I was sitting in my desk rubbing my wrinkled forehead. I had a deadline to meet, but the only thing my brain was doing was cycling back through the same ideas. It was an extremely frustrating feeling.
So what should you do when you get stuck? Well, perhaps if you’re asking “what” should you do, you’re asking the wrong question.
My suggestion — do something. Do anything. Just start. (See also: But I Don’t Want To! Secrets of Self-Motivation)
1. Do Something, and Allow Progress to Motivate You
Do you want to know what I did after rubbing my wrinkled forehead and feeling a growing amount of frustration? I went and fixed a broken light in the kitchen. It had nothing to do with my work project. However, when I sat back down, my mind started thinking about the problem in a fresh way, and the words effortlessly flowed into my finger tips.
How in the world did fixing a light help me accomplish more and reach a deadline?
I did something.
Doing something, even if it’s not your main task, can give you confidence and provide a subtle reminder that you can accomplish tasks. Doing something is psychologically powerful. It is always the best solution when you’re getting nowhere during a frustrating part of your day.
2. Try Starting Anything as an Indicator of What Needs to Be Done
Have you ever glanced down at the 12 items on your to-do list and felt stuck? What should you do first? If you’re like me, you spend far too much time trying to decide what to do. This is the curse we perfectionists carry.
Slowly, I’ve started spending more time doing and less time predicting what should be done. I suggest you just start with any item on the list (if there isn’t clearly something you should be working on).
You know what happens? Within moments of starting a task, you’ll know if that’s the logical thing to be doing. Perhaps you’ll quickly find that one of the other tasks needs to be completed first. Still, you should remember that it was only by starting that you were able to make progress. Otherwise, you might still be stuck trying to figure out what to do.
Starting something is always the best indicator of what really needs to get done.
Interestingly, even if you start and finish the “wrong” job, you’ll often still have the momentum needed to catch up with other tasks.