The Big Idea
You are never really stuck.
Questions I Answer
- How do I get unstuck?
- How do I figure out when I’m most productive?
- How can I increase my productivity?
Actions to Take
- Examine the ways that you can move beyond the periods of feeling stuck. What small, incremental changes can you make to get you closer to being unstuck?
- Three ways to get stuck:
- Take a step back and tap into your creative side
- Do the activity where you answer three questions that help you clarify what you want to do and how you want to get there
- Acknowledge it, own it, understand that it’s okay and give these moments a name
Key Topics in the Show
Reframing how you look at low points in your life
Learning to deal with the highs and lows of life
Tracking the progress you’ve made toward your goals
Understanding your peak periods of productivity
Resources and Links
- Related Episodes:
This is Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast focused on using productivity not just to do more but to achieve what’s truly important to you, and this season is all about you, You 2.0. To learn more about yourself, take Tanya‘s free quiz and discover your own productivity style at Tanyadalton.com.
And now get ready. Here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello. Hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 165, your guide for getting unstuck. Stuck, it’s one of those words I hear all the time. At the start of this past year and the two years before, I’ve hosted a goal setting challenge in my Facebook group. It’s a great way to kick off the year, and I love helping women in all different walks of life get a good handle on their big goals, their small goals, their in between goals. It’s just a great way for us to come together and support each other. But here’s the thing. I notice at the start of every challenge is that phrase, I feel stuck. Whether it’s getting stuck on your goals or what goals to set, or how to create an action plan that will be your guide throughout the journey, or if it’s something else altogether, those three words, I feel stuck, come up an awful lot.
And I’ll bet that those of you listening right now can say at some point or another in your life, you’ve stumbled into a rut where you felt exactly the same way, too. I feel like this season of You 2.0 wouldn’t really be complete without taking this phrase head on, because how can you move forward when you’re stuck? How can you be the best version of you? Well, we can’t, but here’s the good news. You don’t have to stay stuck. But the truth is, we all do feel that way from time to time. Feeling stuck is one of those beautiful things about life. All right, maybe not so beautiful, because it’s incredibly annoying, but it’s something that we all do experience whether we like it or not, because life is seldom perfect. You know what? Let’s scratch that. Life is never perfect. There’s never a moment that’s absolute sunshine and lollipops, super easy. Life is not perfect.
And so we’re going to feel stuck from time to time. And yes, we know that. We know that life is never perfect, but we forget it, don’t we? We forget that the second something goes wrong on our journey to success, and this is where those feelings of being stuck become a problem. I mean, that word, stuck, just saying it out loud makes me think of being bogged down in the mud, your feet sucked to the ground, unable to move. Talk about frustrating and exhausting, but it’s something that happens from
time to time, and not just with goal setting. I mean, writers get stuck, they call it writer’s block. Entrepreneurs running their own companies feel stuck on how to plan
for the future. People working for corporations sometimes feel stuck on how to prioritize their tasks and their projects during the day. Researchers working on cures for diseases, they get stuck even though they’ve been working on things for years and years. You get it, right? I could go on and on. We could talk about every industry out there and how people run into trouble from time to time, regardless of our jobs,
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regardless of our success, regardless of who we are. You are not alone in feeling stuck. It happens to all of us.
But here’s what’s important to think about. It’s not really how often that we experience feeling stuck, but rather how often we’re letting it derail us from really going after what we really want, after what’s really important. We have some choices there, and I know it may not feel like you have choices when you feel stuck, but I want to dive into that phrase, I feel stuck, and I want to figure out how we can turn that on its head and use it to leverage the success and the happiness we really want, because truly, getting unstuck is a choice. We can choose to unstick ourselves. Because here’s the thing, we’re all going through highs and we’re all going through lows. Life is basically one giant roller coaster. But for whatever reason, no matter how often we remind ourselves of life’s wild and unpredictable nature, we forget that these periods of feeling stuck are just temporary. They’re merely plateaus that are just as common as the highs and the lows that we go through in our lives.
