Ask Unstuck: Plan, yes. Action, no.

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How frustrating is it when we can’t pull the trigger on our plans? It’s like an invisible force is blocking our progress and we can’t fix it because we can’t see it. That’s the kind of stuck moment Debbi and Maria wrote to us about.

Debbi recently divorced and wants to sell her house. She’s got everything down on paper: declutter, pack, clean, get maintenance done. But she’s too overwhelmed to actually start. Maria also has an organized agenda, with a clear goal, set priorities, and a schedule — but she doesn’t stick to it because she let’s herself get distracted.

Both of you well-intentioned women sound like you’re having an Idle Achiever moment. You actually have started by making a plan, but you aren’t following through, which, unlike Avoiders, is not typical for you. Likely, you’re nervous about what it will mean to put your plan in motion.

In other words, you’ve thought through your plans, but you may not have felt through your plans. Is there something scary about what you’re doing? The unknown? Committing to something new? Doing a less-than-perfect job?

Unstuck’s “Tell Me Why” tool helps you get to the reason behind your resistance. (You can download the free Unstuck iPad app here.) If you don’t have the app handy, you can re-create the experience by writing down why you think you’re not acting on your plans. Next, look at your answer and ask yourself, “why is that?” Write down that answer. Repeat this process at least three more times. The more honest you are, the more likely your final answer will put you at the root of the problem.

Getting to the heart of it often delivers a solution. But not always. In which case, visualize yourself to do it. Close your eyes and imagine you’re doing what you’ve been avoiding. Fill in all the details: What you’re wearing, who’s there, music in the background, what you’re throwing out, piles you’re making. Picturing this can lessen your fear because, in a way, you’ll feel like you’ve already done it, making it easier to do again. Be patient with this process. You may need to repeat it a few times before you can actually get going.

As for distraction, it seems that even the most dedicated doers gets diverted these days, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer some tips to overcome it.

• Apply pressure. If you think you perform better under pressure, then create some for yourself. Come up with a consequence for unfinished work and find a way to hold yourself accountable (“If I don’t get all the clutter off the mantle today I will go to the beach in a swimsuit one size too small.”) To formalize this process, use Unstuck’s “Now or Never” tool — and make sure you tell someone about your pledge.

• Get help. Similar to applying pressure but less harsh, when someone helps you, or just checks in from time to time, your desire to be perceived positively (e.g., getting it done) can override any fear that may be tempting you to play Bejeweled.

• Create a focus sheet. Entrepreneur James Rick recommends writing out your goals for the day every morning. List the tasks associated with those goals, create a schedule, and then record a timeline of how you spent your time. For more details, check out his video here.

Last week’s Ask Unstuck: How do I find more time?

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