3 Ways to Get Out of a Rut

Have you ever been stuck in one place, without making any progress? Whether it’s writers’ block, losing weight, or moving towards a goal, I think we all have had times where things just seem to be ‘stuck’, with no way to move forward. There have been many times when I’ve sat, motionless, staring at a blank page, trying to write. Once I get started, things just flow, and I make a lot of progress. The hard part is getting those first words on the paper. Sometimes the one thing that gets me going…is knowing that I don’t have any time left.

Stuck in a rut…

It doesn’t have to be something big and overwhelming – even small tasks can be easy to procrastinate…..until there’s no time to spare…and then the job gets done. Quickly. Have you ever dreaded the thought of getting started on an exercise program? The hardest part isn’t the work itself…it’s getting out the door. I’ve never felt worse AFTER exercising – it’s all the internal negative self-talk that makes getting started hard.

Why is that?

The big factor is intertia. According to Newton’s First Law of Motion,

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion…unless acted on by an outside force.

Just like in physics, Newton’s laws apply to daily life, too. So…when you’re sitting in one place, not moving, not making progress….that’s where you’re going to want to stay – until you get moving. Once you get moving, then momentum takes over – and as you build up speed….you can be unstoppable. I’ve found a few tricks for getting off the dime.

1) Break down the task. Sometimes, a task can seem overwhelming when looking at the whole thing. If you break it down into smaller tasks, smaller goals, or ‘Swiss-cheese’ the task, the rest of it can be much less intimidating. You’ll also feel better about your progress, if you have some intermediate goal that you can cross off the list. Trying to lose 25 lbs? Hard. Losing 5 lbs? Much easier to attain. All you have to do is hit the first, smaller goal…then go on to the next one.

2) Don’t be perfect.   According to Voltaire, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” By trying to be perfect, and not make a mistake……it’s easy to stay stuck….and make NO progress. This can apply to lots of goals….but I see it a lot in writing. Too many times, I’ve been frustrated trying to write something great……instead of getting that ‘dirty first draft’ down on paper. Once that’s done, and I either get editing help, or even just take some time away from it, I’ll come up with all sorts of ideas to make things better….that would have never happened had I not started.

3) Do SOMETHING.  Going back to Isaac Newton…..while an object at rest tends to stay at rest…and object in MOTION is much easier to move. Have you ever tried to turn your steering wheel when sitting still? It requires Popeye-like forearm strength.  When you’re moving, it only requires the lightest of inputs to make the car go where you want it to go. That’s still true, even when you’re going in the wrong direction. It takes less energy to get back on track when you’re moving, than it does to get rolling in the first place. When you’re stuck, do something….ANYTHING, even if it’s not exactly where you want to go. Once you’re moving, then you can more easily course-correct to the right path.

Have you ever been stuck in a rut? What tricks or techniques to you use to get moving…in the right direction?

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