How To Get Out Of A Rut


Since the latter part of January up until now, I’ve been stuck in a rut. I haven’t written an article, no blogpost on my website, no finished artwork, and no notes from textbooks that I read. Throughout those three weeks, I’ve only achieved 2 things – I kept my promise to myself that I’ll read a book per week and that I’ll study French every day. Mind you, those are the two habits I’ve already developed last year so they’re basically the easiest tasks of my week.

I guess early February is your first checkpoint of the year. This is the time when the impossibility of doing all your New Year’s resolutions hits you. During the start of the year, you have all the motivation and you feel like you can take on the world. You make a vow to study for 5 hours a day, do boxing twice a week, finish a painting a week, finish reading a book per week, and sleep at a reasonable hour every day.

For a real, breathing person, this is just impossible. According to the paradox of choice, when you’re offered a lot of choices, it becomes crippling that you end up not choosing anything. 

That’s what happens when you set a lot of goals and lose track of what’s important or what’s possible. Whenever you’re stuck in this kind of rut, remember that your worst enemy is choice. So eliminate it. What I did was, I checked my to-do list and decided to do the first task I saw. No consideration whatsoever. I decided to work on my portrait painting. There’s one problem, though – I’m not in the mood to paint. But there’s one thing I’m in the mood for – making a list (again). So I listed the simple things I need to do to finish the big task.

Whenever you’re faced with an incredible task, separate it into ridiculously easy ones to simplify it. I made mini-tasks like preparing the materials, making a grid, sketching on 5 square inches, and so on.

Every box I checked was an achievement for me. I felt more motivated to do the next task and then the next one. By the end of the 1st day, I was done with my sketch and the first layer of my paint. I finished the 2nd layer on the 2nd day and since all that’s left is glazing the painting, I decided to consult the weekly checklist again. Before I know it, I’m done with half of my tasks for the week.

Motivation isn’t limitless. One way or another, you’ll run out of it.

Energy is easy. You can eat healthily and sleep for 8 hours and your energy will be back to normal. With motivation, it’s different. You can eat and sleep as much as you want but if you’re not motivated, you can’t do anything productive. The good thing is, unlike energy, motivation can be created. You can’t just sit and wait for it to come to you. Baby steps count as long as they’re forward.