Feeling Stuck: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

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Now, let’s deal with the task at hand.

Now that you have calmed yourself down and got a clear head, it’s time to get on with the task. There are all sorts of techniques you can use, but I’m going to go through one I use a lot: the traffic light system.

The traffic light system

First, work out what you do know and don’t know using the traffic light system.

List out all the things that you feel you need to do; it could be as simple as:

  • Create a plan

  • Add the timeline

  • Build a team

  • Talk to someone

And you’ll find as you think and write, more ideas will come to mind. Keep building on that list, be creative, think of similar problems you have faced, and as you do, jot them all down.

Once you have exhausted ideas, go through the list and color code it as follows:

  • Know how to do it – GREEN

  • Have an idea on how to do it – AMBER

  • Absolutely no idea – RED

This process will take you from “I don’t know how” to “I have some idea how.” It will give you a visual representation of the task, with steps, and you may be surprised at how much green there is on the list. You probably know more than you think you know. We often do, but fear and panic can get in the way of clear thinking.

Who do you need to talk to?

Now you have a better idea of what needs to be done, talk to the people who will help you build on that. They may be part of your team, connected teams, a supplier, or maybe even a client.

This often is easier said than done, as insecurity can come into play. One of my clients once said, “But how can I ask for help? It is my job, and I am supposed to know how to do all of it.”

Together, we challenged this view of thinking by going through the ABCDE model that neuroscientist Giulia Panozzo talked about on my podcast.

ABCDE stands for:

Action

Belief

Consequence

Disrupter (another belief)

Energise

Learn more by listening to the podcast episode:

Using Neuroplasticity for Personal Growth with Giulia Panozzo — The SEO Mindset Podcast

In my client’s case, it went something like this —

Action — She didn’t want to ask for help.

Belief — She believed her job was to do it all and know it all, or else she wasn’t doing her job well.

Consequence — She was stuck in the project

Disrupter — Her manager was someone who was there to support her. Someone she could learn from, and this project was an opportunity to grow.

Energize — With this new belief, she could feel energized and move forward.

By speaking to others, and leveraging their knowledge and expertise, continue building a plan and/or solution for the task that will help you gain progress.

What do you need to learn?

This step is about is about figuring out what you need to know. That may be a course, a book, learning from someone in your organization, and so forth. And remember, you don’t have to learn everything, just the bit that takes you forward.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn more, read more, or do the whole course, but as a person with these tendencies, I know it can delay the actual progress of taking action.

Take action

So, remember that traffic light exercise? And the subsequent steps to find out more? Don’t wait to have an entire board of green or to ‘know it all’ before you start. It won’t happen, and you actually don’t need to. As you start having a go, you’ll learn more, and the project will open up.

Often, while searching for a perfect solution, it can feel easier and safer to get lost in the details and planning or get busy with other tasks. These actions could be rooted in fear of failure, reluctance to venture out of the comfort zone, or not feeling confident.

However, confidence will come from taking action, so just start!

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