This is part of my series on Mental Models about Productivity
Sometimes I feel stuck while working on a new project (for work) and feel uncertain of what to do. This creates a vague sense of unease, and a flurry of questions fly through my head: What should I do? Where do I even start?
If unchecked, these questions advance to their inevitable destination:
Why does this always happen to me? How can I escape this discomfort?
My natural inclination is to seek solace with a “quick” diversion: check Twitter, watch YouTube, peruse the news, organize my office, browse Goodreads’ booklists, or traipse through Amazon.com, looking at books and physics toys. Getting distracted is my superpower!
But I learned the hard way that distraction is a dragon that devours my time. The more time it consumes, the more my anxiety jar fills with marbles.
And telling myself, Just don’t get distracted! Just power through! doesn’t work because it fails to address my discomfort and its underlying cause.
The solution is to walk through these five steps:
- I acknowledge that I’m uncomfortable because I lack vital information.
- I accept that I am responsible for sussing-out this information.
- I accept that this will take time, and I may need to talk to key people that I don’t know well.
- I trust my boss* to give me time to track down answers, introduce me to people, and offer support when I’m blocked.
- I create a list of questions and then go find their answers.
Sounds easy, at least in theory, right?
But, working through the five steps is emotionally taxing. Accepting responsibility for gathering critical details is scary: What if the project cannot be completed in the manner, or timeframe, my boss expects?
Uncovering unknowns, and unknown unknowns, leaves me feeling exhausted. Figuring out which people have the specifics, and getting the runaround, is draining. For large projects, it feels like an endless spiral of dependencies.
But going through the five steps is the best way to get unstuck and make progress on new projects. It’s the only way I’ve found to stave off the dragon of distraction. And it prevents marbles from cascading into my anxiety jar.
So, try it out: next time you feel stuck or uncertain about a new project, walk through the 5 steps. Make a list of questions you have. Do this, and you’ll feel less stress.
Be well, my friend.
* If your boss is unreasonable, it’s time to find a new job.
Thanks for reading!
Have a question or comment? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
More Great Posts
- Make A Grocery List Tuesday, January 19, 2021
- Stay Within Your Circle Of Control Monday, January 18, 2021
- Letters To My 20-Year-Old Self Monday, January 18, 2021
- Why Stewie Didn't Trust People Sunday, January 17, 2021
- How Can I Influence Group Decisions? Wednesday, January 13, 2021
- How Free Are You? 3 Questions To Ask Wednesday, December 16, 2020
- Cousin Joe Dislikes His Wife's Hair Monday, December 14, 2020
- Consent Made Simple Saturday, December 12, 2020
- How Do I Convince My Wife To Get A Dog? Sunday, December 06, 2020
- Saturday Treats & Positive Action Language Sunday, December 06, 2020
- How Do I Say No To An Invite? Sunday, December 06, 2020
- How To Apply The Golden Rule To Everyday Problems Sunday, December 06, 2020
- Should We Reserve ICU Beds For Folks Who Wear Masks? Sunday, November 29, 2020
- How To Be A Good Person Tuesday, November 17, 2020
- Rules For Respect Wednesday, November 04, 2020
- Favorite Quotes From “Mini Habits” by Stephen Guise Monday, October 26, 2020
- How To Defend Personal Space With Soft Resistance Wednesday, October 21, 2020
- Defend Your Personal Space Thursday, October 08, 2020
- When Is It Ok To Say No? Thursday, October 01, 2020
- How To Stand Up For Yourself Monday, September 28, 2020
- I Hate Camping—How Do I Say No? Friday, September 25, 2020
- How To Push Back Against A Micromanaging Boss Wednesday, September 23, 2020
- Boundaries Made Simple Sunday, September 13, 2020
- The 5% Rule—When To Be Assertive Monday, September 07, 2020
- Favorite Quotes From “The Obstacle Is the Way” About Handling Distractions Tuesday, August 25, 2020
- Eliminate Distracting Belongings Monday, August 24, 2020
- Favorite Quotes From “The 4-Hour Workweek” About Eliminating Distractions Monday, August 24, 2020
- Proximity Matters Monday, August 24, 2020
- We Want To Be Distracted Sunday, August 23, 2020
- How Do I Stop Endlessly Researching Topics And Get Stuff Done? Thursday, August 20, 2020
- Stop Looking For Drama Tuesday, August 18, 2020
- Beware Of Taking On Extra Responsibility Monday, August 17, 2020
- Track Your Distractions Wednesday, August 12, 2020
- Limit Distractions From Slack Wednesday, August 12, 2020
- Follow The 2-Minute Rule Tuesday, August 11, 2020
- Close Your Browser Tabs Tuesday, August 11, 2020
- Try An App Blocker Monday, August 10, 2020
- Leave Social Media Monday, August 10, 2020
- Find Your Den Of Productivity Sunday, August 09, 2020
- Just Say No Sunday, August 09, 2020
- Silence Your Phone Saturday, August 08, 2020
- Close Your Email Saturday, August 08, 2020
- Limit Distractions With The Pomodoro Technique Friday, August 07, 2020
- Feel Stuck At Work? Make A List Of Questions Friday, August 07, 2020
- Limit Distractions With Music Thursday, August 06, 2020
