Category Archives: Writing

11 Ways to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck

photo cred: lauren-mancke via unsplash

No matter how meaningful your work, everyone feels stuck sometimes. Here are research-based quick, easy actions for getting past the inertia and taking action when you are feeling stuck. Pick one when you are resisting moving forward or are generally stuck on what’s next.

  1. Plan ahead. Make a task list for your day (or week) the evening (or weekend) before. In the morning, go through your list of to-dos in a mechanical way. Nothing to think about. No decisions to make. Look at your list and do it.
  2. Don’t worry alone.* If you cannot get out of your own head or past your resistance, call a friend who believes in you. Make a pact with someone who will be there for you, with an ear of support. Promise to always answer calls from one another and to only take a few minutes.
  3. Take a shower. There is actually science behind this method. A shower enacts cornerstones of creativity including: dopamine release, relaxation, and distraction from decision making. Some creatives/innovators are known to take several showers a day when in the middle of a project.
  4. Exercise. Go for a quick walk. Try an interval app. Jog in place. Do 20 jumping jacks. Stand in mountain pose.
  5. Take a micro-action daily. Break down your to-do’s into steps that seem ridiculously easy. This is the most effective way to break free of inertia.  
  6. Clear out a drawer or quit an activity. Clearing physical space or your schedule can clear your mind and energy too.
  7. Use the power of morning pages. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, suggests starting each day with a written braindump – no agenda, no worrying about how it sounds. Even if you write, “I don’t know what to write over and over again.” I’d say start with one page and see if it helps free your energy.
  8. Know your goal. Remind yourself every day where you are headed and WHY. Write your BIG goal and your WHY down everyday. If you are unclear on your goal, download this exercise from Reclaim Your Dreams to get started.
  9. Read every word of The Art of War.  In his book Steven Pressfield focuses on how to move forward on creative projects and work through resistance.
  10. Start with thanks. Begin every day with a list of one to three things you are super grateful for.
  11. Rest. Don’t quit. We all need a break so step away from the computer and take a nap or grab a cup of tea or….you name it.

*Thanks to Dr. Halowell via Marie Forleo for this gem of a quote.

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Looking and Standing Up

This is my favorite maple tree and I almost forgot to look up and notice it this season.

Every year it’s one of the last to shed its leaves; even in rainy autumns manages to fire up our front yard with orange and red. But this year I’ve been so engrossed in my thoughts….thinking/worrying about my kids’ future…my future …our country’s future…the earth’s future that I almost missed my favorite fiery maple tree.

That took me aback because forget to look up and you miss out on the fall leaves, a writing idea or a meaningful project that needs time, catching my dog before he ruins another blanket (wait, not that), and most importantly, connections with my people …a conversation with my 87 year old Mom, a laugh with a sister, and all the firsts and lasts that life is filled with – especially as I watch our kids grow into teens and adulthood right before my eyes. 

Almost missing the blazing tree that I pass – daily – hit me hard…because sometimes if you don’t look up, it’s too late – at least for a season, but maybe forever.

So this is what I’ve decided fellow activists, worriers, dreamers and givers. I am taking time to breathe and look up more.

I can look up and stand up and fight for what I believe, for our country all in the same day. Reality is, it’s all going to be alright or it’s not. Either way I also embraced the beauty that was right in front of me along the way.

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7 Quick Fixes When You Are Stuck

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Yesterday was one of those days where I planned to tackle one strategic essential (but not urgent) task and ended up getting little nothing accomplished. No matter whether there were several one or two valid reasons or not, having days like that isn’t good for business and doesn’t feel very good.

The good news is if you struggle or feel stuck sometimes too,  you are in good company. Every successful entrepreneur and creative that I know describes a similar struggle with this thing called resistance. We all have those moments or weeks (yes, some stagnate for much, much longer than that) when movement seems slow, progress feels non existent or when we procrastinate our time away.

