No matter how experienced you are or how much great work you’ve produced in your career, there inevitably comes a time when you’ll find yourself “stuck”. This usually has less to do with a lack of ability to do the work and more to do with some kind of psychological or habitual barrier that is preventing you from diving into the heart of the work in front of you. I’ve encountered many of these in my day, both personally and with those I’ve worked with. Here are a few questions to help identify productivity-zapping roadblocks.
What are you afraid might happen? Sometimes the fear of the unknown prevents us from taking first steps in a project, or prevents us from fully engaging in the midst of one. Take a few minutes to think about what you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of falling short? Discovering that you’re not as good as you’d hoped? Feeling the scorn or mockery of your peers? Letting loved ones down? Identifying the root causes of your deeper fears often clears the path for more focus and deeper engagement.
Where are you too comfortable? The love of comfort is frequently the enemy of greatness. When we grow too comfortable with our circumstances, it often diminishes our drive to continue growing, which can subsequently lead to stagnation and mental ruts. Are there habits, systems, relationships, or dependencies in your life that feel like a warm blanket but that are slowly suffocating your desire to produce brilliant work?
Where are you confused? Dissonance is a break between the “why” and the “what” of our work. When this gap presents itself, our minds go to work trying to resolve it, but this extra pattern-forming distracts us from the true work we should be doing. Often this results in procrastination, frustration or a general lack of traction. Do you need more information? Are you asking the right questions? Is there something you’ve been ignoring that’s now screaming for your attention? Make sure you’ve clearly defined your work and that you know what you’re really trying to do.
We learn as we act, so I believe that we need to be predisposed to movement rather than reflection.
Are you unsure of what drives you? Relying on the wrong motivators can cause stagnation as well. We are all motivated to varying degrees by three things: pay, prestige and process. Pay is our compensation for our work, including benefits and perks. Prestige is recognition for our contribution and career progress. Process is the doing of the work and intrinsic motivation to produce our best. Which of these motivates you the most? Of course we all want to be process motivated, but that’s not always the case in every situation. By tapping into the things that really motivate you to produce, you can ignite a spark that can jumpstart your creative engine.
Have you thought about what’s really at stake? This is about more the you simply cranking out another widget or satisfying another client’s desires. This is your life. This is your expression. You will never have another opportunity to re-live today and do your best. Are you squandering your one and only opportunity to get it right today? Many of us live with the delusion that we’ll always have tomorrow to do our best work. Someday those tomorrows will run out.
Life really is remarkably short. We only have so much time to figure this thing out, but nothing comes to clarity through a lack of action. We learn as we act, so I believe that we need to be predisposed to movement rather than reflection.
These are a few of the questions that have helped me do a self-analysis. How about you? Are there others that have helped you get over yourself and get moving on your work?