Overcoming everyday obstacles

Hi there,

Everyone runs into obstacles – all those little things that stand in our way as we try to get done what we want to get done. Sometimes sheer willpower’s enough to get past them. But most of the time, you need something more.

Today: Some common obstacles and my suggestions for moving beyond them.

Not sure how to proceed?

  • Brainstorm your way out (and try out new brainstorming techniques while you’re at it). There are no wrong answers

  • What’s the smallest step you can take today?

  • Who can you ask for advice?

  • Do you need to take a few steps back before you can move forward?

  • What would [insert your hero] do?

  • What if it all had to get done today?

  • What if you had every imaginable resource at your disposal?

Having trouble getting started?

  • Make your first step smaller. What’s something you can do in 5 minutes?

  • Projects often have steps that can take place at the same time. Is there a more appealing task you could start with?

  • Set a timer. Keep trying until it goes off 

  • Tell a friend or share publicly what you plan to do 

  • Start a focusmate.com session

  • Visualize the first step and get everything ready (open your document, close down any distractions, put your phone out of sight). Then go out for a breath of fresh air, come back and pour yourself something to drink, and get started without hesitation 

Don’t have what you need?

  • Know that there’s always an alternative that matches the resources you have

  • Identify what you need and put the word out 

  • What can you do today with what you do have?

Don’t know the right people?

  • Write down the people and organizations you think you need (sometimes a solution will occur to you as you go) 

  • Email your list to your closest friends and ask for suggestions. How can I get the attention of these folks? 

  • Scan your LinkedIn connections. Who might be able to help? Ask them!

  • Don’t forget about this option: Summon your courage and make a cold call or send a cold email, asking for what you need

Don’t have the energy?

  • See to it that your work matches the energy you have. Make it smaller, simpler, shorter

  • See to it that your energy matches the work you have to do. Take a nap, eat something healthy, get some fresh air, take a walk

  • Note whether you always feel you “don’t have the energy” at the same time in your day or week. Adjust your workweek accordingly. Friday afternoon may not be the best time for complex creative work 

  • Take a critical look at your workload if you’re short on energy on a regular basis. Especially when there’s – oh I don’t know – a global pandemic or something. Adjust expectations where you can: Better to do one job well and deliver on time than two jobs half-heartedly. Adjusting expectations often gives you fresh energy

  • Experiment with your day: Maybe you prefer working for long stretches at a time. Or maybe you work better in shorter sessions spread throughout the day and evening, with generous breaks in between 

  • Also experiment with how you rest. Of course the best rest is sleep

Easily distracted?

  • Take note of what distracts you, and put up some defenses: Turn off devices or put them out of sight, log out of social media accounts, block websites.

  • Set a timer and do this and only this until it goes off

  • Put on music that helps you focus

  • Formulate a clear goal to work toward

More work than you thought?

  • Look at all your options to make sure you’re not making things more complicated than they need to be. What can you scrap? What can be postponed? What parts have to happen?

  • Having loads of work is overwhelming; following a series of small steps is not. Try to outline things step by step.

  • Can you spread out the work? For months, I sent one cold email every workday to recruit ambassadors for my upcoming book. I never would have been able to tackle that all at once, but one a day was totally doable. 

Have a good week!