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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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« The 7-Step Journey | Are Your Pants Too Tight? »

Stuck? 7 "Now What" Tips

When you are stuck, how do you figure out the next step? I asked several of my wonderful colleagues (Geralin Thomas, Andrea Sharb, Tracey Foulkes, April Lane Benson, Sue West, Val Sgro, Yota Schneider) to think about this question and share their personal strategies with us. Their fabulous responses are filled with honesty, humor, and creativity. My gratitude goes to each of them for taking the time to reflect, and give us their insightful, encouraging words of wisdom. If you are feeling stuck, perhaps one of these ideas will work for you.


When you are stuck, how do you figure out the next step? . . .

1. Help Another

“When stuck I intentionally and purposefully find someone who needs help and then I help them. Helping someone who needs or wants assistance forces me to think about something other than whatever current challenge I'm dealing with. I've learned that being isolated rarely helps me figure out my next steps and while it's much easier to stay home alone, I've found that being helpful is the antidote to being stuck.”

Geralin Thomas, CPO-CD, Professional Organizer & Organizing Instructor


2. Coach Self

“When I’m stuck, I coach myself, like I’d coach a client. I get curious about my roadblock and what can get me going again. Questions like:  What is really getting in the way of me moving forward? What do I want from the project? What makes the project important to me?  What has worked for me in the past in similar situations? These questions will generally get me beyond stuck.

Andrea Sharb, CPO-CD, ACC, COC, CPO, Professional Organizer & Coach


3. Call Accountability Buddy

“I freak out, and then procrastinate. Get annoyed at myself for procrastinating and start asking why I'm freaking out. It's usually from overwhelm, taking on too much, or being shoved in a direction outside my comfort zone. I then call on an accountability buddy (I have a few), and unpack what I am thinking and feeling. Breathe, then break into my favourite mantra 'absolutely no excuses' - pick myself up and step forward. Success is in the doing, so I might as well just get it done."

Tracey Foulkes, Productivity Specialist 


4. Pause First

“When I'm stuck, the first thing I do is take a pause to clear my head. I might meditate and then go outside (no matter what the weather) and do some kind of physical exercise. Then I'm likely to start making notes or talk to a friend about my stuckness, try to pull it apart, and look closely at just one piece of it. Finally, I carefully set a realistic, measurable goal related to that one piece which continues to melt some of the glue!”

April Lane Benson, Ph.D., Psychologist & Author 


5. Activate Strengths

“I use several strategies, mostly taking advantage of my natural verbal processing. These also compensate for not being able to order steps as well in my head as outside my head. I use a written set of decision-making criteria to filter business ideas through. I talk through the problem aloud to myself, to a colleague or my business coach. I write about where I am stuck. I’ll map out the steps to a process so I can see a logical next step. I’ll research to access my intuition or sometimes to gain confidence. I’ll use strategies from a similar situation simply to gain momentum.” 

Sue West, CPO-CD, COC, CPO, Professional Organizer, Coach, & Author


6. Research, Sleep, or Chew

“It all depends what I'm stuck on. If it requires an answer I can research, I go to the Internet; if I need basic knowledge, I use the children's section of the public library. If it requires judgment, I seek the advice of trusted colleagues, and then I sleep on it. If I'm stuck writing a passage in one of my novels, I pace around, talk to myself, and literally chew on something; somehow the chewing motion unleashes the creative part of my brain.”

Val Sgro, Professional Organizer & Author


7. Be Patient and Open

“Life experience does come in handy. It helps me to remember that I’ve been there, done that before and I came out all right. This knowledge strengthens my resolve and confidence in the fact that, eventually, it will all work out! Invariably though, I have to surrender to the process and allow the answers to come to me, at their proper time! I have to be willing to stay open to the experience of being stuck! This is the greatest challenge . . . doing what’s in front of me while waiting for the fog to lift - when time and circumstance are ripe for me to act!” 

