In grad school, I had a professor who had a phrase she would say when students felt stuck. “My freezer was never cleaner than when I was completing my own thesis.”
No matter the job, we can all find ourselves, now and again, given a task that is either overwhelming or difficult to even start. These times can be incredibly annoying. They can keep us focused on how difficult the task is, and how we have no idea where to start; feeling completely stuck. Other times, we may become so overwhelmed with the task that we set it aside, hoping it will disappear.
Instead of being frustrated with the process, here are 5 techniques you can use to get yourself un-stuck.
1.Break It Down
One of the easiest ways of getting overwhelmed with a task is to look at it in its entirety. Instead, take the task and break it down into individual tasks. If the individual tasks still seem overwhelming, then repeat the process and break each task down even further. Do this until you can find the steps of each task manageable.
After the tasks have been separated, create a to-do list using those tasks. Be sure to create a list that is as linear as possible. This will help you avoid missing steps and help you conceptualize the process more easily.
It should also be noted that this process is incredibly helpful for not only when you’re stuck, but routine tasks that require a high level of accuracy. By breaking down the task process into the individual actions and then putting those actions on paper, you will maintain accuracy no matter how many times you complete the task. Make these process lists for every action that could benefit from having one, then save those for future use.
Trust me, you will thank yourself for putting in the extra work.
2.Make A Move, Then Reassess
Let’s face it, there are tasks we have to accomplish which are completely foreign to us. The task requires us to take action but gives us no observable starting point. There are times you are able to ad-lib your way through and come out the other end looking only a little bruised, but many times you simply have nothing on which to go. For those occasions, the last thing you will want to do is to continue searching for a starting point. This will waste time, energy, and patience.
Instead, simply start.
Once you actually make a move, you will be able to see what effect your action has on the issue. Once you are able to see the ripples from your action, you should be able to get some bearings for how the task need to be completed.
In other words, make an educated guess and be flexible to redirection.
Most of the time, this first action comes in the form of a question directed toward someone you think may have the answer. In this instance, the individual will either have an answer to your question or have an idea of where you should go for your answer.
Remember to be humble and recognize that you don’t have all of the answers. It’s important that you have the willingness to ask questions, even if you feel that you will be viewed as a fool. It’s better to be thought a fool but complete the task correctly than it is to be thought completely capable and fail in your responsibilities.
There is a reason why so many professionals require Continuing Education Units to maintain licenses and effectiveness in their field. Even professionals not required to obtain CEUs often attend conferences and seminars. This practice is not only to maintain relevance in the field. It also gives professionals the opportunity to be reminded of the basics.
No matter what your profession requires, pursue education opportunities. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos, take classes or go to conventions. By maintaining a posture of lifelong learning, you will help yourself by both reducing the occurrences of overwhelming and foreign tasks and increase your ability to learn new concepts and new responsibilities quickly.
4. Have The Courage To Be Imperfect
Continually remind yourself that tasks like these, where you have little to no information outside of the desired result, occur more frequently that we realize. You won’t be able to successfully complete every aspect of your job without the support and the willingness to make mistakes. If your mission is to complete your duty without error, then you won’t be able to accomplish anything.
As Teddy Roosevelt said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is a man who never does anything.”
Remember to do your best and learn from the mistakes you will make.
5. Get It Running And Don’t Stop
While this step isn’t so much about starting something difficult as it is about what needs to happen after you have successfully gotten un-stuck. Once you have momentum, keep it going. This means to avoid especially long breaks, shifting to social media for a moment, checking e-mails or voicemails…really anything.
Once you have your train on the tracks, you will want to keep that focus until the job is done or there is a clear break point. If you step away for too long, you will run the risk of losing your initiative and will have to start over. So get yourself moving and don’t allow yourself to slow down!