You know that feeling when the day starts to go downhill? Or how it feels when everything starts to get away from you? A project is stalled, your to-do list is bursting at the seams and you are overwhelmed.
Here’s how to troubleshoot yourself. Pin down the problem and find out how to fix it. Then get the fun and the profit from having a well-oiled mind and business operation.
Shout, shout, get it all out
Whether you need to talk to someone, prefer to journal or just want to scribble a braindump on a bit of paper – what’s important is that you get it out of your brain.
Just thinking it through isn’t enough. Frustrations fester. You need to exorcise it. That can be by talking it through, writing it down, or whatever your more creative outlet might be.
You might want to “take it to the gym” and while that is a great short term solution you aren’t going to learn much that will stop these frustrations from arising again in the future. So maybe take it to the gym to work off the immediate angst and then talk or write so you can think more critically on it.
Procrastination across the nation
Why? Ask yourself some whys about your procrastination. Procrastination has only a few root causes. Most reasoning leads back to the same few things.
Mostly you either need to find someone else to do it – if you don’t know how or aren’t the best person. Or you need to work out why it floors you so and interrupts your day. Is it too hard? Are you nervous?
Now I know this about myself I can take my lingering to-dos that I procrastinate on and put them into some sort of matrix. Then I just suck it up and do the boring, tedious things, or the things I just plain don’t want to do. Before thinking up solutions or going back a few steps on things I don’t know how to do, even if I wanted to. And delving deeper into why I am so stuck on other things, what I might be afraid of and the like.
Back to the drawing board
If your brain is cluttered and chaotic it is time to go back to the drawing board. Like the getting it all out step this is exorcising the swirling miasma of to-dos and thoughts that is swamping your brain. Clear the cache on your mind.
Dump out everything you are thinking about. Not journalling, this isn’t about feelings it’s about actions. Everything that is bothering you that you need to do something about. Every task that is nagging away and taking up even the slightest amount of your mental bandwidth.
Capturing all these loose ends is classic Getting Things Done technique and it works. You don’t have to hold it all in your mind. Get it out and into a system instead.
Now with your clear and calm mind you can get a better perspective on everything. Organise into groups, lists, projects. See if there is any repetition – when I do this it is not unusual to find three notes that all mean basically the same thing. Now they are one.
Reset and start anew
Sometimes the temptation is to write off the whole day, as if a day is the smallest increment of time we know. We even do it to the whole week.
Come up with some routines that give you the sense you are starting over on a whole new day. Wipe the slate clean.
A little nap, a brisk walk in the fresh air, meditation, going for a coffee, exercising. An activity that will clear your mind and move you on from the bad times, that makes you feel refreshed. Go for an all day breakfast. You just had breakfast, even if it is 4pm. You get a do-over.
Or it can be symbolic. Change your shirt, redo your hair. There, all different. Like a brand new day. Untainted by anything that went before you get to start over for a new afternoon or evening, a new hour – just a new now.
Emergency measures for when you get seriously off-track
If you are floundering and overwhelmed it isn’t easy to be measured and rational in your thinking. You are digging yourself out of this and that’s where all your concentration is going.
Still, if you can take a little step back, you will benefit.
You can’t be fighting fires all day. At some point you need to trade in short term time for long term gain.
So even if the need is urgent you should spend some time thinking how this happened, how you can prevent it happening again and how best to tackle it. Then make note of the steps you take. This will help you create a plan of action for if it happens again and how you will handle it. How you can cut it off at the pass or emergency measures for putting it right.
Take email as an example. You took your hands off the wheel, maybe for a few days or while you were on vacation. Some people all it takes is a few hours and there is Panic! In The Inbox.
Or if you have gotten behind because of holidays or illness. You come back and it’s just carnage. You don’t know where to start, so you don’t. Have a plan of attack that you use and trust to get yourself out of this mess.
If you lay out your steps in advance you halt the downward spiral of despair. When you are frazzled you don’t have to start thinking strategically. You just have to follow the steps you have already laid out for yourself.
It will pull you right out of your slump. And because it is by you and for you it is perfectly tailored… to you.
The Troubleshooting Manual in practice
So when you feel unmotivated, when everything seems like it is going wrong and you can’t see your way out, you need to pull out your troubleshooting manual and get to diagnosing yourself.
If you know exactly what the problem is, good. Skip to that section. Or just go through the steps to see what helps and what the issue might be.
When I am just not making headway I take a step back. No beating myself up about it. I have my troubleshooting manual as a Trello board with common issues as the lists and I can put image cards as the steps. That’s what works for me.
Feeling blocked on something I am writing? A walk around the block or to the park for some fresh air and exercise normally does the trick. If not, half an hour reading my favourite book for inspiration. Bigger blocks might need a bigger shot of inspiration like visiting a museum.
When you get to know yourself more, when you know your triggers and responses, what helps and what doesn’t, you can expand and improve on your troubleshooting. But invest the time now in thinking about it. And make all those bad times and overwhelms into a learning opportunity.
There you go. Your own troubleshooting manual to yourself.
Now you are more fun, and more profitable. Nice work.
And hey, if any of your problems are to do with marketing, your blog, content for your business or anything like that, get in touch. Even if your problems aren’t, feel free to get in touch anyway. I get it. If I can help, I will.