Mental blocks are every professional’s worst nightmare, yet they inevitably pop up when you work on a big project. You start out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, making a ton of progress, and then for some reason, you hit a psychological wall and can’t move forward. Or else you lose the motivation to continue.
Perhaps you are just so fixated on making every detail perfect that you become paralyzed with the fear of failure. Or maybe you have so much left to do that the task ahead seems too daunting to handle.
These experiences are normal, so don't beat yourself up if you're stuck in a rut. Instead of trying to power through these complicated and often conflicting feelings, consider the following seven effective -- yet decidedly nonintuitive ways -- to surpass mental blocks.
When you are feeling stuck, open up a new Word doc, and start writing about whatever is on your mind. This technique is called freewriting, and it is commonly utilized by prose writers to brainstorm new plot points and re-energize thought processes. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes and write down everything you think of, both related and unrelated to your work. It may start out as a page of gibberish, but soon ideas will start to flow.
Group similar thoughts and phrases together and leverage them to move forward. For more tips on how to freewrite, check out author and marketing consultant Mark Levy’s book, Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content.
2. Tackle smaller tasks first.
If you feel overwhelmed by how little you have progressed, take a break and work on a few mindless tasks that require little attention or thought and allow the mind to wander. Wash the dishes, organize your bookshelf, sift through unread emails or do laundry. By accomplishing small wins, you develop momentum and confidence to overcome your mental block.
Taking a step back may also help you gain clarity and perspective on the root cause of the block, allowing you to think about how you can move forward more efficiently in the future.
3. Change your environment.
The cleanliness of your workspace affects your performance and mood at work. Having a neat, organized desk will improve your productivity and focus. On the other hand, a messy space can enhance creativity and help you gain fresh insights. Play around with your home or office environment and discover what works best for you.
If you find yourself still stuck, then switch up your scenery. Our minds associate places with feelings and activities, so if you are consistently frustrated or are procrastinating in your cramped studio apartment, you may discover that your mind is actively sabotaging your success while you're at home. Move to a coffee shop or even a beach towel in your backyard, and leave your mental block behind.
4. Learn something new.
Oftentimes when we encounter mental blocks, we ruminate over the same old ideas without thinking outside of the box. Expose yourself to new ways of thinking by learning something new. Read an article outside of your field, cook a meal that you have never attempted before or follow a how-to guide on juggling. Whatever you choose to engage in, line up new experiences to set your brain on course to think in novel ways. Get your mind to expand laterally, enhancing your creativity and problem-solving capabilities.
5. Revisit past experiences.
Remember a time when you felt happier, more creative or more inventive. Look at old pictures or listen to music that reminds you of better days and visualize yourself back in those environments. By returning back to a time and place where you felt less discouraged or unproductive, you can harness the positive energy you had back then to push yourself forward and accomplish even more.
6. See what your friends are up to.
Social media can be a great place for sourcing inspiration, but instead of actively looking for things that will spark your creativity, spend time researching what your acquaintances, family members and friends have been up to. This may give you new ideas on how to approach issues that you are stuck on, or may lead you to connect with folks able to help you move forward.
If you feel low about yourself, be careful not to compare yourself with how your friends present themselves online, as that is an ineffective way to connect with your network. What's more important is that it is harmful to your productivity.
7. Analyze other people’s ideas.
If you have thought backwards, forwards and all around your mental block to no avail, take to the Internet and research how other people have approached the issues you are trying to solve. Break down what makes their ideas work, gain inspiration from their theories, then slowly create your own ways of doing things or understanding different concepts.
What are your best tricks for breaking through mental blocks?