It happens. We all get stuck. It doesn’t matter the task, either. You could be painting scenery for your child’s class play, arranging columns and rows in your department’s budget spreadsheet, or writing the next great American novel.
It happens to me once a week. I’m plowing through client projects, updating social media campaigns, crossing tasks off my to-do list. Then suddenly I realize I’ve been watching bees buzz around the flowerbed outside my window for the last 20 minutes.
How do you know you’re in a rut? It’s hard to maintain focus. It’s easy to get distracted. It’s hard to keep your butt in your chair. It’s easy to find lots of other things to do (“That’s right! I’ve been meaning to rotate my mattresses!”) that have nothing to do with work.
Okay, so you’re in a rut. Now what?
- Allow yourself to set the project aside. Even if you’re on deadline. Even if your kids will be home from school soon. You’re not getting anything done staring at it. So allow yourself to put it down. I can’t tell you how often I used to force myself to work (“You WILL sit here and write this copy!”) even though I wasn’t actually getting any work down. Put it down. Walk away.
- Stroll around the block. Don’t think about your project. Focus on the sights and sounds of your neighborhood. Somewhere in the back of your mind, when you’re moving instead of thinking, your mind is working on a solution to whatever got you stuck in the first place.
- Snooze. Set your alarm for 30 minutes to recharge. If you wake up and still can’t focus, pull those covers back over your head.
- Call that family member who loves to talk. You need to call your mom/uncle/grandma/sister anyway, so do it while you’re already prepared to procrastinate. Bonus: If your mind starts to wander, you may just hit on the next big idea to propel your project forward!
- Visit Cute Things Falling Asleep.
- Do the opposite of what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to paint, pick up a crossword puzzle. If you’re trying to write, pay some bills. Exercise a different part of your brain to give your worn-out side a much-needed break.
- Tap into your inner child: blow bubbles, color with crayons, cartwheel across your backyard, braid your hair, ride bikes.
- That kid from high school you were jealous of/in love with/afraid of? I bet that kid has a Facebook page. You have permission to scroll through all 652 of his/her pictures.
- Write a love letter to your significant other or your cat or yourself.
- Eat a snack full of protein (or chocolate).
And if none of those work? Take the rest of the day off! You need a break!