Have you ever been working on a project for your business and hit a point where you can't focus any longer? Or maybe you hit a wall and you can't seem to get past it no matter how hard you try to push through.
Business owners have a lot on their plate. They have to manage several roles simultaneously, and almost always have an underlying pressure to get things done…….because who else is going to do them?
If you keep pushing yourself, despite feelings of stress and frustration, eventually you are going to burn out. This is common with business owners as they feel that constant pressure to keep get things done.
The problem is that it's not good for your health and it's not good for your business in the long run.
While dealing with a million things each day is part of being a business owner, and keeps things interesting, sometimes you need to hit the reset button in your brain so you can refocus and start over again. Your brain is like a computer, over time a computer will build up a lot of extra files in its cache (temporary memory) and start to slow down. The fix for this is to restart your computer and clear the cache so it can start over again with a clean slate. Same with your brain.
So whenever I am working on a project and hit that mental wall, or get that general feeling like I am drowning in a sea of work, I do one of the following things below. What I actually do depends on what I am working on and how I feel and one of the below things allows me to take a pause and reset myself so I can get back to work and be productive again.
Work In Shorter Time Chunks
Your brain can only stay focused for so long before it starts to get overworked, so working in shorter periods can help you stay productive over a longer period of time. You probably heard of the Pomodoro Method, where you work on a project in short bursts of time, followed by short breaks. It's a great way to get through a long work day and remain focused throughout that period. You can learn more about the Pomodoro Method here.
I personally don't use a timer or app for this, when I plan out my work week I schedule everything in 1-hour chunks. Once that hour is over, I take a break for 10-15 minutes before starting on the next hour. Sometimes I go over the hour if I hit a groove and I am feeling productive, but I know from experience that my brain needs a break after about an hour.
Break Down Your Project Into Small Steps
If you are working on a bigger project, break the project down into smaller steps and then schedule those steps into your work flow. So instead of having “create a Facebook ad” on your to-do list for the day, spend some time breaking down that project into smaller steps and work on them individually. So for this example, you may break it down into
- Build and save a target audience in Facebook to target with my ad
- Gather images needed for ad
- Write copy for ad
- Upload and schedule ad
As you can see, each of these individual tasks are not that big of a deal, but when you leave it as, “create a Facebook Ad”, it may be overwhelming and leave you uncertain as to where to start.
I wrote an article about being more prodcutive with your marketing plan, the post has a link for some free planner pdf sheets you can use to break down your projects, you can read the article here.
Work on Another Project
If you feel like you are getting stuck on a project and can't seem to find your groove, temporarily shift to another project that may be better suited for you current state of mind.
I keep a folder on my desk with lots of ideas and projects I would love to work on. Some of them are just ideas I've written down, others I have started working on and have a to-do list of things that need to be done to get that idea off the ground. So when I get stuck on a current project and feel like I need to stop, I'll go through this folder and pick an idea that interests me and then work on that for an hour instead.
I feel like this kind fo refocusing gives my brain a rest on the current project and still allows me to remain productive. The one thing I usually won't do is pick a project that requires similar brain power as the project I am taking a break on. I'll usually choose something less brain intensive to give myself a mental break.
Do Something Mindless
If I feel like I need to just stop all work and take a break, I'll shift to doing something that requires almost no brain power. One of my favorites is cleaning my office. While I like to say I am productive and organized, I gradually let my office turn into a hot mess until it's time to organize it again. I'll crank up the radio and spend 30 minutes sorting through old papers and organizing my desk and drawers so I can start fresh again with a neat office space.
The idea is to do something to take your mind off your current project and that doesn't require brain power. One of my other favorites is keeping a game or two on my phone and play that for a little while as a way to relax and recharge my brain.
Do Something Physical
I think one of the many failings of the public school system here in America is limiting or removing altogether physical education during the school day and not realizing the correlation between physical activity and learning/mental focus. What human being can sit still at a desk for 8 hours listening to people talk at them about stuff they aren't interested in? That's a typical school day for millions of children every day.
Physical activity and mental focus go hand in hand, you can't sit at your desk all day and expect to remain mentally sharp. Throughout the day I take short physical breaks in between working on projects. This may be doing some simple breathing and stretching exercises, taking a short walk, or doing pushups in my office. If I really need to expend energy, I'll go to the gym for 30 minutes and do a quick workout.
The idea is to get your body moving, blood flowing and to remove any built up stress/tension in your body. Once I have done this, I feel like I can sit at my desk again and get back to work.
Meet or Talk to Someone
If I'm struggling to get a project completed or I feel stuck and don't know where to go next, I have a few friends and business colleagues I can either meet for a coffee or have a quick phone call with. Being your own boss can be isolating at times so it's good to make a point to get out and speak to your peers every once and awhile.
I always feel refreshed and come back with some good ideas after spending time with fellow business owners.
Think & Plan
Many times when I get stuck or frustrated on a project, when I think about it I realize that it was due to a lack of planning. Us business owners spend so much time doing stuff that we often fail to spend enough time planning stuff.
When I fill out my planner for the week, I fill it up with things that I need to do and goals I need to accomplish. What I often forget to do is purposely block out time during the week to think and plan for my business. So I now make a point to schedule thinking and planning sessions during the week, just like I do for everything else. I also make a point to schedule in training/learning time so I'm always learning new skills.
Sleep On It
If you are getting frustrated with a project, consider stopping and sleeping on it. Your brain is an intuitive computer and your sub-conscious can often create solutions for you if you let it. Before going to bed think about the challenge you are having and ask yourself to come up with a solution to it before you go to bed. Your subconscious mind will work to help you figure out the right way to move forward.
If you don't believe me on this, try it out for yourself. You'll be amazed at what can happen when you trust your body to help you.
So how do you get unstuck?
These are the things I do when I hit a mental block, get frustrated with my work or am not sure where to go next. The important thing to do is reset your brain, give it a rest and then be ready to jump back in and kick some ass.