We’ve all been there. Working on a big project or new initiative, when all of a sudden progress comes to a grinding halt, and you’re struggling to find the motivation to keep moving forward. Often, it’s an outside influence that throws everything off track, like a client changing their mind about the objectives of the project or a legal hurdle that affects how a new initiative is implemented.
Other times, however, we get in our own way.
From procrastination to changing interests to becoming overwhelmed by the scope of a project, there are many ways to get stuck in your own head. So, it’s important to have an effective coping mechanism ready when such situations arise, so you can get refocused, reenergized, and back on track. Check out these five tips for getting out of your own way.
Complete a few small, easy tasks first
Nothing motivates like a win. In fact, there’s a biological explanation for what happens when we chalk up a “W.” In his book “The Winner Effect,” psychology professor Ian Robertson writes, “Winning increases testosterone, which in turn increases the chemical messenger dopamine, and that dopamine hits the reward network in the brain, which makes us feel better.”
So, start your days off on the right foot by taking on a few smaller projects that you can finish quickly and check off your list. Once you have a few wins in the book, you’ll be more energized to take on the day’s bigger objectives.
Put it in perspective
Sometimes, when the going gets tough, it’s easy to get frustrated and completely lose touch with why a project is even worth the mental anguish. In such cases, it’s important to put the situation in perspective. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why are you doing this?
- Who are you doing it for?
- What are the consequences if you don’t finish?
If after answering each question honestly, you still feel disconnected from your main objectives, it may be time to reassess the efficacy of the project altogether and build a new strategy for moving forward.
Focus on positive self-talk
There’s a lot to be said for the power of suggestion on the human brain. In a study on the effects of positive self talk, researchers in the UK, tested nearly 45,000 participants via an online game and found those participants who engaged in positive self-talk, were more likely to achieve the top scores. So, it makes sense that taking a more optimistic approach to how you frame your thinking can help you move past the mental roadblocks that often get in the way of progress. The next time you hit a low point when working on a project, keep this quote from Henry Ford in mind, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” Then take a moment to realign your thought to focus on the positive.
Break a sweat
According to the Harvard Business Review, studies have directly linked mental performance to physical activity. Additionally, regular exercise has also been shown to have a positive effect on mood. From the HBR article, “… over the past decade, social scientists have quietly amassed compelling evidence suggesting that there is another, more immediate benefit of regular exercise: its impact on the way we think. Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work.”
Even if it’s simply doing a couple walking laps around your building, sneaking away for a quick 15 – 30 minutes of physical activity may be just the boost you need to get out of your head and refocus on the tasks at hand.
Ask for help
We’re often our own worst enemy. When you’ve poured so much of your own blood, sweat, and tears into a project, it can be difficult to admit you’ve hit a wall and are unable to find a path forward. High achievers are often the last to admit that they need a helping hand, but you must learn to set aside your pride and be okay with reaching out to a co-worker or colleague for an assist. Often, the different perspective an outsider can bring to a project is enough to spark a new idea, kick start a stalled project, or refocus your priorities.
How do you get out of your own way? What are some tips you can share about breaking through project roadblocks? Let us know in the comments section below.