In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to get unstuck when you’re trying to complete a project.
Sometimes when we’re trying to complete a project or a task, we may get stuck at some stage and not know how to get past it. This is very common and not knowing how to get past this can reduce your productivity or cause frustration.
In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what causes people to become stuck, tips that can help you get unstuck and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About today’s topic.
00:35 About Brain.fm and how it can help you focus.
03:00 The first tip that can help you get unstuck.
04:39 How doing this one tip can raise your confidence.
04:45 Hiten’s number one way to get unstuck.
05:09 Another thing Hiten does to get unstuck.
07:06 Another thing that helps Hiten gets unstuck.
08:51 How getting in the mode of getting things done can help you get unstuck.
09:45 An example of how to get into a flow.
3 Key Points:
- I’ll reach out to people that I know have successfully done this in the past.
- I do these really weird things to get unstuck.
- Writing is really helpful to me.
Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli Efti: And today on this startup chat we’re going to talk about tips and tricks to get unstuck.
Hiten Shah: I am such a fan of these kind of topics. One, because I think you and I have a lot of thoughts on a lot of things, and that’s why people listen to the startup chat. And one thought I have is that everyone who’s listening in can do it, because some of you are not able to do this yet, but you should do this later. Go to brain.fm/startupchat. The reason for that is it’s a service we’ve partnered with to be a sponsor of the podcast. It’s a service both Steli and I use and it’s one that we think you should check out, no matter what. It’s only $40 a year, or $6 a month with our 20% discount. And it’s going to actually give you music to help you either focus, relax, or sleep. And the reason I am such a big proponent of it is because it works for me. And same with Steli. He’s told me it works for him. We primarily use the focus music because we work and we want to focus. And I actually use the relax version a little bit ago once and I found the music to be actually, not even just relaxing, it just put me in a different mindset really quickly once I was ready to relax. So, computer was off, I was on my phone, I use brain.fm on my phone, and that’s what happened. We do have sponsors now, and it’s only sponsors whose products we really believe in. I know everybody says that, but I’m not kidding. Go to brain.fm/startupchat, and just check it out. It’s so inexpensive. It’s basically the cheapest way I’ve found to focus and give me something that usually before I quit caffeine I was doing with caffeine. And caffeine, specifically coffee, I still drink tea, but I’ve actually even lowered my tea consumption more recently. And this is almost like a shot of espresso when you turn it on and you start using it to focus. Brain.ft/startupchat.
Steli Efti: Beautiful. All right, so the how to get unstuck. Right? Let’s maybe go back and forth and share some of the tricks, tips, or some of our go-to methods to get unstuck. Whenever we get into a project, a task, or anything where we feel stuck, anything that we’re ever trying to accomplish something, we’re trying to complete something, and in the middle, at the beginning, or just before the end, we feel stuck for whatever reason. I’ll give you my first tip that comes to mind here. To me, if it’s something more complicated, if there’s something that I’ve done for the very first time, so maybe part of me being stuck is that I just don’t know how to do this or it doesn’t feel like familiar territory or I’m not a 100% confidence that the way I’m approaching this as right and I’m just fucking around too much. What I have found oftentimes is that, yeah, I want to do a little bit of online research and try to see if I can learn the basics and come up with a game plan of how to tackle this project or this task. But the other thing, if it’s a really important one, is that I will reach out to two or three people that I know are awesome, that have done this type of thing before many times successfully, and I’ll just ask them for 10 minutes of their time. I’ll tell them, “Hey, here’s what I’m trying to do. This is the project, this is the task, this is the responsibility I have. This is the way I’m thinking about tackling it. Give me feedback. Give me an idea. What are some things you wish you’d known? What are some pitfalls to avoid?” And, beyond the knowledge that I’m getting from maybe doing three calls each, 10 minute with three friends or three people that I admire or that I respect, is the motivation and inspiration it gives me. Just talking to a bunch of smart people about the way they’ve done this before will put me in a much more excited, much when inspired mood, and it will raise my confidence level to go, “You know what? Maybe I’ve over thought this. Maybe this isn’t that complicated.” Or maybe when I talk to somebody and tell them, “Hey, I started working on this project, in the middle I just got stuck, I can’t find the motivation. I can’t find the clarity. How do I get over this?” Just talking it, verbalizing and externalizing it oftentimes can help me. This is not something I do all the time, but when it’s a really important project or something that’s really impactful and I get stuck somewhere, I’ll reach out and ask for help and just talk to a few smart people about it, and 9 out of 10 times they’ll help me.
