Archives for January 2010

5 Steps to Get Unstuck

stuck car

Photo by Alan Vernon

One of the reasons we read blogs is to pick up jewels of information that we can apply to our own lives. I just read something that sparked an Aha moment for me. Like many Aha moments, this ideas was not new in and of itself – but I had never applied it to the area of my own productivity before. As Charlie Gilkey writes in his blog

“A warrior who steps on the battlefield knows that he will fight. An alcoholic who steps into a bar knows that she will drink. In both cases, it’s possible that they’ll have the self-discipline not to do what they are disposed to do, but the far wiser option for them is to avoid the battlefield or the bar.”

For weeks now I’ve been struggling with how to build more content for my blog. For weeks I’ve been sitting down at my computer with the intent to write, and winding up an hour or two later having read a lot of terrific posts from other people but with no content of my own to show for it. What’s the problem? I’ve been trying to do one activity in an environment that I’ve long used for other purposes.

I use my time at the computer to read information, not to write it. So I’ve been fighting two upward battles – the battle to begin generating content instead of reading it and the battle to write in a place where I’ve been accustomed to reading.

What have you been struggling to do? Try this 5 step process to gain traction on that activity:

Step 1: Identify the core problem
The problem you think you have isn’t usually the real problem. It’s just a symptom. Dig a little. Use the Lean Six Sigma process of asking 5 why’s. Personal Example: What’s my problem? I can’t seem to get started writing blog content. Why? (#1): I have massive writer’s block. Why? (#2): Every time I sit down at my computer, I end up having read a lot but not producing. Why? (#3): I get so distracted by other tasks I should be doing or interesting links and RSS feeds that I never get around to writing. Why (#4): That’s what I’m used to doing at the computer. Why? (#5): Because I’ve built a habit around surfing for new ideas at the computer, not writing while I’m there.

Step 2: Generate solutions
Brainstorming and coming up with different approaches is something I excel at, so this was fun for me. Some people might struggle. If you find yourself struggling, reach out to someone who always seems to want to try new things and ask them to brainstorm with you. Or ask me a question here in the comments and I’ll try to help you generate possible solutions. Working my way through my own problem above, I get:

  • Knuckle down. Forbid myself to do anything else online until I’ve written at least a draft post.
  • Change the venue. Start writing longhand, at least for the draft, so I can’t get distracted. Type it in later and edit it at the same time.
  • Go with a strength. My muse seems to wake up in the car on morning drives to work. Carry a digital voice recorder to capture the ideas and then transcribe them later.
  • Give up. No one is counting on me to generate content – except myself. If it’s not coming naturally, don’t force it. When something comes along that I can’t NOT write about it, start.

Step 3: Choose An Option
This blog is all about using strengths, so it should be no surprise that my favorite option was #3.

Step Four: Act
This is the step I have the most difficulty with. If you are a Red or a Gold, this could be a strength of yours. I naturally use the Head method for approaching problems (find out more about the Head, Heart, Hands method at However, if I’m going to take action on something I do best when I just something and change gears as needed along the way.

You must act. You must do something, even if you end up failing. You will learn something new by trying something new, and that will only lead to a more positive outcome than not trying anything would have.

This is where my personal example ends because I have just worked through steps 1-3 above. I will report back on how this worked once I’ve put it into action. Or you will be able to tell because you will soon see more content on this blog!

Step Five: Reflect
Again, not a strength of mine, but I do not question the value of reflection. It’s only by reviewing the result, the lesson(s), and the way forward that you get better over time. Personal Example: I will set a reminder on my task list to prompt me to assess where I am in generating content in two weeks. Look for more info then!

Here are 5 points to notice about my personal example that I hope help you as you are using the steps above:

  • I kept generating solutions even after I figured out one that would work or one that I liked
  • I chose the one that felt the most “shackles off” (find out more about this simple way to evaluate your options by using Martha Beck’s Shackles Test)
  • I didn’t say choose THE one, just choose one (if it doesn’t work, you can test another solution)
  • I chose an action style that feels natural to me (I’m a Quick Start person)
  • I set a milestone date and made myself accountable

Let me know how it goes in the comments below. How can I help?