Step Outside the Box When You’re Bogged Down and Stuck

outside the box
Step outside the box…

One of our Finding Time Tips advises you to step outside the box to get unstuck.

That tip elicited a great question from a subscriber the other day.  She asked for some examples to illustrate ways that might play out in real life. 

I was intrigued by the question and then realized that it would make a perfect blog post.

So, here’s what the tip says:

TIP
Need inspiration? Think big. And mix & match.

ACTION STEP
If your goal is jammed at the planning stage, step outside the box. Loosen up by combining 2 divergent ideas to create a new option. It’s a great way to enrich the outcome of your goal.

Step outside the box to get unstuck.

Imagine that you have a long term goal and are just starting to plan the steps for accomplishing it. Your tendency is probably to approach this in a logical, linear fashion, going from A to B to C and so on. If you get stymied at “A” you’ll be stuck and will never get to B or C … let alone Q or R. 

So, that first step looks like a wall.  How do you get past it?  (And it doesn’t have to be only at the first step. ANY place where you become mired will often begin to feel like a hurdle or a wall — or a box.)

Often, when people are stuck, they keep trying to modify or reformulate “A” in order to get moving. But this easily turns into an exercise in futility. Our ability to be creative problem-solvers is generally diminished in direct proportion to our level of frustration and discouragement. 

So, here are some ideas that can help you get unstuck. They all involve some version of stepping outside of the box as you’ll see.

3 tips to get unstuck:

  • One suggestion, if you find yourself in this situation, is to back away from the spot where you’re stuck. Put your planning down and move to another, brief and unrelated task. Or, better yet, go for a quick walk, or make a cup of tea. When you return to your planning 5 or 10 minutes later, you may well find that a new idea pops up and gets you unstuck.
  • Or try starting with your goal and working backward. This is a linear process, too, but it’s in reverse.
  • A more free flowing process involves listing out the planning steps that you already have in mind (forgetting about Step “A” for the moment).  Play with their order and see what ideas come up for you.  Something entirely unexpected may emerge. (And I suggest doing this on the computer to save time.)

Two more tips that help you step outside the box.

  • You can try brainstorming all of the words or ideas that come to mind when you think of “A.”  Take two of the most divergent words and combine them into one idea.  Use this synthesis to create a new starting place.
  • Finally, a suggestion that some of my clients have found very helpful is to really stand things on their head.  Set about planning how NOT to get to your goal. This might feel a little bit silly at the start, but often you’ll find that it quickly gets you unstuck. And it may also give you helpful information about whatever had you blocked, to begin with.

So, when you’re stuck, are you able to step outside of the box?  How does this work for you?

This helps, too…

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Let’s explore time together …

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