Yota Schneider, Life Transitions Coach

Which strategies resonate with you? While I appreciate and use many of these strategies, the one I focused on this past year was Yota’s. Today marks the one year anniversary of my Dad’s passing. I had to be patient and wait for the “fog to lift” before figuring out next. Sometimes we’re able to force ourselves forward and other times we need that waiting space as we travel through a transition. I’d love to hear from you. Come join the conversation and share your thoughts about being stuck, favorite strategies, or next steps.

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Reader Comments (28)

Great post sharing lots of ways to get unstuck! Partnering always resonates with me, so having an accountability partner someone else to help, I know that this is my strength.

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

The variety of these remarks is wonderful. I printed the article so that the next time I'm stuck I can refer to these fantastic strategies and find one that will work for me in that moment. I can see how the different strategies will work for me at different times.

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Ellen- Wonderful that you know what works for you when you're stuck. Have you had the same accountability partner for a long time? What makes a good accountability partner?

@Diane- Very resourceful to have these strategies at your ready. I can also see activating certain ones depending upon the situation. Isn't it great to have all these possible tools by our side for ourselves and our clients?

March 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

This made me smile especially seeing as though I have just come off a Skype call where my client can't believe that I also have wobble and/or derailed days.

And I agree, there is tremendous power in 'pause'.

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTracey Foulkes

I tend to go with #3. I've had an accountability partner since last August, and we've helped each other through many tough decisions. Sometimes all we need is someone to say "Yes, you're doing the right thing" to get past that bump.

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

I love this post--what marvelous insights. And such a great variety! Thanks so much for posting it, Linda.

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanine Adams

@Tracey- Glad to bring on the smiles. Yes. Organizers are human too! Thank you for your great share and honest admission of "freak out and procrastination."

@Janet- Love that phrase..."get past that bump." It's a great image when thinking about getting past stuck and figuring out that next step. It sounds like quite a few people here are successfully using accountability partners.

@Janine- Great to know you enjoyed this post! I love asking these questions and am always pleasantly surprised with the "variety" of responses that come in. Love the unique approaches.

March 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

So, today is the one year anniversary of your Dad's passing. Hugs to you, Linda! Thank you for sharing this day with us.
Isn't it amazing how landmark life changes, like endings or new beginnings, can have similar impact on how we feel? There will be denial, irritation, and there will be fog! The journey through transition is similar and when we come to the other side, we are not the same people. We've changed and grown and deepened.
I do love the idea of pausing and how the people we surround ourselves with, can hold the space for us to grow.

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Thank you, Yota for your lovely words of support and understanding. You know all about the fog too. And yes...the journey through, changes us. Grateful for those that have held the space and us during the transition. Growth is most definitely on the other side.

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, fabulous collection! Val Sgro nailed it for me. The power of the internet and a little imagination are my life savers when having to produce quickly. When stuck and overwhelmed, a good night's sleep puts things in perspective.

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Seavey

There's a word that popped into my head as I read everyone's posts this morning - faith. Faith in ourselves, in our strengths. Faith in our community, our family, our extended families. Faith that what has worked for us before might just work again. And faith that a short or long pause might be the most useful approach we can take sometimes. And Linda, faith in yourself as you remember and live with your father's presence each day.

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

@Rachel- Fabulous that you've got your getting past stuck "life savers." Isn't it great to activate strategies that work for you when you need them?

@Sue- You just gave me goosebumps. What a beautiful word, "faith" to connect all of us together. Thank you for that and for the special nod to my Dad.

March 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Sue West - What a beautiful way to sum it all up! Thank you!

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Wonderful ladies, just wonderful. I have at many times employed one or the other techniques. If it's something that requires time I can be found at the gym pounding the floor. This clears my head and allows me to see things in a different perspective.

Sometimes being stuck is because it's beyond our control to change any given situation.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterValerie Candela

Valerie- So glad you joined in the conversation. How great that you use exercising as a healthy way to clear your head when feeling stuck. You bring up an interesting point that sometimes stuck happens due to situations beyond our control. I wonder if perspective shifts help at those times. What do you think?

