A Step by Step Approach to Getting Unstuck

“In the groan zone” is how a friend once described the experience of feeling stuck.

We’ve all been stuck in the groan zone before and let’s face it, it’s an uncomfortable place to be. The good news is it doesn’t take much to get out of it.

The antidote to being stuck is action. Simple action steps.

I saw this clearly with my friend recently. My friend Brian has just completed his doctorate in ecology. For months he had been telling me –

“I need to do the corrections on my paper. Today I’ll do it….”

But every weekend, Brian found himself lifting weights, chopping wood in the garden or helping his dad build a fence. Meanwhile, the paper sat there. Listless.

I decided to confront Brian about his procrastination. Our conversation (the abridged version) went something like this –

Me: What’s going on? You keep avoiding doing these paper corrections

Brian: (Sheepish look on face) I know…I just don’t want to do it!

Brain was clearly stuck. So I then tried reverse psychology on him.

Me: Well, don’t do the paper then. Who cares about it anyway!

Brian: (In shock) No! I have to do the paper. It would be a complete waste if I don’t finish it!

(Brian then walked off to stoke fire and have a cup of tea)

Then last weekend (months after first declaring he had to finish this paper), Brian sat down at his computer and completed the corrections in less than an hour. He said to me –

“That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. As I started reading over my work, I realised my writing was pretty good and there wasn’t much to do”

Isn’t that always the case? Most of the time when we are stuck how we imagine something is going to be is usually far more painful than it actually turns out.

All it took for Brian to get those corrections done was to sit down at his desk, turn on his laptop, pick up his draft paper, read the first sentence, then the next sentence….

And that’s all that’s required to get out of the groan zone – being willing to take the next action step.

In the book “How to Get Things Done”, organisation expert David Allen argues that we often get stuck by failing to clarify the next action step on our projects. He explains –

“The next action step is the next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality [project] toward completion. Some examples of next actions might be: Call Fred re tel. # for the garage he recommended, draft thoughts for the budget-meeting agenda, talk to Angela about filing system we need to set up…”

So taking the next step, however small it might be, is just what you might need to do to get unstuck and get moving in the areas that are most important to you.

One thought on “A Step by Step Approach to Getting Unstuck

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