We have this exercise that we do in the liveWELL method that I absolutely love, because I feel like it’s a really big light bulb moment for a lot of my students. We create this life map and we see the pattern of the highs and the lows and the plateaus, that they’re consistently running up and down through our lives. But a big point of the exercise isn’t just taking a look at where you’ve been or looking forward to where you want to go, it’s realizing that most things in life are fleeting. That tough year when you hit a solid low, it did come to an end. The deep grief you experienced 10 years ago, it eventually dissipated and you were able to laugh and find joy. It took time, and it wasn’t easy, but you did it. You did it. So rather than looking at these low points as periods that we will never get out of, I want to encourage you to view them as perfectly normal, temporary moments that sometimes makes us feel less powerful and in control than we are.
Let me pause for a second, and I want to say that again. Feeling stuck is nothing more than a temporary obstacle life throws at you to challenge you and to make you feel less powerful and less in control than you really are. I want you to let
that sink in for a second, because the truth is you are in control even during these periods of unrest. Even when you don’t think you are, you are. That exercise that we do in the liveWELL method that I just shared, part of what’s empowering about it is that realization that you did it. You made those lows, those times when you felt stuck, you made them better. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fast, maybe, but you did it. You picked yourself up. You put one foot in front of the other, and that was a choice.
Because here’s another truth, with a touch of tough love for you. No matter what changes you need to make in your life to gain the success you want, nothing happens until you decide. Those changes, they’re not going to happen on their own.
They‘re not going to make themselves happen. You can’t pull yourself out of a rut and stop feeling stuck until you make the choice. I’m talking personal changes. I’m talking professional changes. Both. It takes actively choosing. Absolutely nothing happens until you decide. The dips, they’re going to happen, right? We have the highs; we have the lows. It’s part of life. So, we need to learn to deal with them.
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So to help curb the likelihood that these ruts that we’re going to go through will completely flatline the progress we make, it helps to understand the common
traps that we encounter when we start to feel stuck. So I want to dive into two of those right now. So trap number one, we don’t track our progress. This applies to nearly all things in life, from the goals that we set to the habits that we try to implement. The list goes on and on. The more we keep track of our progress, no matter what that progress looks like, whether it’s small steps towards a bigger goal or a giant leap towards something really big in one fell swoop, if we don’t keep track of the momentum that we do experience, it becomes too easy to lose sight of it when a little bit of that fog rolls in.
In my book, The Joy of Missing Out, I say what gets written gets measured, what gets measured gets achieved. This is why I build habit trackers into my planners for this very reason. Take five seconds to mark your path, to see your breadcrumbs. I honestly cannot stress it enough. When you track your progress, you can refer back to it, and that gives you a boost of motivation whenever you need it, especially when you’re feeling stuck. You see, we forget about the good we’ve done. We lose sight of the movement we’ve made in the right direction. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says the problem is that we’re wired to scout for the bad stuff. Now this is what he says. He says, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and like Teflon for the positive ones. This bias causes our brain to react really strongly to bad news, compared to good news, and research shows that we need a ratio of positive to negative interactions of about five to one in order to truly thrive.”
Those negative interactions affect us so much more strongly. It’s no wonder we feel stuck. Our brain is constantly scanning for the negative, because that’s just how it’s wired. So creating a way that you’re tracking your progress gives you the proof that you are making movement forward. Track your progress, celebrate the wins, notice the achievements, and I promise you, these periods of feeling stuck will start weighing less and less heavily on your mind when they start to crop up.
