Getting stuck is frustrating.
But whether we're solving a problem, writing a book or preparing a presentation, sometimes we reach a dead end.
For some reason, we can’t complete our thought or brainstorm the next big idea, leaving our current work feeling flat and lifeless. It’s missing that oomph we need to push it over the top.
While there may be countless reasons as to why, it’s often hard to pinpoint them when you’re viewing the problem in the same way. When “different” is needed, a change of perspective can be just the thing.
Here are a few easy ways to take a step back, gain some perspective and return to your latest work problem recharged and invigorated.
1. Change the Scenery
Many of us are creatures of habit. We find comfort in consistency and often associate certain tasks with certain places or times of day.
Everything from where we work to where we sleep and eat are often the same day after day. Sometimes having a dedicated place for certain tasks makes sense. For example, mixing things up by sleeping on the kitchen floor instead of a bed isn’t a good choice.
However, a change of scenery for nearly anything else can help remove you from your typical habits and provide a fresh outlook. The good news is many of our daily activities can take place nearly anywhere, which offers the opportunity to switch up typical routines.
It’s helpful to first identify the places where you tend to spend most of your time and note a few ways to reduce the amount of time you spend there.
Common ones tend to be your desk, couch or car. While these areas may seem to be too difficult to give up, there is a reason for that — they are literally your comfort zone. All the more reason to shake things up.
Shifting your position shifts the way you take in your surroundings, which could help facilitate that breakthrough you’ve been looking for.
Can’t think of that slick new slogan while sitting at your desk computer? Try sitting outside with a pen and paper.
Having a hard time getting through to a coworker? Invite them for coffee outside the office. You may be surprised to find that a small deviation from the norm can open up new solutions.
2. Change the Company You Keep
Sometimes a change of scenery isn’t enough to help shift our perspective.
While our location certainly impacts our state of mind, the people around us can have an even larger impact — they influence our priorities and perspective.
On average, work accounts for 35 percent of our waking hours. That means a large portion of our time is spent surrounded by the thoughts and behaviors of our colleagues.
While we like to believe that we are impervious to the biases that surround us, in truth, our perspective is fairly impressionable.
While it's great to get out of the office for a beer or a bite to eat (change of scenery), conversations with work friends almost always find their way back to work topics, which will return you to the perspective you’re trying to alter.
Instead, try tapping into your other social circles. While your friends and family might not completely understand your work problems, they can help walk you through your process and approach, which can be just as important.
Since they are unfamiliar with the specifics, they’re able to help you widen the aperture on your mindset and see details you might not have noticed before.
3. Change Your Mindset
Changing your physical surroundings, such as location or company mentioned above, are the easier ways to gain perspective. Placing yourself in these new or unknown situations naturally forces you to think differently, even if just slightly.
However, at the end of the day, shifting your environment is really just an attempt to change something intangible — your mindset.
All too often we stress ourselves out with the clutter and conflict of balancing work and life. When a work project is on your mind, it feels like it is the only thing that matters when, in reality, it’s just another task.
Being hyper-focused creates a lot of undue pressure, which can block out external inspiration that might compliment or improve our work. It’s a self-imposed punishment and it’s times like this where we need to take a step back and reexamine our priorities.
Next time you’re stuck, try and force yourself to be more open to outside distractions.
Take a moment to recline in your chair or go for a walk. By ignoring all things besides work, we miss out on the valuable associations and links we can draw from the outside world.
In fact, some of the best inventions were accidents discovered by individuals taking notice of strange or interesting things outside their normal work.
By remaining open-minded and accepting to all potential options, we allow ourselves to constantly shift our perspective and view things in the best possible light.
Title image by Mark Daynes.