How to Reset and Start Fresh (when you feel stuck)
Are you feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list?
Do you have thoughts churning around, usually about things you don’t control?
Is lack of clarity stopping you from taking action?
This is Episode 50: How to Reset and Start Fresh
Welcome to The Incrementalist. My name is Dyan Williams and I’m your productivity coach who will help you make big changes in small steps.
If you feel stuck, bored or just plain lazy, you might be waiting for inspiration to strike. But what if it doesn’t? You might think you need discipline or willpower. But even the most disciplined people procrastinate on the things they need to do. And willpower is finite. The more you use it, the less you have on a given day.
So what can you do to reset and start fresh?
First, acknowledge what you control and what you don’t control. Some variables are just beyond your influence. You don’t get to decide your genetic makeup, who your parents are, when you were born and or where you were born. You do not control the weather.
Your own words, behaviors and actions are what you control. You do not control how others respond to you – they have their own words, behaviors and actions. You can influence some things, but you cannot guarantee the outcomes. You have no influence whatsoever over some things.
In any situation, you can accept it, help to change it, or move on to something else that is more ideal for you. To move forward, ground yourself in reality instead of stay in your dream world.
Life is messy. Let go of any victim mentality and maintain a state of gratitude. Focus on your choices and decisions, which affect the results. Invest your attention, time and energy on what you can influence.
That way, you will be more at peace with what is and be more satisfied with your efforts.
Second, figure out what you really want. Why do you wake up in the morning? What would be the highlight of your day if it happened? This doesn’t have to be a big goal. It might not have anything to do with your work, business, or your life’s purpose.
It could be just a hobby. A creative thing you get to do. A tangible, physical product you get to make – whether in woodworking, pottery, painting, welding or cooking. A piece of music you compose. Small experiments and little adventures, outside your normal habits and routines, are ways to get unstuck.
Break the script to create peak moments. Moments of elevation, insight, pride and connection make life more memorable and meaningful, write Chip and Dan Heath in their book, The Power of Moments.
Moments of elevation rise above the everyday, above the routine. They bring joy, motivation and an element of surprise.
Moments of insight rewire your understanding of yourself and the world. It inspires you to take action and make a change. It prompts changes in thoughts, opinions and perspectives and moves you out of limiting beliefs.
Moments of pride capture us at our best, such as during moments of courage or accomplishment and achievement.
Moments of connection are shared, synchronized moments with others; they have a social element.
Routines, systems and habits do make your life more productive and efficient. But when you need to reset and start fresh, try something new. Do some trial and error. Take a little adventure. Create a strategic surprise. Shift away from the norms.
Get off the social media apps and news feeds for a dopamine detox. Stop consuming the infinity pools of information and entertainment. Give yourself time and space to reflect, process inputs and decide on next action. You cannot train yourself to do hard things if you’re preoccupied with the easy stuff.
Watch out for the comparison trap. You can observe others ahead of you, to get a sense of what’s possible, and where you fall short on the skills continuum. But remember that your journey is your own. Your starting point and your finish line in life are unique to you. You have your own strengths, weaknesses, interests and motives.
Get clear on your purpose. Know what you stand for, what your core values are, and what is essential to you to have a meaningful life.
Organizational psychologist, Benjamin Hardy, says willpower is the opposite of making a decision. It’s seeking to avoid what you don’t want.
In his book, Willpower Doesn’t Work, Dr. Hardy says when you’re fully committed, you will have no excuses and no exceptions. You know what to do even when the situation changes. You can better design your environment to create success as you define it.
It’s harder to take deliberate action when you’re not clear about what you want or what you want to create, or when you let external circumstances dictate what matters.
Third, remove obstacles that take up mental bandwidth and drain your energy. Say yes to opportunities that bring you the most joy and satisfaction. Say no to things that distract you from those opportunities. The Paradox of Choice increases decision fatigue and heightens fear of missing out. Aim for satisfaction, not maximization.