Now, trap number two, your timing’s off. Sometimes we run into these periods where we feel stuck because we’re approaching our work from the wrong angle, timing wise. We read an article telling us 15 things you must do every morning, and we take that as absolute truth. So we force ourselves to work a certain way, the right way. You can’t see my air quotes, but I’m making them right now, because there is no right way. There’s no one single special formula that works for everyone. We all have different ways that we work. We all have different periods where we are the most productive. And you’ve heard me talk about your ultradian rhythm probably a million times on this podcast, right? But let me go ahead and give you a refresher, just in case you haven’t read that chapter of The Joy of Missing Out yet, or if you haven’t listened to my podcast before. Your ultradian rhythm is something that is really key in understanding yourself and your productivity.
So you probably know about your circadian rhythm, which is a cycle that’s specific to each of us, and it repeats every 24 hours. It tells you when to sleep. It tells you when to wake up. Well, within that cycle is your ultradian rhythm, which dictates periods of rest that our brain needs in between periods where we’re using our focus
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and energy. And if you’re hearing this now and remembering our conversation way back, a hundred episodes back in episode 59, we talk about this idea of using our
rhythms to our advantage. You probably also remember that time tracking to figure out when you’re naturally more energized and able to be more productive doesn’t need to be difficult or hard to do, but we can use that information to our advantage. Once you have a handle on your peak periods of productivity, it’s easier to make better use of your time. Noticing your own unique peaks and valleys and how your brain works really allows you to focus in. So when you’re finding that you are most
creative, you work on your creative work. When you see that you’re primed for deep work, use that time for your deep work, or when you’re most analytical, use your time for that.
Taking the time to track your time really is so beneficial, because this allows you to work in ways that makes life feel easier, and that’s what we’re looking for when we’re stuck in a rut. When we’re feeling like we are just stuck and can’t move forward, we need it to feel easier. This will help you move through some of those plateaus like we talked about, that life throws your way, with a little more energy, a little more excitement, because it’s a little bit easier. So those are our two most common traps, not tracking our progress and not really using our time the way that really works well for us. Again, I can’t say this enough, it really is about making your productivity customized to work for you, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Make it so that it truly works for you.
Now, when you’re falling into these traps, it’s really easy to get into this negative spiral of this negative talk, but I want you to think of these periods of time as an opportunity for growth, to test out new boundaries, to try something different, to get out of your comfort zone, instead of this, you know, oh, I’m stuck and it’s this never ending situation I’ll never get out of. This is an opportunity to try something totally different or something totally new. You know that episode we had a few weeks ago on changing your narrative? We leaned into this idea, and it applies here as well. Let’s really think about how we can change. What can we do to really lean into what we truly want? I feel like the episode last week with Kristen Ley, where she talked
about making these major shifts in her life and in her business, that’s a perfect example of this. She went back to the drawing board and she figured out what she wanted to change, what she wanted to do that was new. Instead of allowing feeling stuck to define her, she used that as a motivation to try to do something different, to change the way and to shift the way that she was living her life. And now she’s so much happier for it.
So I think if we start changing the way we’re looking at this, instead of thinking of it always being a negative and instead as an opportunity for change and for growth, I think that can help quite a bit. A lot of it is that mindset. I do want to talk to you about empowering yourself to take more control. So I want to talk about that in just a minute. But first, I want to take a quick little break. Now, normally this is a spot where I talk about a sponsor perhaps, but you may have noticed this season that I’m not really doing sponsors every single week and sometimes I don’t even do a sponsor at all. It’s more like an announcement, kind of like last week’s giveaway that we did. I like giving myself the flexibility to not feel the pressure of always having to have a
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sponsor, because I don’t ever want to feel like I have to have a sponsor and I never want to align with a product or a company I don’t like, so l’m hoping that you guys like this new format as well, this fluidity of whether we have sponsors. Sometimes we do. Sometimes it’s just an announcement, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.
