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My method for when I’m stuck in my work or life

I have this method I use when I feel stuck in my work or when I feel trapped and I can’t see a clear way out. I’m sharing this with you, hoping it will help you too!

 

Note: I wrote this thinking about a business setting, but I figured it might help in different cases, so I’m using an “🍆”  to represent the context. Instead of having the word Project, Situation, Relationship, Business or wherever you feel blocked in, you’ll find an “🍆”.

Examples:

  • I feel stuck in life → I feel stuck in 🍆
  • I feel stuck in my job → I feel stuck in 🍆
  • How to understand the next step in a situation? → How to understand the next step in a 🍆?
  • I am stuck in my work → I am stuck in a 🍆
  • I don’t know how to go on in this project → I don’t know how to go on in this 🍆

 

If you feel blocked, stuck in a 🍆 and have no idea what you should be doing, the best move is to do nothing.

You just might not have the information necessary for the next step, and this is ok. It’s impossible for us to know it all.

What to do if you feel stuck?

The first thing you can do is to start thinking about all possible ways you could go, your ideas and all the hypotheses. Take a piece of paper and a pen and write it down. This way you “braindump” the noise in your head on the paper and find some ease.

This could include all the facts you know are true, all your opinions on what you think people could be thinking about the 🍆, everything you would like to do with the 🍆; where you want it to be. In what direction do you want to go in general (with or without the 🍆) to understand why you are doing this in the first place.

Now with an easier mind, in order to gain a bigger overview of the 🍆, add also its current status:

  • At what point are you?
  • What do you have?
  • What are you doing at this moment?
  • What are the numbers?

If you already included all this before, it’s even better!

All this will be useful for seeing it from the outside and gaining clarity. We can also use it to create a user study later on and find the information you need to make the next decision.

 

The first step to unblock the 🍆

Once you have it all down, take a look at it. If it’s still kind of blurry, you can try asking questions. Ask ALL the possible questions, not only about the esthetics, but also the most basic and practical ones like “Do you still like the 🍆?”; “Does 🍆 make you happy?”. 

Based on what you wrote down previously, look at all the information as it wasn’t your 🍆 and prepare questions you would ask another person if they had the same 🍆 and felt blocked without knowing why.

 

For example, if I want to create a robot that sells ice cream, you could ask questions like:

  • Does selling ice cream make you happy?
  • What makes you happy?
  • Would you make a business with only ice cream?
  • Do the people around you like ice cream?
  • What is your favourite flavour?
  • Do you like robots?
  • Would you make a business with only robots?
  • Where did you get this idea?
  • How will the final outcome look in your head?
  • How many flavours will there be?
  • Can it do more than ice cream?
  • Which languages will the robot speak (does it speak?)?
  • What do you know about ice cream?
  • Do you have all the facts about starting a food & robotic business?
  • Do you have everything you need to start it?
  • What partnerships are you missing?
  • Do you know how much people in your city love ice cream?
  • What do they think about robots?
  • Do you know how they like to buy it and how often?

…the questions will be covering every aspect of the 🍆 you’re stuck in.

Be sure it’s a mix of yes/no questions and open-ended questions that go deep into what interests you and what doesn’t. 

 

Step two: get to the core of the 🍆

Now ask yourself these questions, or even better, let a trusted person ask them for you. Record / write down the answers. If you don’t have a clear answer to it, just say “Not clear” and go on. Don’t invent something just for the sake of it.

Remember, you don’t HAVE TO do anything. It’s an exercise to understand what aligns with you, not what is asked from you. It’s about YOU, not others’ expectations (which is their problem by the way). It’s about what you want and what makes you fulfilled.

It’s your 🍆, you can do with it what you want.

 

It might be a good idea to let a week pass and make the same session with the same questions again. It is possible that our answers change with time as we have more space to digest our own thinking. After all, you have this point of confusion because of the mind.

 

Step three: look and accept your honest answers

Notice what is a yes and what is a no for you. It might be that some new insight got you off track, it might be that you’ve found yourself at a dead-end or the passion for the 🍆 got shifted. Everything is possible.

