Business Productivity

Feeling stuck? Here’s how to get motivated again

- October 25, 2016 4 MIN READ

Fed up with facing frustrating roadblock after frustrating roadblock? Want to know how to get motivated? Here’s the tried-and-trusted process I use to get myself moving again when I’m stuck.

When you’re in one of those situations where nothing seems to be working or the best way forward is distinctly murky, it’s easy to fall into a state of paralysis or reluctant resignation.

If you want to be the master of your own destiny, however, neither staying stuck nor admitting defeat is an acceptable option. So, over the years, I’ve worked out a nifty little approach that helps me sidestep the roadblocks and find my momentum. I hope it helps you with how to get motivated.

Step 1: Do nothing

When you’ve been doing everything you can to get things going, and you just aren’t seeing any results, there’s no point continuing to beat your head against a brick wall.

Instead, schedule a block of time in your calendar to dedicate to the issue, and then declare a holiday from the whole catastrophe until that time arrives.

Your goal is to return to the issue with a fresh perspective, renewed energy, and a different attitude, so if the topic crosses your mind in the interim, gently remind yourself that there’s an agenda set for this to be revisited later and in the meantime do something completely different.

Personally, I find that getting out into the bush for a long walk is usually what it takes to jolt me out of my quagmire. However, when I’ve been floundering with pressing problems with larger consequences, I’ve even been known to take myself on holidays for a few days and then dedicate a day to addressing the problem when I return.

Works. Every. Time.

Step 2: Go macro – revisit the big picture

Often when we’re stuck, it’s because we’re concentrating on the obstacles rather than on our objectives. With that in mind, the first thing I do upon re-entry is to re-familiarise myself with why the issue at hand is important to me, and what my goal is in addressing it.

I always find that when I stop thinking about how I’m going to make something happen and instead focus on my best-case scenario outcome, I shift out of a defeatist mindset and into a can-do one.

This process also helps me to remember that getting stuck never happens without reason. For me, it will typically be because I either don’t know what I need to do or because I don’t completely buy into the wisdom of doing whatever it is that I’ve been stuck on. (My head yells ‘Go, go, go’, but my heart or my gut whisper ‘Noooooooo!’)

Focusing on my desired outcomes tends to change both of those issues, either revealing that I’ve been barking up the wrong tree, or helping me start to get a sense of what it will take to get my ducks lined up.

Step 3: Go micro – zoom in on what you can do

If your big picture review has confirmed that you’re on the right track and the issue you’re trying to push forward is one that you really are committed to, you may still be stalled by not knowing all the steps it’s going to take to create the breakthrough you need.

Whenever there are lots of unknowns, it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I don’t know anything at all, but that’s actually rarely the case. I almost always have some idea of what’s needed, even if I don’t yet have a handle on everything there is to know.

At this point in the process, it always seems to help to step away from the computer and go old-school with paper and pen to create a list or (better still) a mind map of all the tasks and milestones that might need to be completed in order for my big picture goal to be achieved.

When my brain dump is complete, I usually realise that even though I can’t fix everything all at once, there are some things that I do know how to tackle and an obvious starting point.

Finally, I can get moving! As I do, it quickly becomes clear whether I’m starting to move past the roadblock, often because I feel energised about the project rather than weighed down by it.

I find this start-wherever-you-can approach really helpful because it reminds me that very few projects or business shifts occur in a linear fashion and that sometimes we just need to put as many pieces in place as we can, and then fill in the blanks around them. It often helps to clarify what my subsequent steps should be too.

Furthermore, this micro-focus on getting the easy and obvious out of the way gives me a sense of progress and momentum, and as that gets stronger, my sense of powerlessness declines.

Step 4: Make it fun

If everything’s still feeling really overwhelming or as though you’re not gaining any traction, try turning parts of it into a game.

My business partner and I did this recently when we decided to pursue an opportunity we hadn’t budgeted for but really wanted to take up. The first time we ran the numbers, the cost of participation was so far outside our reach that no-one would have blamed us if we’d walked away. But from a big picture perspective it was a no-brainer, so we set ourselves the challenge of coming up with the cheapest way possible to achieve our goal.

Once we made the decision that we were going to go ahead regardless of cost AND that we were going to do so in a way that was affordable for us, momentum came as we amused ourselves coming up with wild and wacky ways that we could achieve our objectives while spending a minimal amount of money.

Not only did a process that had originally felt slightly stressful suddenly become much more enjoyable, but we learned some really valuable insights about ways we can pull rabbits out of hats next time we need to. (Our commitment to bootstrapping means the whole exercise will have a positive ROI much more quickly than it otherwise might have too).

Step 5: Rinse, repeat and learn along the way

None of the processes above for how to get motivated work unless you commit to learning everything you can about yourself, your business and what’s effective every step of the way, and applying what you learn.

Often a project that’s big enough to make you feel stuck in the first place will also be big enough to involve many layers or moving parts. Applying the steps above in a on-going loop has helped me get unstuck so many times that I’ve lost count, and might be just what it takes to help you move forward too.

If you’ve got any other tips for how to get motivated  when you’re feeling stuck, I’d love to hear about them. Please share them in the comments.