That’s what I want to use this space for right now. I want to talk about you and your opinion, because I really would love to hear from you. I would love to hear your thoughts and your ideas for topics or conversations that you want to hear on upcoming episodes. So, I’ve created a quick and easy survey so you can share your thoughts with me, and I am going to be reading every single one of your responses and taking your thoughts into consideration as we plan out next season and the season after that. So just go to Tanyadalton.com/survey. Now, to make it even more fun, I promise it’s not going to take a ton of your time. You know how I am with respecting your time. I wanted to make it easy, but I also wanted to make it a little more fun, so I’m going to give you a little extra incentive. I’m going to choose one
random winner to receive a $100 gift card to Amazon as my way of saying thank you. I really do value your thoughts and ideas, and I want to make sure I curate the show so it really fits you and what you want. So if you could take just a few minutes, probably five minutes at the very most, go to Tanyadalton.com/survey, give me your thoughts. I want to hear from you.
All right, let’s get back to talking about how we can empower ourselves to take more control over our lives. We don’t want to be the one to cap our own potential or
to box ourselves in. Here’s the truth. We think the opposite of stuck is ease or happiness. Instead, we need to realize getting unstuck is simply taking the first step towards change. It’s not about suddenly finding yourself deliriously happy or feeling like it’s all so easy. It’s truly about making a small shift, a tiny change, one little step, just one. That’s what getting unstuck is about. We tend to undervalue the power of a single step, but that’s all that’s really needed to get us started on our path. That’s all you need to get you where you want to go.
so in the spirit of making small changes and tweaks in our lives, you know, the You 2.0, I want to turn our focus just a bit and look at some ways we can help ourselves pivot beyond these periods of feeling stuck, which leads me to a question. I want you to raise your hand if you have ever had one of those days where you found your motivation lacking, where you’re just like, ah, I don’t want to get out of bed, 1 don’t want to do anything, or where you’re struggling to maintain enough momentum to tackle the things you have on your priority list. Raise your hand if that’s you. Yeah, I know, you’re standing in the middle of the gym right now with your hand raised, or you’re driving to work with your hand in the air. I mean, who cares about the weird looks from the other drivers? Let’s own this, because here’s the truth. My hand is up. I’m sitting in a small room all by myself with my hand raised. You know why? We all have those days where we just don’t want to do anything, no matter what that anything is.
So I want to give you three actionable ways you can switch up how you’re feeling on those days where you just want to throw those covers right on over your
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head. So the first thing you can do is to take a step back and start to tap in a little more into your creative side. Often we can allow our days to become so regimented with back to back meetings or a laundry list of tasks to chase down, our creativity suffers and we fall into these periods of inactivity. So I want to encourage you, when you’re feeling stuck, set aside some time for yourself. Feed your soul, whether that’s five minutes or 10 minutes or 20 minutes, whatever you can give.
I want you to dig into a hobby or do something on your bucket list, something you really want to do, something that you love that will light your soul a little bit on fire, because we need that fire. We need to get that smoldering a little bit to drive you forward. Devoting just a little period of time, five minutes, 10 minutes, to doing something fun, to doing something creative, that gives you a chance to recharge and come back feeling refreshed, and it builds up that momentum. It fills your tank, it gives you a little bit of gas to do the next thing, even if it’s not the next big thing. So go do something for yourself, just for a little time.
Second idea on how to get motivated to move forward? Well, okay, let’s say that you have run into a low period at work, and you’ve been feeling like it’s time to make a change, but you’re stuck and you don’t know where to start. I want you to take out a sheet of paper and fold it into thirds. Now, in each one of those sections, want you to answer a question. Question one, what do you want to do? Write your ideas on paper. Don’t filter, don’t think about it. Just write down what is it you want to do. Think about why you do what you do, that North Star we’re always talking about, what is it you truly are wanting to do? All right, so that’s in the first section.
In the second section, what’s preventing me from doing it? What’s holding you back? Is it the bad narrative that you’re spinning and listening to for way too long? Is it a habit that needs revamping? Is it an excuse that you’re holding onto? I want you to be honest with yourself, so you can address this issue head on. And again, don’t filter, don’t overthink it. Just write it out, okay?
