What to Do When You’re Stuck + You Want to Stay in Bed All Day

How to Get Unstuck & Be Productive


That’s almost what I have, because I want to keep moving. I’m not addicted to wandering though.

I just get tired and I have to keep moving.

Stuck in a rut, burned out, sick and tired, creative blocky. It’s all the same place– kind of where I am.

Luckily (or unluckily), I’ve been there many times. So I’ve built a loose list for getting unstuck.

Here are 3 ways to get back in the game.

1. Break it off, for a while.

All I want to do is get away because I feel like I can’t do anything.

I will try hard to fix it, but when it won’t be fixed, I’ll suffocate. From exhaustion, or embarrassment, or something.

I can think of a million examples.

Remember the Rachmaninoff piece I started on? I drilled at it nonstop– which you’re not supposed to do— I did it because it was the only piece I had. Then I didn’t feel like it was going anywhere, so I put it on hold. Which I’m okay with.

But it used to happen when I was a performer and I had to have 8 pieces ready for a certain event.

For a while, I had a negativity-inclined teacher who made bewildered faces at me all the time, like she couldn’t believe that I was a sixteenth-beat off. I probably got into a 10 month rut with my playing and her negativity.

The best thing I could’ve done was ease back a bit, and take a break from what wasn’t working. I learned this later on.

Now, instead of getting stuck in playing, I’m stuck in life because I can’t make big decisions and I need to save the world.

I always choose flexibility over stability, even if it’s harder and riskier. That’s why I move by project.

Recently, I hit a dead end on a project that started well, and it seemed like one of my existing projects was sliding downwards.

Then I took a load of projects, to make up for a longer one that wasn’t going to help me survive in North America’s most expensive city. I was almost going to start a project with Penelope Trunk, who is a person I like a lot, but it didn’t work out.

Something hit the fan, but it wasn’t even that action-packed. Something just got stuck to the ceiling.

“Why don’t you get a job?” My mom kept asking.

When Anette, one of my best friends from high school, came back from Israel, I took her on one of my client meetings where she got a bunch of free stuff.

I told her about my mom’s question, and Anette offered to talk to her.

“This project looks pretty legit to me.”

I know how I work best: in a way that gives me flexibility.

I took a week-long break, and when I came back, new things started to pop up.

I started seeing things in a different way.

For example, I spoke with Penelope on the phone—who is just as great as she is on video, and brave and experienced in things I’m not—and she said I’m smart.

I know my strengths are in functional design, packaging and branding things.

When I worked with The Salvation Army they said they got more value from the website I designed than two years of outreach events.

Taking that week for myself let me see things a different way.

To get unstuck, you don’t always need a week off, unless you work like me: 15 hours nonstop everyday for 5 months.

A quick pattern interrupt works, too.

2. Get a goal.

The simple things are easiest to miss:

I stopped doing the Rachmaninoff piece because I didn’t have a real goal. I told my friend Sonya I’d start it for my summer project. I did. And stopped after the first few pages.

If I wanted to do it properly, I should’ve used my goals system.

Next time I revive the piece, I’ll use the goals system and I might try putting something at stake (which I’ve never deliberately done), like sign up for a public performance.

How to Get Unstuck & Be Productive

3. Know your type.

As an INFP, I am the type to dream and imagine.

Once I figured out that it was all right to doubt myself, and try to save the world, I started to understand that I was never going too grow up and know all the answers to life.

Everything is happening right now, it doesn’t start later.

Everyone has different problems with their personality types, so it’s useful to know your own. Here’s a fast and free Myers-Briggs personality test.

Then you can see that you’re not alone in your problems, and find a good way to deal with them.

Like, I have amazing ideas and lots of creativity. When reality doesn’t match my ideas, I get bored or even stuck.

And I might value flexibility too much. It means I’m free to work, 24/7. It’s hard to sleep because I’m so excited, or bothered, about my projects.

I have to work on forming accurate expectations, and getting unstuck quickly. Which I am doing; I have a few big projects coming up.

At least, now, I realize that I’m almost out of the first rut and now I’m less likely to get stuck on those future expectations.

I never wanted easy; I wanted flexible. So I’m happy.

Stuck means “time to get stronger.” (Click here to tweet this.) Not whine.

What helps you get unstuck? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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