I just had a real revelation when I was stopped cold in my creative work by what seemed to me a really difficult problem. I thought about the solution for days. But I just couldn’t find an answer that was really satisfying to me. I was stuck.
So What Can You Do When You Are Stuck?
Here is the surprising but genius solution:
When you are stuck, just move on with your next best idea. [Tweet this!]
Instead of thinking and waiting and thinking again, just move on! Use what you currently have and make a step forward.
This may not seem perfect, but who wants perfect? Progress is what counts.
The thing is that most of the time it’s much more important to make progress than to make it perfect. You just don’t have the time. And you don’t want to have the time.
You can make it „perfect“ later on. You will probably optimize on your work, and probably get valuable feedback. This is what makes something perfect – eventually.
Perfect is the enemy of progress. [Tweet this!]
If You Don’t Have a Next Best…
Is this true? Is there really no way to go forward?
The thing is that any step forward changes your perspective and can easily lead to new opportunities. I noticed this myself in my example above.
All of the sudden I developed momentum and I’m in the flow again. Not only this, I made the first step and got great follow-up steps. I would’ve never found those by pure thinking.
So even if you think there is no next best, just make any move and take it from there.
Getting unstuck is really removing inner roadblocks. Sometimes there is resistance inside. Sometimes it’s even unconscious.
Making it conscious, overcoming and dissolving inner resistance, getting real insights, this is the best way to go.
But sometimes the obstacle is the path. Sometimes we need all the little roadblocks to walk forward on them.
The thing is that the solution is not necessarily happening if we pause and start thinking. It can. You can try using self-reflection to find a way forward, but you have to know when to stop this. And this is when you notice that you are stuck.
Build Momentum Again
What you need to do when you’re stuck is to get momentum again. [Tweet this!]
Being stuck is being static. There is zero momentum. In fact there maybe negative momentum because you start getting frustrated.
So the fastest way to break this cycle is to do something and go the next best step. You develop positive momentum again and this is the key.
I think it’s ironic that often when we make progress, what we thought of perfect is even topped by simply improving step by step. If you look back after a year and compare your results with your original idea of „perfect“, you will notice this.
Same idea as Kaizen (continuous improvement). You don’t make it perfect at the first try. It will get „perfect“ naturally just by going forward. So we can reach both goals eventually.
Ultimately perfection is not bad of course, because it’s describing a very good and flawless state. But sometimes our mind is not understanding that perfection is always a movement. Not a single act.
For instance I personally enjoy the perfection of my Macbook, but it took years of iterations and improvement to make it so. If we would have wanted it like this in the prototype-state, it would never have been created in the first place.
Perfectionism is a killer. I have a 90% rule. WHen something is about 90% as good as I want it, it is time to let it go. Sure, you may go back and make minor revisions, but it is important to move forward.
It becomes easy to get bogged down by the minutiae.
It is far better to be like Nike and „Just DO it!“
Sure you may fail, sure you may screw it up. But doing nothing is the only SURE way to ensure you won’t succeed.
Hi Ericson, indeed I think the core issue here is that often, at the point where we should start building momentum again, we just don’t realize that this will work. Instead we try to think our way forward, when what we would need is movement.
A friendly reminder, like for instance this post, may push us over the edge :-)
For writers this is summarized in the advice: Write for the wastebasket.
“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
This post really resonates with who I am.
I can’t tell you how many times perfectionism has interfered with my productivity levels. This very method is actually what helped me move forward with improving my writing. I don’t fret over making sure each line is perfect now, I just write until I hit a roadblock and bypass it till later. I’ve learned that momentum is great for defeating writers block, when I come back to that roadblock it’s much easier to handle at that point.
This is a great post, especially for overcoming procrastination!