There comes a time in any project when progress just seems to stall. You find yourself putting in the same amount of effort as before, but it just feels like you’re spinning your wheels. Sounds familiar? I bet it does – you hit a plateau.
The worst thing about this situation is the internal feelings of frustration we experience. There is a slight euphoria we get from accomplishing things. It comes along with a sense of forward momentum we get when our progress is on track. We come to expect and crave those things, and when we stall the spigot of good feelings gets shut off.
Fortunately, there’s a way out of this mess. Let me share with you three strategies you and your team can start using today to get back on track.
Let me start with the first one.
Don’t expect linear progress
Growth happens in spurts
Our minds expect and crave steady, predictable and linear progress. It’s one of the most addictive feelings there is. Unfortunately, in the real world progress is rarely steady, or predictable.
It tends to go like this.
You put in the work, nothing happens for a long time. You keep plodding ahead even when you’re really frustrated and nothing still happens. Then when you least expected you get the outcome that you were hoping for.
It sucks, but that’s how things happen. So set your expectations are that parts of your project will feel slower than molasses. You will be better equipped to deal with it, and can plan around it as well.
Learn to enjoy the process
Extreme result focus causes frustration
Successful people often attach their self esteem to how much progress they can make in a given day. While in general that’s a great attitude to have, it does have a downside.
It sets the expectations unrealistically high which leads to a drop in motivation once you hit a wall. Your activity level drops, which certainly doesn’t help things.
Try to think of it in a slightly different light. If you love the outcome the easiest way to it is to start loving the actions you must take to get you there.
This adjustment will take you away from having good days and bad days. It will take you to a place where every day is enjoyable because you will discover you actually enjoy what you do.
This brings us to the last tip.
Do fewer things
Clear your plate to avoid thrashing
Plateaus put us in a state of self-inflected stress. A response that often seems natural is to amp up the efforts and to try do more. However, you have to be careful there.
There’s a big difference between being your most effective self, and doing what I call ‘thrashing’.
Thrashing is when you are doing a ton of things, but really are going nowhere fast. Like that old Tasmanian Devil cartoon character – your feet are moving so fast you can’t even see them, but your position doesn’t change.
What will help you is doing away with task overload. Identify the proven activities that you know should bring you the result you’re after and focus on them. Focusing on the highest value work is always the answer.
It may seem a bit obvious but sometimes it takes an outsider to point it out to you. It’s often difficult to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. Doing fewer things and focusing on the highest value work is always the answer.
I wish I could tell you getting out of a rut and hitting the next level is easy. Truth is it’s not. There are golden nuggets here, but you need to know what to look for.
For one, hitting the next level is difficult for everyone. So take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in your struggle.
The other thing to keep in mind is this. Barriers are generally only bad when they are in your way. When they are in the way of your competition, they quickly stop being a bad thing.
So do yourself a favor. Take one of these tips and give it a try today.
Which one seems easiest to implement right now?
I would suggest starting with the first one. Begin to observe how you expected steady progress in the past, only to see that it happened on its’ own schedule. Since you are now aware of this pattern you will notice it everywhere.
All you have to do is think back on some previous experiences that you had, and you’ll that it’s true.
When you absorbed the first strategy, go in and put the others to use it a similar fashion.
It will make your uphill climb much easier, I promise.
While these strategies are extremely simple and may appear obvious, they are also super easy to miss. Which one do you think would be most helpful to the people you know?
Plateaus shake our confidence and make it hard to stay the course even though we realize it's what we must do. When it comes to the brass tacks, destroying plateaus is really about tapping into your unused inner strength.
Following the action steps will make it that much easier for you to persist long enough to see your breakthrough moment.