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​Going from Blocked to Boosted in Four Steps

​Going from Blocked to Boosted in Four Steps

Are you struggling to start a project? Or are you deep in the midst of that project that continues to haunt you - the end frustratingly out of reach?

In my work as a project manager I have learned certain tactics for goals that I have personally used. These are tactics that heighten the chance that you can achieve that seemingly unreachable goal without going completely insane.

You will be relieved to know it is not your fault. The truth is our brain’s default is to do what it has always done. Without routine, the brain “panics” and naturally tries to pull us back to the “safety” of a past routine. But we know that the safety of a routine is not conducive to innovation and progress.

Managing your brain is important. Why? Because whatever is accomplished has impact. What goes unaccomplished has no chance for an impact.

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1) Name the goal.

What is that goal that is currently eluding you? Even if you think you know the goal, write it out by hand. Restating the goal in writing cements it in your brain. I suggest you use the following form:

My goal is to _____ so that I can ____.

2) Recognize the excuses.

The moment you name (or rename) your goal, your brain will immediately deliver excuses, giving you numerous reasons why it is not possible, why any action you take will not work, etc. Being cognizant of your brain’s tactics is key here. Here are some of my brain’s favorites:

  • I don't know...
  • I don't have the time...
  • I'll do it tomorrow/later...
  • What if...
  • I forget...
  • I just can't think or get going...
  • I cannot choose...
  • I cannot because...
  • I don't have...
  • They said....
  • It is/will take too long...
  • I meant to but...
  • I don't know...
  • I have to research, read x books...

Realizing the excuses causes discomfort. We will need to accept the reality of excuses and still take action, albeit uncomfortably. What have you been saying to yourself? Do I know for a fact that it is true?

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3) Plan for the obstacles.

There will be obstacles to any goal. Any goal without obstacles is unlikely to have been a challenging improvement, learning opportunity, or noble intent. The best tool in your arsenal is to plan for obstacles.

Planning entails taking inventory of all the possible obstacles as you perceive them today and designing your best response when the obstacle occurs in the future. I recommend you hand write your obstacle log just as you did with your goal.

There is something “magical” about handwriting, sealing your intent via ink and commitment. For my log, I usually complete a table with four columns in my own creation called my “S table.”

Those columns are:

  • Situation: Name one obstacle that could prevent you from achieving your goal?
  • Signs: How do I know the obstacle has occurred or starting to occur?
  • Solutions: How can I address that obstacle?
  • Support: Who can help? When you know where you are going, it is easier for others to help.

Planning for obstacles is recognition that they happen. Realistically taking action shows commitment to accomplishing the goal at hand. It is amazing how experience and resources will suddenly appear in the light of commitment.

4) Schedule tests.

Often companies lower the costly risk of a product they are not sure anyone wants to buy by performing a small test, releasing a product with just enough features to attract early customers, gain feedback, and assess viability.

You can do the same by slow and systemic testing by scheduling and completing small tasks related to your goal. Small tasks means your brain is less likely to have a tantrum because the change is less drastic and the likely loss minimal. Additionally, successfully finishing small tasks delivers the confidence to keep going with a brilliant idea.

Test a task by ensuring that it is the smallest of a greater deliverable but still large enough to still be recognizable and actionable. Schedule tasks at the time of day when you are most energetic. So if you are a morning person, schedule in the morning before you check your emails. Making decisions ahead of time cuts down on decision fatigue.

Those are the four steps to going from blocked to boosted. Reaching a goal is an adventure and makes for an interesting story. Remember, stories are great! Children don’t want to hear the story of Red Riding Hood that boringly reaches her grandma. They want to hear how she overcame the wolf.

Remember: Whatever you are not are choosing. Choose your version of hard.

[Related: Choosing Growth]


Michelle M. Campbell is a global program and project manager experienced in managing strategic programs/projects aimed at revenue growth, cost reduction, client satisfaction, governance, and transformation at business and enterprise levels. You can find her management musings at

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