Take a moment and look at your to-do list—is there something on it that’s been hanging around on it for a while, yet somehow you’re just not getting to it?
Not those “yeah, in my fantasy life I’m the kind of person who has all my spices labeled and organized so I need to run to the Container Store to buy jars and get a label maker at Staples” kinds of tasks, but those really critical, crucial tasks that, when done, will make a significant difference in moving you towards your big goals?
If you find yourself saying “This is important, I know I really need to do it,” or “I absolutely have to get that done today,” day-after-day, but somehow you find yourself browsing for spice jars on the Container Store website instead, then you are STUCK.
Stuck Feels Terrible.
When you’re stuck, you’ll experience guilt because you know you should be doing something, and pain because you actually WANT to do it but somehow can’t seem to bring yourself to it.
It will physically hurt you to see that item on your to-do list, at which point you may run to Starbucks for a frappuccino or slide down a social media black hole—anything to avoid the pain of knowing what you need to do but somehow not being able to get started.
Or you may start, make a little headway, then put it down planning to get back to it later… which turns into weeks. Or months.
If This Sounds Familiar, You May Be Experiencing a Localized Stuck.
A “localized stuck” is a stuck where life overall is going well, you’re getting things done toward your goals, yet this one task keeps hanging you up.
(A bigger life stuck is better known as a rut. That’s when we need to make a major shift in a particular area: losing weight, stopping smoking, deciding that we need to change our life and get started on our reinvention. That’s a topic for a later article, but if you’re in a rut there’s a useful book called Changing for Good that outlines the six stages of change and teaches you how to free yourself from bad habits.)
Here’s how to blast through a localized stuck:
1) Recognize you’re stuck.
Localized stucks often first show up as procrastination, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that procrastination is the problem. This distracts us from the real issue, which only increases the delay.
If you notice that your procrastination has gone on for more than a few days, then shift gears and start approaching the problem of being stuck.
2) Identify the point of resistance.
This step is about figuring out why you’re stuck. Sometimes it’s tempting to jump over this step and just force yourself into action, but doing so is like trying to work out through an injury. Unless you know what is causing the injury, you run the risk of injuring yourself again.
Which task on your to-do list is keeping you stuck? Why is it holding you up?
Take a moment to write down the sticking points – the stories you are telling yourself about why you can’t do this task.
Then get ready, because it’s time to…
3) Change the conversation in your head.
Here’s the challenging point—to get through a stuck moment, we have to be willing to give up our excuses and change our story.
This requires deeper reflection beyond the simple “I don’t want to.” Choose the higher want—what does that particular goal represent?
Dig deep and get real with yourself. Chances are there’s more to why you’re stuck than simple procrastination.
Sometimes addressing your fear straight-on is enough to blast through a localized stuck and get you moving in the right direction.
But if you’re still struggling with your stuck, don’t worry… I have two more strategies for you to try.
4) Challenge yourself in an unrelated way.
This step may seem completely random—how can challenging yourself in an unrelated way help you get through a stuck moment? Shouldn’t you be challenging yourself around the stuckness?
When you’re stuck, your natural tendency will be to pour all your energy into fixing the problem. That creates a lot of pressure that can hang you up. Instead, take that energy and pour it into something completely different.
Focusing on a different challenge opens up space in the stuck area. It will feel easier to get to it because there’s less pressure.
5) Bribe yourself with a reward.
This is the most important step! Ignore the voice in your head that says “You should do this because it’s important.” How well does that work with toddlers? (Let’s get real—they don’t even understand the word “important”!)
The part of us that’s holding us hostage and keeping us stuck is a toddler, and using adult reasoning doesn’t work. (Can I get an amen from people who’ve dealt with toddlers??)
What works with toddlers? Bribes.
Decide what the most fun thing you can think of is, and promise it to yourself as a reward for moving forward. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get unstuck.
It’s Time to Get Unstuck
You’re reading this right now which means there’s a good chance you’ve been stuck before… or you may currently be in the procrastination part of a localized stuck.
No judgment! We’ve all been there — but now you have the tools to blast through.
So take a minute right now to recognize you’re stuck and start figuring out a plan to check that task off your to-do list. Your future self will thank you.