goal, could it be postponed and reviewed at a later date? Or perhaps altered, or dropped altogether?
Best of luck with your new project!
Perhaps, start with just 5 minutes...
Please leave your personal top tips for Tackling the ‘Untacklable’ below…