Feeling Stuck: 5 Stages To Get On Task

Have you experienced sitting at your desk, kitchen table, or coffee shop counter, laptop open and ready to be super productive, and just had no idea where to start? This time, the challenge is not the motivation. You are buzzing with inspiration, ideas, and confidence that you have what it takes. You are action-driven – today at least – but — you have no idea where your best starting point might be. You’re feeling stuck.. I found myself in this predicament often. The solutions were in identifying my own patterns of feeling stuck.

woman studying at table
Photo by Linda Raymond; Getty Images Signature

A quick story on feeling stuck

Years ago, I took teacher licensure courses, while I was working full time and raising my sons. I was close to the deadline for course completion. The classes left were math and science. As an English and Social Studies teacher, I wondered why my college degree plus the additional education, english, and social studies classes were not enough. The last courses before me were in the subject areas that I struggled with most. However, my opinions did not matter; I had to finish the classes. 

The only math class available for my family and work schedule had a fancy title and turned out to be Physics. My science class was Oceanography, which was loads more technical than I imagined. I remember my first Oceanography class, the instructor and all of the students, except for me, were Science leaders or teachers. Intimidation settled in, as the conversations around me were above my head. Never mind those emotions – I had to complete the class. Plus, I’m big on finishing strong, so I knew I needed to make a plan of action. 

Woman working on computer
g-stock studio; Getty Images

Matching my skills to my challenges

When I got still enough to figure out how to handle the challenges ahead, I took inventory of my student assets. I knew I was good with comprehension and analysis. I enjoyed studying, so I took those strengths and decided that I would annotate each chapter – followed up by making flashcards on 3×5 index cards. Those index cards went everywhere with me.

At first, the stack was tiny – and soon grew to be hundreds of flashcards, which I paper clipped by chapter. When there were videos to watch, I paused the video at each term, theory, or concept and whipped out a new index card. In Physics, I took copious notes from the lecture and the textbook. I used an adapted Cornell Notes style. I also went to a math teacher in my school to help me talk through some formulas and concepts. He stared at my notes and said, “This is the best note taking I’ve ever seen.” Those notes and flashcards were in my bag wherever I went. At the end of the semester, I earned a B in both courses.

Getting Unstuck

Do you need to order or prioritize your thoughts or ideas? Are you wondering where to start? Or, do you need to push past a tough place? Getting started takes four steps.

First, identify why you’re stuck. There are a lot of causes for feeling stuck. You could lack energy, motivation, or direction.

Next, the key is to start. Starting is ten times better than fretting over the best way to start. 

The most import part of getting unstuck is realizing that moving from inactive to active involves transitioning from comfort to discomfort. The transition from your comfort zone to what you are uncomfortable with is often the bridge between goals or intentions and success. 

Often, we feel stuck when we don’t know what to do with the transition – the tough spot – the discomfort – fear – or anxiety. 

smiling male student with backpack
Photo by mimagephotography;

Here are a few stages for transitioning through the tough spot. 

  1. Acknowledge: Name the task before you and the result you want.
  2. Identify: Identify your comfort zone: your norms, regular routines, or strengths in this area, 
  3. Face: Consider the challenge you must complete to succeed at this task. Name the fears or discomfort involved in leaving the comfort zone and facing the challenge.
  4. Counteract: Reduce the discomfort by acknowledging the advantages awaiting you on the other side of the transition.
  5. Transition: Tackle the transition. Find one task – no matter the size – that will get you moving forward. And jump into the transition with that step. Push through the discomfort and keep going, step by step. Ignore the urge to perfect. Remember, learning and growing are keys to success.

Repeat this process as often as needed until the transition becomes a new norm. You will discover progress and growth. 

Here are some tips to guide you through the transition process, from stuck to productive.

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