We’re tied up and we just don’t admit it.
It’s true. There are things in our lives that we feel held captive by. For me, these tend to be projects I’ve started but remain unfinished. They lord over me like a torturer over a victim, with no relief in sight.
If you’ve felt this way in your career or life in general, take heart. Here are a few practices that work very well for me. Apply these ideas and you’ll be busting out of your knots faster than Harry Houdini.
Just Do It
I often feel overwhelmed when presented with something I don’t know or don’t have much experience with. I would think I’m not alone in this, either. I can remember many times where I figured out my tasks for the day, whether it’s work, school, or anything else, and instead of getting right at it, I just sat there. Instead of kicking into high gear and not wasting time, my course of action can shift towards avoidance. Long story short, that doesn’t accomplish very much.
What I’ve learned is that work doesn’t get done if it’s not being worked on. There’s no better first step than simply starting. Jump into the most daunting stuff first, the project that would keep you up at night. As you start, you’ll start to realize a couple of things. First, it’s not as hard as it seems from the outside. Second, it’s not gonna take as long as you thought.
So much of being tied up is thinking that it’s not something you can deal with on your own. It’s feeling resistance like a rope holding you in place, and not even attempting to fumble with the knots.
If you’re feeling stuck day to day or week to week, don’t sit back and hope someone comes to untie you! By starting fast and strong, you quickly realize how much you can accomplish, and you effectively cut those pesky ropes right off.
Prioritize, Plan, Proceed
If you’ve got a lot on your plate, it might not be something that you can do in one sitting. You may need a little more than “Just Do It”. We all have commitments. There are often things that hinder us from doing all that work in one or just a few sittings.
So here’s another technique to use: Start by ranking the importance of your tasks for a given time span. I use Trello for this. Not only does it get everything out of your head, but you can also start to figure out what is going to take the most time.
Next, plan your schedule for the most effective use of time towards the completion of these tasks. For instance, if you have a large block of time you know you’re not engaged, use that time to knock out a larger project. A short window of time? A smaller project. Whenever you can, plan to complete tasks in entirety. It is amazing what a completed task will do for motivation as you move forward.
Finally, proceed with your prioritized plan. Don’t be afraid to give yourself extra time to accomplish tasks when you’re first starting out. The important thing is to devote the complete time block to work; don’t quit just because you accomplished your goal for that period. Use that opportunity to get ahead of the next one.
Also, if you find yourself getting ahead often, give yourself more for each time slot. The goal is to be so efficient in your time and task management that you never have to worry about cramming at any point because you KNOW it’s going to be finished when it needs to be.
Get Some Sleep, Pam. You Look Tired.
Let’s take Mr. Bourne’s advice and know when to take a break. In my experience, knowing when to stop can contribute as much to success as knowing when to start.
Once you’ve created those time blocks for work, stick to them. This also includes ending at your set time. Close your computer. Put down your hammer. Whatever your instrument of work, leave it behind. Do something completely unrelated.
Creating that divide between work and everything else is vital to maintaining your flow. Not only will you have some valuable R and R, but those work periods will be more defined. You may think going over set times isn’t really a problem, but it can damage your routine in a few ways.
First, it tells you that your schedule is not important. This can be dangerous as you may then feel inclined to allow your start slots and workloads to slip. Second, your focus will fade after a while; that is inevitable. The time frame is different for everybody, but why not take a break before your lack of focus starts to take a toll and affect the quality of your work? Third, if you don’t have a solid start and end time, you’re already behind.
Have you noticed how much easier it is working towards something? Whether it’s a goal, reward, or a deadline, a point of reference is very helpful to maintain focus and encourage dedication. I think of a line from Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol. Alice is talking to the Cheshire Cat when this dialogue is exchanged.
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Without something to work towards, there is no point in working hard or hustling. For in this situation, you’re pursuing nothing, and you’ll never find that.
If you make sure you’re maintaining your goals absolutely and taking time for other opportunities at the end of work, you’ll be able to maintain a powerful schedule far more effectively.
Get Back Up.
Never use failure as an excuse to stop trying. In reality, failure is a lesson. It points at our blind spots and says “Fix this”.
You’ll experience your share of failure, it’s just part of life. I’m sure we’ve all heard “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, just as long as it’s one less than the number of times you get back up.” This is rock solid.
I think failure gets a bad rap. Sure, it’s not much fun. But it sets you up for success better than nearly anything else. Someone who has failed ten times and succeeded on the eleventh is far more successful than someone who hit it big on their first try.
Understand that positive growth requires failure. So if you struggle with these steps at all, that’s ok. Figure out where the pressure points are, then focus there. Headaches aren’t good, so find what causes yours, then fix the problem or remove it.
I understand everyone’s journey is a little different. I hope these tips help you on your pathway to untying yourself. But they’re in no way, all-encompassing. This struggle looks different for everybody. Regardless, do not convince yourself that it is normal or acceptable to feel stuck. Find what loosens the knots for you and be free.