3 Ways to Get Unstuck at Work

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Try new approaches outside your comfort zone when the same-old just isn't working.

No matter how “together” people may seem, we all feel overwhelmed at times. As a “solopreneur,” Senia handles big-picture, strategic initiatives as well as detail work. In the past six months, her detail work became overwhelming, with up to 50 items on her daily to-do list.

Senia reached out to three executive coaches who are productivity experts. She spoke with her friends. She enlisted virtual assistants and focused on streamlining her work. Yet her daily to-do list was still unwieldy. She felt stuck.

How can we get the advice we need?

Group of coworkersExecutive coaches are like personal trainers, but for work and life. Margaret suggests a useful mantra to coaches when they get stuck: “Go with who you know and what you know.” Here’s the problem: We gravitate to that which is comfortable. A new TEDx Talk, “Strategies to Widen Your Social Universe,” by Tanya Menon, Ph.D., of Ohio State University, adds a twist to Margaret’s advice. Tanya says we need to create more accidental bumps in our lives: We should go eat lunch at a different place, take a different route to work, go to the gym at a different time and meet different people.
 
With that thought, let’s revisit Margaret’s advice: We could suggest that Senia reach out to contacts she doesn’t typically work with, from LinkedIn or professional organizations, or urge her to research innovative productivity techniques. And so that’s what she did. Senia talked to colleagues she hadn’t talked to in months or years. She took steps she was unfamiliar with to delegate some of her work and make her workload more sustainable.

Here are a few other strategies to try:

1. Talk to someone who is one chapter ahead of you.

Chances are you have at least one friend or colleague who has also been overwhelmed and yet figured out a solution. Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., of Harvard University, advises in his book Stumbling on Happiness that if we don’t know how to make a decision, we should talk to someone who has just made that decision. If you’re thinking about becoming a parent, talk to parents who had kids a year ago and are still living through those sleepless nights.

2. Take baby steps.

Look for the smallest step that could have the biggest positive impact or difference. We recommend this action in our book Profit From the Positive. The power is that it focuses us on what we can change—now.

3. Step away.

Take a break. Just when you think you can’t get up from your desk, that’s exactly what you need to do. Remove yourself from the work; it’ll still be there when you return. Go for a walk; being out in nature has been found to have a calming effect. Go to the gym. Meditate for five minutes. The point is to do something you enjoy. You will return to your desk feeling refreshed and ready to tackle that to-do list.

When you’re stuck, go to your periphery of comfort. Find those people whom you otherwise might not have reached out to. Look for those actions you might not have otherwise tried.


MARGARET H. GREENBERG and SENIA MAYMIN, Ph.D., are sought-after executive coaches, speakers and positive psychology practitioners, and the authors of the book Profit From the Positive. Find more information about their coaching and certificate programs at ProfitFromthePositive.com.

From the October 2017 issue of Live Happy magazine.