After yesterday, I decided to make a list of the quick (research-based) fixes I use to make a little progress, especially on the toughest days, so that I have them ready for next time:

  1. Walk away from the computer. Take a shower. Go outside for a 5 minute walk. Make a phone call. Drive somewhere. Take the dog for a walk.
  2. Pre-empt procrastination by creating a to-do list the evening before. Take a few minutes in the evening (yes even when you are tired) and write down the one to two tasks you want to work on. Remember it takes 2 to 10 times longer for the average person (you are anything but average) to complete a task than the time they estimate.
  3. Write down your goal. Are you clear on your company or professional goal and mission? Obvious, maybe for you, but write it down anyway along with why you are doing it. If your goal is long term (more than 12 months out), then write down an interim goal for this year.
  4. Get support. Most entrepreneurs, companies, and individuals that I have worked with could eventually get the job done on their own. The key word being eventually. Although you may be able to figure it out on your own, it will be easier and more fun if you surround yourself with an abundance of support – friends, colleagues, professional consulting and coaching help, etc. DO. NOT go it alone.
  5. Habit wins over willpower every. single. time. Small steps taken over a long period of time will yield results. Have a few habits and stick with them. My morning typically goes like this: drop my daughter off at school (won’t be doing that much longer as she will have her license shortly), pick up my mobile order from Starbucks, run/work out), walk the dog, write. My day starts early so I am sitting at my desk by 9 or 9:15 to write. I save all my meetings, email follow up, and project work for the afternoon because those tasks are easier for me to get done. Confession: Yesterday, I sat at in the Starbucks parking lot after picking up my coffee, and got worked up about the upcoming Presidential election by reading social media posts. The presidential election is important and I value social media as a communications method regarding big issues, but nothing would have changed if I waited until after writing or after lunch to get a pulse on the latest news.
  6. Microsteps are the magic sauce. When you have your one essential, important action you plan to work on for the day, break it up into small, ridiculously easy micro steps, especially for those hard-to-do, high procrastination tasks. And when I say ridiculously easy, I mean that. Writing a report? Open Word and create a new document may be the first item on your list.
  7. Get strategic. If your procrastination is habitual and has prevented you from making progress for weeks, months or longer, it may be time to look at the bigger picture and making sure you are heading in the right direction. Resistance is par for the course when heading toward something that is important to you so I am not suggesting quitting, but check in with yourself (or get professional support if you need it) and intentionally consider whether you are heading in the right direction.

Those are some of my favorite tools to move forward when I am stuck. Now it’s your turn. Write down what helps you feel unstuck and use one of the techniques next time you are in a funk.

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The Power of the Sh*tty First Draft

One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.” -Paul Coehlo

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For many years, I didn’t move forward on what I truly desired; there were many factors holding me back.  Now, I see my most significant barrier was expecting absolute clarity and preparedness before moving forward. In other words, I was waiting to be perfectly ready and for a direction to be so unambiguous that there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was the right path for me.

That was a long time ago and you won’t be surprised to hear that I thought and worried a lot about my dreams and goals, but didn’t make much progress. Everything changed when I started to apply the concept of the sh*tty first draft. Anne Lamott, NYT best-seller author, describes the concept in her book on writing, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Of course, this sense of doing it just right applies to more than just writing. It is relevant to starting a business or choosing a new career path or starting a blog or showing your photography or going back to school or…

Rather than waiting to be ready to start or 100 percent positive that I was choosing the right goal or creative project (read having the experience and expertise of someone who had already done it well), I started to produce sh*tty first (and second and third) drafts, by taking imperfect action.

And although mistakes are a part of the process, the sh*tty first draft is how I became a VP and Leadership Board member at a start-up, started my own technology consulting company, co-founded my first girl empowerment company, wrote my first book, traveled to India with Habitat Humanity, backpacked through Europe, and how my admittedly non-athletic self even ran my first 5k and sprint triathlon.

