Getting stuck, whether it be in my writing or my work, is an area I’d like to explore a bit more. Meaning, what are the ways that I get unstuck. It’s easy to get paralyzed — but here’s a thought: Stressing out about being stuck does not get you any closer to being unstuck, just as stressing about being productive does not make you more productive.

(BOOM. I’ll just leave that there.)

I know the feeling of sitting at the computer frozen, or the feeling of staring at your lists and feeling utterly dumbfounded by the length. It’s unrealistic to expect that every day will be as productive as the last. But the good news is every day does not have to be as unproductive as the last. Also, who’s to say being unproductive once in a while (or, more than that) is a bad thing? Being in a rut can actually be an opportunity to slow down, regroup, and restart. Each task is a new opportunity to dive in.

Some of the ways I get unstuck though, are very, very simple — some might even say too simple. 

(I am a simpleton, after all.)

Tiny little successes can position any hero (or simpleton) to tackle whatever has gotten you stuck.

Eat

Hello snack! It’s been said that chewing is actually anxiety reducing. Now, I don’t mean to say that eating all day long to alleviate anxiety is, well, healthy? But I would say that a 5 minute stop to grab some nuts and decompress is a great way to click the refresh button. The key, however, is to only eat those nuts. Taking handfuls while still staring at your computer screen completely neglects the mindfulness that can come from just focusing on your snack — the smell, the taste, etc. This sensorial experience not only helps you relax, but also helps you get grounded in your body and its sensations.

Take a Break

Second, if you have some writing trouble (WHAT NOT ME NEVER), take a break in your day and head to a museum, movie, or music venue. These are some ways to both give your mind a rest and inspire your writing. I’ve always carried a journal with me — everywhere, everywhere, everywhere — so that when inspiration hits, I’m ready. Your notes do not have to be coherent. They can be short sentences or even a couple of associative words. Get hand to paper that may have no connection to what you’re trying to write. It’s a low-stakes way to get your writing flowing.

On that note — I typically read about the writing habits of authors. I know — it may sound cliche, but seriously, there’s no shame in taking from those who inspire us; in the words of Austin Kleon, steal like an artist (steal the methods to their madness, of course). Try out medium for some “writing routines” inspo.  

Do Dumb Stuff

Third, an easy, quick fix, is take a look at those lists, and whack out some of the minutia (i.e., clean a room, organize your files, declutter your stacks, meal prep, etc. etc. etc.). Getting some of the more arduous but simple tasks out of the way makes some brain space for some of the more challenging, “important” tasks. Because outer order = inner order.

To that point, here are three other ways I get unstuck, because you know by now that I love my lists:

  1. Break whatever task you have down into microparts and commit to addressing it in the morning — the morning piece is key
  2. Set an egg timer (okay, mine is a broken tomato) for 20 minutes to at least get yourself started. This is a very non committal amount of time, but gives the push that you could need to get your feet wet
  3. Set a place and a time where you do a bit of your task every day. If every morning at 8 you sit on your couch and work for 20 minutes, then pencil it in. Go habit building!

There’s no shame in the game of being stuck — we all go through it! The key, though, is to treat it gently. This is not about gritting your teeth and white-knuckling. In fact, that could keep you stuck longer! So take a walk outside, set your timers, get cozy in your favorite work spot, get a snack — you’ve got this.

So what will you do?

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