And then in that third section, the last question, what steps do I need to take to achieve it? What does the roadmap to success look like for you? To get to that first question, what it is you’re wanting to do, what are the steps you need to do? Envision yourself achieving whatever that is in your mind, and think about what you need to do to get there. This can become the action map that you create that’ll bring you to that ideal life. And then start with the smallest, easiest, tiniest step. Sometimes that can be as simple as making a phone call or doing a couple of Google searches, and you’re on your way, unstuck. It’s that idea that the first step is the hardest. So why not turn it on its head and actually make it the easiest? Get a small win under your belt, and then use that as your springboard to do the next step and the one after that. So doing this activity with these three questions really can help you clarify what it is you want to do and how you want to get there.
And then my third tip for moving forward when you feel stuck, acknowledge it, own it, understand that it’s okay, and give these moments a name. In other words, what’s causing you to feel stuck to begin with? If we can define these stuck moments, then we can use them to find effective solutions a little bit easier. So for example,
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maybe you are feeling stuck because you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for a project that you’ve been assigned to. We could call this a creatively stuck moment, and then we can work from there to find a solution to help get those creative wheels turning again. Or maybe you’re feeling stuck because you can’t seem to focus. Let’s own that. Let’s understand that this is what’s making me feel stuck, because then we can tap into where’s this lack of focus coming from? Are there distractions? Are there things that are occurring that are bothering me? We can work to find strategies to give us that energy we need to do focused work once again.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article for Fast Company, and I talk in that article about some other tips that I think you’ll find helpful. The article is called Take these Five Steps to Finish your Big Project. I know, it’s a really creative title, isn’t it? Here’s the truth. Sometimes the simplest title is the right title, and that’s honestly an answer here for us with getting stuck. We get stuck sometimes overthinking, over analyzing,
and sometimes it’s just the easiest thing is the way to start. So I’ll put a link in my show notes to that article that I wrote for Fast Company in case you want to dive into this a little bit more, because I do share some more strategies in that article.
But here’s what I want you to walk away from this episode knowing. The process of moving beyond feeling stuck isn’t always easy. I’m not pretending like this is a simple problem and it’s going to be quick and easy to solve. But here is what I want you to know. The biggest key to getting unstuck is you choosing to act and refusing to stay stuck, understanding that you can choose to unstuck yourself, because until we say that enough is enough and until we make that first move, all we’re doing is widening that obstacle that’s already there. And we become our own worst enemy in that way, because just as it’s important for us to act, it’s also crucial to recognize that we have the power to change our response to these uncomfortable situations in life. So refuse to stay stuck. Figure out a way out of your rut. Choose a way to make that one step forward. Ultimately, the choice is yours, so choose wisely.
You do have the power to get unstuck.
All right, I hope you’re feeling a little more motivated and a little more excited about the next time you’re feeling stuck, that you’re going to be able to get yourself out of that feeling, out of being in a rut. Now, next week we are going to continue our conversation about You 2.0, because we’re going to be talking about how quitting and constraints make you more productive. Yep, moving out of that old comfort zone for you, as we’re moving into You 2.0.
And I do want to remind you, as well, that you have an opportunity to win a $100 gift card to Amazon simply by giving me your thoughts and opinions about what you want to see on the show. So just go to Tanyadalton.com/survey. So that’s Tanya with an O and a Y. I would love to hear from you and to get your thoughts, because here’s the truth, I don’t do this podcast because I’m looking for a way to make a ton of money. I don’t make any money on this podcast. You heard me earlier
talk about how I don’t have sponsors all the time because I’m not actively looking for them. I don’t care about the podcast making money. I care about you feeling like you’re getting some tools and some strategies to help you live your best life. Sol want this podcast to be made for you.
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So help a girl out. Go and fill out the survey. Give me your thoughts and opinions. All right, until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. Want to learn more about your own productivity style? Simply go to Tanyadalton.com to take her free quiz and get free
resources designed just for you.
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