All, because I was ready to take imperfect action, sometimes in a very public way. I was (and still am) willing to be a novice, even when I feel embarrassed because what I am producing doesn’t match my high standards or creative expectations.

That’s how I made real progress and you can too! So, don’t wait, okay? I am down with reflecting, preparing and planning as many of you know, but action is the only way you will make progress and gain clarity.

Take 5

For more inspiration, check out this video by Ira Glass on taste and the gap. Then start working on your sh*tty first draft today.

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One Life-Changing Question I Ask Myself All the Time

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But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too  -Stevie Nicks, Landslide

Fall is a good time to get bolder and reflect on big questions like,

Am I spending my time (equals spending my life) the way I want to…am meant to?

I ask myself this life-changing question at least once a week…and three times a year (one being Autumn), I set aside bigger chunks of time to consider my time in a deeper way with openness to making changes.

As I have been consciously thinking (feeling and praying) about this question, I want to be bolder this coming year. Two goals that are core to my purpose keep coming to the surface; ones that I had get buried.

One is related to writing and I am pretty psyched to be taking imperfect action by creating a daily authentic writing (and posting) habit.  The first step to a dream that includes a creative pursuit is easy as it often requires daily habit, but not necessarily hours of time each day (yet). The other goal is more complex (because it is very time (aka life) consuming) so I am still discerning how and if I will make it work. To be continued.

Take 5

Right now, take a few minutes and consider whether you are spending your time (and your life) that way you are meant to?

Write down whatever comes to you about activities you don’t want to do anymore or a pursuit that you have let stay dormant for much too long. Don’t worry about the how as you never have to make changes if you don’t want to or can’t… (Pro-tip. Don’t skip right to the number two thing on your list because it feels safer. Start with what’s at the top, the very top of your list before you bury it. There is no risk in writing down your reflections on this question.)

 

One Change to My New Writing Habit

CreativeCommons. Copyright Steve DePolo.

CreativeCommons. Copyright Steve DePolo.

Last week I committed to blog five days a week. For the following 48 hours, it seemed like everywhere I turned I was met with advice and messages on the importance of action and daily habits. Like this one from John Rohn:

“Success is nothing more than a few disciplines practiced every day.” 

And this short video posted by a member of my private Reclaim Your Dreams community on finishing here:

Finished Not Perfect

And this on the side benefits of writing daily from Life Hack:

10 Reasons You Should Write Something Each Day

 I found it more difficult to write today (Monday) after taking the weekend off…and even missed writing on Saturday and Sunday. Interesting, that once I started, more ideas for future posts started to flow. (Though I did journal but not anything I am ready to post yet.)  

Given this, I have decided to expand my writing habit from five days a week to daily.

Even if I only post an inspirational quote or photo and thought of the day, my sense is it will help with the momentum and discipline habit of it all.

Still in the honeymoon phase according to this piece on habit formation; I hope you will join me by subscribing to my list below as I continue to focus on taking action on what matters most to me. It’s absurdly obvious, but without action, there is no progress.

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Sometimes the Solution is Easy

The most effective way to do it, is to do it. – Amelia Earhart

It’s September and for me that means reflecting on what I have achieved thus far and what I want to accomplish in the next year. Recently, I was complaining  sharing with a friend about my lack of time for writing in the midst of growing a new company and family. Life is busy, incredibly so for those of us (which is most of us) juggling work and family and kids’ commitments…and then there’s sleep.

But I stopped myself because sometimes the solution is easy, as is the case here. And so I am taking Amelia’s advice and choosing the most effective way to do it by doing it. For this year (Wait! What?! That’s a lot of public practicing.), I will be blogging five days a week on creating meaningful work and life in the ‘burbs – keeping it real and sharing my own personal experiences on building a purpose-filled business. Asking big questions, providing research-based practical tips and case studies, inspiration, and working hard to focus on what matters most.

Take 5

How about you? Is there a goal or a dream that you don’t think you have time for? I hope you will join me in taking Amelia’s advice and do it. Start by subscribing using the link below.

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