If you’re overwhelmed, pare down the to-do list to one thing. All you need is a daily highlight. A peak moment. Quality over quantity.
It’s perfectly fine to have imbalance. While you don’t want to burn yourself out, balance is overrated - for the most part. If everything’s a priority, then nothing’s a priority.
Striving for balance can make you feel guilty or feel like you’re not meeting expectations. If you’ve been working intensely on an important project, you might feel bad for not being with your family or for not working on something else. If you’re indulging in alone time and self-care, you might wonder if you’re neglecting the team members that keep messaging you for help.
Although you can have many important domains in life, you can’t focus on all of them at one time. You will have to make some hard choices and perhaps sacrifices to do or experience what’s most essential. Have the difficult conversations ahead of time.
Realize there will be days, weeks, months, seasons and stages where you will need to hyper focus on certain aspects of your life. And be willing to let the rest go. This setup isn’t permanent. Your priorities can shift and evolve.
If you have a newborn baby, that’s not the right time to go all in on scaling up your business. As the seasons and stages in your life change, you can ramp up and super-focus on other aspects. Minimize and simplify so you can more easily gravitate toward your core purpose.
Fourth, take one small action. Incremental progress builds momentum. Stop waiting for inspiration and motivation to take action. Take the action to spark the inspiration and build the motivation.
If you’re running dry on creative ideas, you can do small things to remove the block. Maybe you need to move – take a long walk, go on a hike, or do your daily run. Or do mundane chores. Load the dishwasher. Sweep the floor. Clear your desk to neutral. Maybe you need to tap into others’ ideas and connect the dots in your own unique way. Listen to your favorite podcast. Read a novel. Take smart notes. Have an engaging conversation.
Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, writes that tiny, smart actions, done consistently over time, accumulate into major improvements.
The Compound Effect formula is: small smart choices + consistency + time = radical difference
Forget about the quick fixes and secret formulas. Celebrate the small, immediate wins that add up to create the long-term, big wins.
Why do you we prefer immediate gratification? The prefrontal cortex part of your brain is the logical, thinking part of your brain. It thrives on doing challenging things. But the primal part of your brain is the feeling part of your brain. It likes to stay comfortable. You want these parts to work in tandem and not against each other.
The biggest gains are when you operate outside your comfort zone. Giant steps out of if, though, can be scary and exhausting. So, it’s more sustainable to gradually expand your comfort zone over time.
Shrink the big project down into doable tasks that you can more readily complete. If a project will take an entire month to finish, chunk it down into weekly tasks, then further down into daily tasks and then more down into hourly tasks. Break it into 15-to 25-minute increments if you’re feeling really stuck.
Your daily habits and action steps result in an upward spiral or a downward spiral. Your everyday decisions and behaviors, repeated over time, shape the trajectory of your life.
YOU and your CHOICE + BEHAVIOR + HABIT + COMPOUNDED = GOALS, i.e., your decisions and actions repeated over time lead to results.
With incremental, consistent action, you get the power of momentum without depleting your willpower. To overcome inertia, you have to take the first step to gain traction. And once you start and find your flow, it’s harder to stop.
In a rocket launch, the first few minutes of acceleration uses up most of the fuel. After the rocket goes into orbit and moves out of the gravitational pull, it needs less fuel to keep moving.
Fifth, -- and this is a controversial one – set an artificial deadline. Sure, you could end up ignoring it or adding unnecessary pressure. But if you do this right, it can be the nudge you need.
Use time blocking to protect time to start and make progress on a task. And use time boxing to set a time to finish it. Check out episode 47 for more on how to time block an easy way, without the apps.
Parkinson’s law says work expands to fill the time allotted. When you give yourself too much time to start a project, procrastination builds. When you give yourself too much leeway to finish it, perfectionism creeps in. Determine when exactly you will reset and start fresh. And pick a completion date to ensure steady progress.
If you found value in this episode, hit the like and share buttons. And if you want to catch new episodes on how to make big changes in small steps, be sure to subscribe. Thank you for being with me and join me again on The Incrementalist.
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