After this exercise, you might have found out all the aspects that you actually don’t care about. And this is the point. Now you can cut them off and have a list of things you DO love.

It’s totally ok to change your mind – 🍆 change all the time; you have all the right to do what is right for you. Everything you have right now is not carved in stone. It’s fine to let go of the aspects that don’t serve you. You could literally crush down the 🍆 and turn it into a 🚀. 

The fear of change could also be your own mind playing tricks on you. It could be your bias. Maybe the people around you think that you should have changed it a while ago. Maybe they won’t even notice it. Maybe the fact that they don’t like change stops you. But that is again, THEIR problem. A change that makes sense to you is always a good thing.

It’s your choice and the only way that the existence of the 🍆 makes sense is when it makes you feel fulfilled. And it will be ok if 🍆 is not your thing anymore at all. 

It’s better for your health to concentrate your life on something that does align with you.

 

If your 🍆 is still your thing, now you might have understood what is missing and what blocks you. You might also have found the push to start working on your 🍆 again. But it’s not a good idea yet. Even if it’s extremely difficult, it’s better to hold your horses still for a bit more. This will only work in your favour and give you more clarity.

 

Step four: prepare yourself for a real quality information

Take the aspects that make you excited, and prepare some open-ended questions to investigate what others think about it. These will be the questions you’ll ask other random people = in your user research

 

Some tips for having the best quality information:

  • Make the questions as simple as possible. Fancy is not useful with this.
  • Avoid yes/no questions = they are too narrow and don’t give you any real thoughts.
  • Remove all the adjectives that might lead the answer to positive or negative. Example: “What do you think about new ice cream stores with robotics?” leads to a positive answer, while “What do you think about the old system?” might lead to a more negative one. Go for the neutral.
  • Go for open-ended questions that start with How, Why, What do you think about…, How do you feel about…
  • Try to be neutral. Professional and avoid personal opinions shown by verbal or non-verbal language. If you appear too positive or too negative, the questions won’t be honest. People tend to want to be liked and could give answers to please you.
  • Ask about their challenges and past experiences.
  • At the end ask if they have other thoughts you haven’t asked about.
  • Underline how important their feedback is for you.
  • You could prepare a gift, coupon or some kind of a goodie to thank them at the end.

It’s a method used in User Experience design to create new products, but who says it should be used only there?

 

Step five: proactiveness

It’s time to get to it. Depending on your budget, on the nature of your 🍆, the questions could be asked outside the ice cream shop, through user surveys, through paid interviews, or from a psychologist. Find the best people that make sense for your 🍆 and go in that direction right away.

How to know if it’s the right person? Simply ask yourself if they have the right age/gender/culture/abilities that interest you. Or maybe they’ve had the experience you’re having and passed it successfully. People (especially friends and family) are very good at giving their opinion about things they haven’t experienced.

If you found your excitement to go on with the 🍆, there shouldn’t be any room for procrastination at this point.

When you approach people, say hi, present yourself and tell them why you need their opinion. Ask how their day is going, what’s their name, so that you create a comfortable space for honest answers. Maybe you could ask questions to check if they’re the right people for the questions.

 

[…]

 

Probably some days or weeks pass and you find yourself with lots of useful insights that help you go in the right direction and set you up for a good ride.

 

via GIPHY

 

Extra tips to stay on track

During the ride, when you’ll find yourself making more serious decisions, before actually doing anything, it could be a useful to train someone to ask you if you really want to do it. Sometimes we get excited to follow an idea or a path out of curiosity, but it might not make any sense for your 🍆. Sometimes we do something because someone told us that it’s right, but who has all the time to do the background research about where that info comes from?

 

There is another tool that will help you stay on track: calendarize yourself some questions. You choose the timing based on whatmakes sense for you. For example, every 1st of the month. Make sure to put these questions on repeat on your calendar:

  • Are you on the right track with 🍆?
  • Do you know what you’re doing?
  • Do you know why?

 

This could be super useful if you’ve found yourself in situations you don’t like or have made unhealthy decisions about it in the past.

 

I hope this method I use helps you too!

 

Wishing you have a wonderful time,

Grete

 

 

Photo by Tomas Tuma on Unsplash