How I get unstuck

Have you ever noticed that you are putting off doing certain things all the time, again and again? Like doing the taxes or getting started on that personal project. Of course, you have. When I put things off for too long, my mood suffers, and sometimes this leads to putting off even more tasks. Feels bad.

Here is a little trick I came up with that helps with getting unstuck: Create an emotional brain dump of all your current tasks.

The emotional brain dump

  • Take a piece of paper. You could use an iPad or spreadsheet, but I have found that it can be even more satisfying to do this on real paper. Try it!
  • Write down every little thing that is on your mind. All those “should do”, and “must do”, and “want to, someday”. Nothing is too small.
  • Take enough time to really clear your mind. If you feel like you have written down everything, take a little time, and ask yourself if you can think of anything else.
  • Notice how you feel at this point. Do you feel the burden of all the things you should be doing? Or do you feel energized and motivated to get started? If you feel motivated, you might as well start right away. But often I still feel stuck at this point. That’s were the next steps come into play!
  • Look at each item on your list and ask yourself: How do I feel about this task? Don’t aks yourself whether the task is small or large, easy or difficult. Just focus on your emotions when you think of doing it. I call this the “emotional difficulty” of the task. Why is this important? Because your emotional state towards a task directly correlates with how likely you are to put it off. Becoming aware of these emotions will take away some of their power, and make it easier to deal with them.
  • On a scale of one to ten, write down how you feel about each task: 1 = makes me feel terrible, 10 = makes me feel wonderful. I find it easiest to start with the tasks that jump out at me, the ones closest to either 1 or 10.
  • If you are not sure how to rate a task, compare it to other’s that you have rated. Ask yourself: is this more or less emotionally difficult for me?
  • Pause for a second and notice how you feel.

At this point I often feel an increased sense of calm. I find it liberating to acknowledge that some tasks are emotionally difficult for me, even though they should be easy.

Don’t forget to enjoy the positive feeling after completing this exercise!

See also