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Feeling Stuck? Try This

If you’re involved in any kind of creative work, you and inertia are probably well acquainted.

I wish I were an exception, but no—inertia and I are mortal enemies. Every day I get up and fight a battle against that beast. Sometimes I win; sometimes I lose.

Sometimes we get “stuck” in something and have a hard time figuring out what to do next. If you’re feeling stuck, try one or more of these ideas.

Initiate instead of responding. Move the ball forward. Somehow, do something to advance the cause. Review existing projects and find one single action you can do to keep things moving along. If that doesn’t work, start something new.

Don’t be insane. Remember Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same things over and over while expecting different results.” For different results, try something new. Ironic, isn’t it? Inertia loves doing the same things over and again.

Continually question the status quo. Are things good enough? No? Then see the previous idea. Could they be better? Change it up! Do something completely different.

Carry a notebook everywhere you go. One of the most important principles of GTD as I practice it is, “Write everything down.” I don’t actually write long blog posts and manuscripts when I’m constantly on the go—I find it hard to concentrate in short bursts of a few minutes. But I do outline, and I do write everything down.

Give up. (Temporarily.) Step away, purposefully. Take a meaningful break. Think about what really needs to be done, then step back and do it.

Put on the running shoes. There’s an old saying about running and motivation: “50% of running is putting on your shoes and getting out the door.” I’m not sure it’s a full 50%, but hey, it’s something. In other words, resistance prevents us from getting started. Once we’re underway, it’s a lot easier.

If nothing else, help someone. I wrote about this during the Annual Review and a lot of you liked it: if you get up in the morning and can’t think of anything to do, spend your time helping someone. What that looks like depends on who you are and what you do. It sure beats reading the online news over and over while waiting for emails to arrive.

Do something that creates a deliverable or outcome. Productive online tasks include:

  • Uploading photos to Flickr
  • Writing a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn
  • Leaving comments (non self-promotional ones) on someone’s blog
  • Listing something for sale on eBay
  • Writing a note to your newsletter
  • And so on… if those don’t apply to you, think about what does.

Apply for a scholarship, competition, or contest. Someone has to win all of those awards. The old Wayne Gretzky advice applies here: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Therefore, take shots.

When considering different opportunities, don’t wait too long to decide. Should you learn Spanish or Chinese? Well, if you think about it for a year, you’ll have lost a year’s worth of learning. If you really can’t decide between two options, you can either a) flip a coin, or b) find a way to do both. Better to start, then change later if you want.

Set a $100 hour. I’m grateful to Barbara Winter, one of our group and a fabulous author with her own tribe, for this concept. When you set a $100 hour, you spend as long as you need (up to an hour) brainstorming different ways to make $100.

Yes, I know that life is not all about making money, but if you’re an entrepreneur or otherwise self-employed, you have the imperative to bring in the funds. Also, once you figure out how to make $100 from a new source, you can probably increase the amount with less effort. It’s a fun exercise—learn more here.


Just as we all fight inertia in some form or another, we all get stuck. When it happens, the choice is to waste a workday (or more), or find a way out. Let’s not waste any time. Let’s get out of being stuck!

Feel free to add your own tips, and I’ll update the post to reflect any especially good suggestions.

Happy New Year’s week, everyone.


Image: Azzief