- Limit Disruptive Noise Thursday, August 06, 2020
- Keep Track Of Your Life With Project Documents Wednesday, August 05, 2020
- Make An “I Won't Do” List Wednesday, August 05, 2020
- Make A “Big Rock” List—Instead of a To Do List Tuesday, August 04, 2020
- How To Do Lists Keep Me Focused Tuesday, August 04, 2020
- Tech Workers' Guide To Distraction Free Work Tuesday, August 04, 2020
- Tech Workers' Guide To Distraction Free Work Tuesday, August 04, 2020
- Dissecting Trump's Words Monday, August 03, 2020
- The Assertive Mindset Saturday, July 25, 2020
- Grocery Shopping With Cousin Joe Wednesday, July 15, 2020
- Dear Stewie, How Do I Stop Procrastinating On Long Term Goals? Thursday, June 18, 2020
- Dear Stewie, How Do I Convince My Wife To Get A Dog? Tuesday, May 26, 2020
- Quotes On Being Assertive Sunday, May 17, 2020
- 19 Quotes From “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers Saturday, May 16, 2020
- 17 Quotes From “Give and Take” by Adam Grant Saturday, May 16, 2020
- 8 Ways To Get Your Kid To Read More Books Friday, May 15, 2020
- Want To Improve Your Relationships? “Chocolate And Flowers” Is Not The Answer! Thursday, May 14, 2020
- Conversations With My 8-year-old Son Sunday, May 10, 2020
- The Veto Strategy: How My Wife And I Make Decisions Wednesday, May 06, 2020
- Positive Action Language Will Change Your Life Sunday, May 03, 2020
- The Power of Positive Action Language Wednesday, April 29, 2020
- How To Push Back On Your Boss Without Being A Jerk Thursday, April 23, 2020
- 13 Writing Lessons From “Style: Toward Clarity And Grace” Sunday, March 29, 2020
- Craving Never Stops, And My Potato Chip Addiction Tuesday, March 10, 2020
- 12 Practices That Keep Me In The Circle of Control Sunday, March 08, 2020
- Our Thoughts Shape Our Relationships Monday, February 17, 2020
- No One Knows What You're Thinking Friday, February 14, 2020
- You Need To Be Needed Wednesday, February 12, 2020
- You Need Attention Tuesday, February 11, 2020
- You Need Validation Sunday, February 09, 2020
- How To Validate Someone's Feelings Sunday, February 09, 2020
- Reframe The Debate: Should Amazon Pay So Little In Taxes? Friday, January 31, 2020
- Your Negative Feelings Come From Unmet Needs Wednesday, January 29, 2020
- 11 Reasons Why The Kindle App Is Better Than Physical Books Wednesday, January 22, 2020
- You Are Special Saturday, January 18, 2020
- Should Writers Wait For Inspiration? Sunday, January 12, 2020
- How A Grocery Shopping List Saves Me Time, Money, and Pounds Saturday, January 11, 2020
- Sleep Deprivation Made College Miserable Wednesday, January 08, 2020
- Things That Help Me Sleep Sunday, January 05, 2020
- Why I Don't Rate Books On Goodreads Saturday, January 04, 2020
- How I “Look Forward And Reason Backward” Thursday, January 02, 2020
- It's 2020 and I Feel Good! (Update On 2019) Wednesday, January 01, 2020
- The Questions I Ask When Starting New Project At Work Monday, December 30, 2019
- Here's What I Do When I Feel Stuck On A New Project Sunday, December 29, 2019
- Why I Named My Ego Taz Thursday, December 26, 2019
- How I Reduced My Anxiety By Creating A Home For All Of My Stuff Thursday, December 26, 2019
- The Taylor Principle Monday, December 23, 2019
- How Fruitless Debates Inflame My Anxiety Sunday, December 22, 2019
- Netflix Really Wants Me To Learn Portuguese Saturday, December 14, 2019
- How Thrive As An Adult Monday, December 09, 2019
- How Social Media Affects My Anxiety Level Sunday, December 08, 2019
- How TV Shows Affect My Anxiety Level Sunday, December 08, 2019
- How Following Sports Affects My Anxiety Level Sunday, December 08, 2019
- How Caffeine Affects My Anxiety Level Saturday, December 07, 2019
- The Anxiety Jar - How I Think About The Intensity Of My Anxiety Saturday, December 07, 2019
- Names Matter Friday, November 08, 2019
- You Are Responsible For Meeting Your Needs Saturday, October 26, 2019
- You Have Some Basic Needs Saturday, October 26, 2019
- Our Collective Goal Is To Work Fewer Hours, Not More Wednesday, October 23, 2019
- Watch for Patterns of Behavior Tuesday, October 22, 2019
- That time my wife asked me, “Are we roommates? Or a family?” Monday, October 21, 2019
- The Grody Blender Sunday, October 20, 2019
- Which Kinds Of Halloween Candy Do You Refuse To Share? Friday, October 18, 2019
- You Aren't Paid According to the Value you Create at Work Sunday, October 13, 2019
- Parkinson's law and Time Management Saturday, October 12, 2019
- Protect Your Autonomy Thursday, October 10, 2019
- Stop Making Passive-Aggressive Demands Sunday, September 29, 2019
- Save Money By Waiting 48 Hours To Buy Stuff Wednesday, September 25, 2019
- Take A Monday Morning Minute And Choose Your “One Thing” For The Week Monday, September 23, 2019
- What's The Purpose Of Your Life? Sunday, September 22, 2019
- What Every Aspiring Artist Doesn't Know But Needs To Hear Friday, September 20, 2019
- Discipline Equals Freedom Thursday, September 19, 2019
- Stewie's Recommended Books Wednesday, September 18, 2019
- How To Instantly Improve Your Relationships Saturday, September 14, 2019
- Spend 2 Hours A Day Investing In Yourself Friday, September 13, 2019
- Why People Behave Badly Friday, August 23, 2019
- About Stewie Thursday, August 22, 2019