Hiten Shah: Yeah. My number one way to get unstuck is take a quick nap, like a power nap, because I know that my thoughts really crystallize if I take a quick nap. Another thing is I go for a walk. Sometimes I’ll just pace around my house. So I work from home quite a bit and I’ll just pace around my house. Sometimes it’s even more effective than going outside for a walk. Part of it is the familiarity of my house. I can even tell you right now, I have a carpet, I don’t know how we got this carpet, that has a bunch of circles in it, round circles in different colors and they overlap. And I can’t tell you how many times I remember those circles. Right now, even the memory of those circles is coming back, when I’ve tried to solve a problem I have in my head and walking around. I have a counter in the kitchen, sometimes my family will see me just walking around the counter. And there’s something about this repetition that just gets it going for me. And it’s almost like I’m repeating some thought in my head. I’m stuck on it. So by going in circles somewhere, I’m getting it out of my head and doing something repetitive in the physical world, that’s really helpful. So I do these really weird things. I would say seemingly weird things to get unstuck. I think I really like your idea about talking to someone, an expert or someone. I generally will, there’s at least one or two people I’ll call or just go talk to if I’m stuck. And those people are generally people who I feel very comfortable saying whatever to. And they’re generally people who I have no friction with. So, even if it’s someone I work with, it’s someone who almost like I could say whatever and they’re not going to judge it. Or, if it’s a friend, it’s a friend… I think friends don’t want anything from you and don’t want anything from each other. That’s like the [inaudible] of that. And so I have some friends like that who just tell me their deepest darkest thoughts and issues and all that. And when they’re stuck they’ll definitely ping me, and I do the same with them. So, it’s something where you are stuck and you probably don’t have a way out, but there’s a lot of different methods you can use. One final one I’ll share, just because we’ve been jamming on this, is writing. Writing is really helpful to me. And I love writing on my phone. And so, I’ll just pick up my phone, open my notes app and just go. And that’s been probably one of the easiest things I can do that doesn’t bother anyone else either.
Steli Efti: I love it. All right, so I heard this a long time ago, and this actually came from somebody that was talking about productivity, but he came much more from a clinical psychotherapy background. And he came up with this great metaphor that when you are stuck with something, it’s similar to having paralysis. And when somebody has paralysis in some part of their body, let’s say, it’s not so much that the neurons are not firing, that the entire nervous system in their arm is saying nothing, or say pause. It’s actually that it’s firing, stop, go, stop, go, or left, right, left, right, left, right. So the neurons are firing on opposite ends all the time, which is what makes the arm not being able to move, for instance. Right? And he used that as a metaphor for when we are stuck. It’s not so much that we’re just pausing or stopping somewhere. It’s that we’re going back and forth between things. Right? That creates the sensation and the phenomenal feeling of being stuck. And I love that because that then leads to one of the tips that I’ve learned from him, or from that person that I heard this from, which is when you have a difficult time completing a task or getting unstuck from something, try to get into the flow and mode of getting things done. And he was even going so ridiculous of saying you could do the simplest things on earth, you could just even be like, okay, write down 10 tasks, even if they’re bullshit tasks, like you have four books on your desk, and you have a bookshelf, putting the books in the bookshelf, is one task. And then, whatever, putting all the dirty laundry outside the room into the laundry room or something. It could be the smallest of things. Folding my t-shirt. Just make a list of things and complete them. And this could be maybe smaller tasks. This is something that I like to do sometimes. Just to ask myself, “What are some super small tasks that I could complete at the first go, and how can I do that for a 30 minute timeframe or so?” It needs around 30 minutes for me to really get into a state of completing things into the zone of flow. And so, if I go and I complete a task, complete the next task, complete the next task. I’m building momentum and getting into a flow and then I’ll re-attack this bigger task or bigger project that I felt stuck in, because oftentimes the sensation of the phenomenon of being stuck, to me, comes from I’m starting to work on this thing and then I distract myself with something else and then with something else and then I go back and forth, and then there’s three options of how I could finish this and I’m not sure, I’m thinking about all three options, and then I get distracted again by something else. I’m just adding more and more distractions, and going more and more directions. And that creates more and more tension in the body. Which is another tip that I’ll say. So one is get into a state of completing things, even if it’s small things, before you re-attack the bigger task. The other thing is physical sensation is such a great way to reverse engineer this problem. A lot of times for many people, when they get stuck, it comes with a physical sensation. The physical sensation is tension. Right? It means you might start breathing less and more shallow. You might be tensing up your body, your muscles, your posture might be changing. Those are all things that are happening on consciously, but they’re adding to that. If you are getting stuck in a task, I guarantee you your posture’s not going to be great, your breathing is not going to be deep and in a good rhythm and healthy. There’s going to be physical manifestations of that. So, what you can do is reverse engineer that and go, “Wait, I’m stuck.” This is what you, I think, part of what walking around for instance can do. Maybe just take 10 super deep breaths. Walk around to get your body in a better posture, to get more oxygen, to be outside. But it helps me sometimes just to do the 10 deep breath thing where I feel tense, tense, tense, and then I realize that and I recognized that tenseness, and I go, “Okay, stand up, take 10 super deep breaths, oxygen, relax the body, put your body in a better posture, sit down, re-attack this thing, and get unstuck.
Hiten Shah: I really like that. And I like that it’s backs by someone who would know. That’s the important piece.
Steli Efti: Yeah. All right. I think that’s it from us for a couple of tips on how to get unstuck. If you have some, we always love to hear from them. [Agentchai] gmail.com. Steli@close.com. And as Hiten said, make sure to go to brain.fm./startupchat to get 20% off of the subscription, a service that we both love and that helps us, has helped me numerous times, no bullshit here, to get unstuck. When I don’t feel that productive, it’s become a go-to. I just go to brain.fm, start playing a playlist. Within like 10, 15 minutes, it helps me get in the zone. So it’s been super, super useful with that. All right. This is it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.
Hiten Shah: Later.