A few questions from a reader today -
I've been in a slump recently where I have gotten very little done, and i was trying to figure out how to stop it. I could clearly see I was slacking off, falling into a pattern (probably an old one) of using my time more or less pointlessly and getting only the essentials done (which i was greatful for). I was able to turn a good portion of the wasted time toward something productive, but the time itself I still consider a waste, things I was doing without an intension to use the experience.
So I have two question here. Whats the best way to pull yourself out of a slump, to re-engage yourself and bring yourself back up to the projected level of prductivity (or at least a realistic level) ?
Fundamentals. Fundamentals are the only way out of slumps. A little exercise, a little eating well, enough sleep, some time in nature or breathing, some time with people you like, setting goals at the beginning of the day for the day, starting work on those right away, and sleeping on a decent schedule.
That's the only way I've found. There's no magic. When in a rut, work on fundamentals to get out. While that's not always easy, that seems to be the only way. Also, celebrate the small victories. If you're off-track and doing things even a little right, have a little celebration.
And something I'm curious about, should we schedule fun? We run into the wall and sometimes and have no choice but to slow down, however should we predict hitting the wall? Should we make time to do nothing, or is that ultimately not wise.
I don't, but I know some people who do and swear by it. I mostly just track my time, and if the numbers start to get out of whack I adjust. If I notice a long string of days in a row with no reading, no relaxing, and no socializing, that's worrying.
I don't explicitly schedule it, but you might try it. I might try it sometime... right now, I feel like I get enough downtime that I don't need to go out of the way to get more, but it's an interesting idea. If I'm not taking any good downtime for a while (note: surfing the net aimlessly doesn't qualify as "good downtime" for me, you're not exactly relaxed and recharged afterwards), then I try to get some in once I notice that.
Another thing I've noticed, part of the wall, is the knowledge wall. That feeling of an obstacle when you don't have enough information to work on, and can't proceed without more information.
This can be harmful in a few ways. It can make an easy task seem impossible. It can add fear and hopelessness to a project, and it can leave you with an inaccurate view of reality.
I used to feel like this sometimes a few years ago, but I don't any more. It's mostly from having conversations and connecting with people who've done the impossible.
Judd is big about always saying, "What one man can do, another man can do." I think I largely got that from him, plus just seeing a lot of other people do a lot of things. I'd recommend you spend some time learning about people who've regularly defied the odds and done immense amounts of stuff. When there's a will...
A couple ways of getting around this lack of knowledge is of course (in oder of ease) Google, books, and asking someone directly (books is first because books are never to busy). Most of the time i find myself hitting this wall, I stop short of doing any actual research on it. The few times i have gone further and done the research and gotten the experience it was immanently gratifying, but it is still hard to make that step. Even when i have a tutorial on programming bookmarked, a click or two away, i cant move the mouse over to click it. Theres some force holding me back. This seems to be a two part problem, knowing you can get the knowledge, then actually getting it.
You have already covered taking that step over the second barrier, but what about the first one? Encountering a problem, seeing that you have no clue how to proceed, then giving up?
Interestingly enough, I'd rank the order of difficulty differently - I'd put "asking someone directly" first in terms of ease and reliability of success.
You only really need to know and be friendly/useful/connected with 3-5 talented people to cover the vast majority of questions you'd have. They'll either know, or can pass along an introduction to someone who does know, or can point you at the right reference.
If you don't currently have people you can call on for advice in your life, that's something that takes a while to build. Follow up with people religiously, be fanatically loyal, be useful and look for opportunities to serve, and put yourself out there. It takes a while, there's no fast way to do it. But it's incredibly valuable, probably even necessary for high levels of success. Be as useful as you can to people.
If the interpersonal stuff doesn't come easy, I'd recommend two books - How to Win Friends and Influence People is good to start with, then probably Never Eat Alone after that. Try to practice the ideas in them. Then legitimately try to be useful and serve, even far above and beyond what most people do. You'll get to know reliable, helpful people pretty quickly if you do that.
You can try breaking the problem down into smaller tasks and looking around for information on how to proceed, but thats in step two. My question is, how do you get over that stock, that frozen state where your confronted with a problem, your own lack of resources, and decide to surrender yourself to fate?
Gosh, there's so many ways to answer this.
The one word answer might be, "Slowly." You push your capacity and limits as much as you can, you trend upwards gradually, and you build your will and habits and capability over time. I still fall short on my campaigns and objectives a hell of a lot of the time. Better than I used to be, probably very good by some external benchmark, but still nowhere near what I'd like. I reckon that's normal though. Slow, gradual trend upwards. Start more, work a little more, pick up the pace, ship earlier. It takes practice.
Lack of resources? Mostly irrelevant. You can build/acquire any resources you need, given effort. Again, it takes time. If you don't have a nice mix of reliable people in your life, then brush up on your interpersonal skills and start making yourself extraordinarily useful to people. Just mix trying to be useful and serving in with your daily life, with whatever else you're doing, and then follow up with people.
Low on money? Cut your spending to bare bones, get a raise if you're salaried, and otherwise be more expansive if you're solo or a business owner... cut expenses, live like a monk, bank cash like crazy. Start by tracking your spending to find out where it goes, cut it lower, earn more, bank cash.
So there's money and people right there. With enough money and good people in your life, most other resources ought to be acquirable.
Beyond that, cultivate more ego and stronger will. Maybe become more stubborn. "Surrender to fate"? Most of the successful people I know spit in fate's direction. I'd recommend you read some biographies of strong-willed people, or start by wiki-walking through biographies and eras. Tokugawa Ieyasu is a good guy to read about. Miyamoto Musashi, too. Study people who broke fate to their will.
Beyond that? Slowly. It takes a while. I'm still working on it, maybe you never finish working on it.
thanks as always for reading, and for everything you've helped me with so far
time tracking is making me aware of some crucial habits i have, and life seems to have more meaning when your making it meaningful with your own power
P.S- If this gets posted in the blog, just letting other readers know not to be so nervous about emailing him, he's a nice guy and will generally reply positively and quickly to your questions
Sure Joe, glad you've enjoyed it thus far. I'm not nice though! I'm a cruel and vicious imperialist. But yeah, I try to answer my email. Thanks for writing in. Make yourself into one of the most useful people you know, serve people, be fanatically loyal, and stay in touch with them. This leads to having good friends and advisors, who help a lot when you hit a knowledge gap. If you don't have resources, build them. Cash isn't a bad place to start - cut expenses to bare bones, earn more, and bank as much as you can. Cultivate stronger will and more ego. Read about people who break fate to their will and learn from them.
What one man can do, another man can do.
Godspeed and best wishes.