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

I just read this quote. I didn't fact-check it but, accurate or not, I think it's relevant to this discussion: "A problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it." ~ John Steinbeck

I like that: "The Committee of Sleep." Maybe the most productive committee on earth.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterValentina Sgro

Thank you Linda. Absolutely sometimes our minds are bogged down and over stimulated.
Women have a tendency to multitask automatically due to raising children and husbands. If we can just step outside the box, exercise, walk along the river, vent to a friend or talk to oneself, sometimes being stuck can be perceived as a pebble in the path. This thought a pebble rather than a bolder allows us to take a small step forward thus slowly unsticking us from our mental confines.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentervalerie Candela

@Val- Thank you for this wonderful Steinbeck quote about the "committee of sleep." This is a great reminder that sleep not only renews our minds and bodies, which enable us to make clearer decisions, but it also gives us that pause. So often in the busyness of life, we forget that we have the "slow down" option. Relaxing our minds can produce the clarity for next.

@Valerie- Beautiful reframing of our obstacles from "bolders" to "pebbles," and focusing on small steps to move ahead. Our attitude can greatly influence how we perceive next and our ability to go forward.

March 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I certainly had a shift of perspective this weekend! With all this talk of being"stuck" last week---I stated that I felt being "stuck" was a choice--as if we could control it---in other words"get over it and stop being stuck..move on!" Well, I eat my words--and publicly confess that this weekend, I got sort of "stuck" on a design project I was working on..nothing seemed to look good.....but worked through it--just kept pluggin' away, trying different things--and it all worked out--I think my client will be happy..let's hope!?

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaneen Violante

Janeen- Thank you for sharing or should I say, publicly "confessing" your "stuck" story. Maybe we can't control getting stuck, but we can choose the perspective we have to accompany that state, as you clearly did. I'm sure many readers will relate to what you shared. I'm curious...what allowed you to keep "pluggin' away" even in the face of feeling stuck? What did you tell yourself as you went through the process of pushing ahead?

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Love the variety of answers from your correspondents, Linda -- all so helpful! I have also used NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) programs, working with NLP coach Shannon Wilkinson, which are great for getting majorly unstuck.

To Val Sgro's response, I recently read that chewing gum (or chewing anything, really) actually does activate the brain and help with decision making, so it's not just "in our heads." :-)

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret Lukens

Well, Linda, my design work is so personal to me..each job becomes "my baby" (I can't help it!) To keep pluggin' away through stuck, I tell myself "try something different, take a walk, step away from the designs, come back fresh" all THAT kind of stuff! And always back to "solve the problem, solve the problem"...what is the design 'problem' here that needs solving.

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaneen Violante

Doing Qigong every morning is having a huge difference. I have all this new energy to move stuck energy.

I also get a haircut when I am feeling a need to get my mind organized.

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGerry Monaghan

@Margaret- Thank you for bringing NLP to the conversation. What a great resource especially in the "stickiest" of situations. Fascinating that you found research that supports the "chewing" strategy that Val uses. Love it!

@Janeen- You have strategies upon strategies that help you move past stuck from physical activation to giving your brain a break to creatively approaching a design solution. Your clients are lucky to have you in their corner!

@Gerry- Moving "stuck energy." I love the sound of that. Amazing that getting your haircut organizes your mind. I'm glad that works for you. For you, how does the haircut connect to being unstuck or the organizing piece?

March 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I feel like I have been "stuck" int he sahara for near 20years now. The sahara does not bear fruit. It's past time to become a butterfly but just can't seem to be able to find a way out of the cacoon.

April 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterceltic

@Celtic- While I can hear your frustration coming through, I am taken by the beautiful imagery you've chosen to express it. What would unstuck look like?

April 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you all for your wonderful insights and strategies to getting un-stuck.
I totally relate with Tracey on the "overwhelm and freaking out part". Talking with a good partner always helps me see how simple things are.

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

Helena- We all get stuck sometimes, don't we? This generous group has helped us normalize that being stuck is part of the human experience…and provided us with some great strategies for getting unstuck too. I'm with you on the "talking with a good partner." Having that trusted listener to focus and reflect back is invaluable.

April 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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