One of the most important thing I’ve learned about being productive is the ability to remove barriers from my path. Even if the stars are aligned perfectly, a solid barrier will stop me dead in my tracks.
Barriers can be all kinds of things. Here are a few I’ve encountered:
- Lack of energy
- Office politics and bureaucracy
- Home and car maintenance
- Friends and family
- Video games
- Not being prepared (knowledge, tools, etc.)
Some of those may sound harsh, but think about it- have you ever been working diligently on a project and then get a disrupting phone call from Mom?
Or showed up somewhere ready to do X, but then realize you can’t because you forgot something at home?
Maybe you had all the time in the world and were ready to start working on something, but found you couldn’t because you were too tired.
These things happen. When they do we get thrown off our game. And even though you may be able to jump right back into it, sometimes we have to come back to it later when we’re better prepared or more rested or whatever.
As a personal example, I recently sold my Sony PlayStation 4. I was spending more time then I liked on it, so I decided it was time to get rid of it so I could focus on other, more important things.
When I was packing it up, I looked at the HDMI cable and almost put it in my bag. But then I said aloud “Nah- I won’t need this. They will have one there to test it.” So I left the cable hooked up to the TV and drove up to GameStop.
As I started unpacking everything on the counter, the employee started looking over everything and hooking it up. Then he asked “Do you have the HDMI cable?” Of course.
I told him I’d left it at home, thinking they wouldn’t need it. He got a frustrated look on his face and said “Nope, sorry. We can’t take this. We need everything, because we need to be able to sell the whole system together.”
So I had to drive home (about 15 minutes) just to get the stupid cable, then drive back.
That was a barrier I could’ve very easily avoided. If I had just taken a few seconds to think through it, I would’ve realized that it would’ve been better to just take the cable and if I didn’t need it, I could bring it home after selling the console.
Another example is someone I worked with when I first got out of college and joined the Air Force.
I was part of a team whose job it was to test parachutes. (and yes- I did jump one time!)
We had to be very methodical with this process. We had to develop a number of documents, but one of the biggest was the test plan. This would essentially outline:
- Our overall process (and why)
- How many jumps we’d do (and why)
- What kind of jumps we’d do (ex. throw out dummies at 5,000 ft., 10,000 ft., live jumpers at 10,000 ft., etc.)
- How we would record and analyze the data
It ended up being a few dozen pages long.
Well there were two engineers on the project- myself and a more experienced guy with about 5 years in. We were supposed to write the plan together.
But do you think that’s what happened?
Nope. It was easier (in his mind) for him to just do all of it himself. He gave me the introduction paragraph and wrote the rest himself.
This was a barrier in multiple ways. Not only did he hold up my professional growth, but he also held up the entire project! We were literally just waiting for this guy to finish this thing, which took him a few months.
Granted- we had other smaller things going on at the same time. But it shouldn’t have taken that long. And even though I had a learning curve to go through, we would’ve finished faster if I’d have been able to help.
We all experience barriers like this. Financial, emotional, professional, physical, mental. These things hold us back from being productive and growth.
The good news is that there are a few things we can do to help us get around these barriers. Either by preventing them from getting in front of us in the first place, or just realizing when we’re facing one that there are options to get around it.
So… How do I Deal with it?
I’m a realist. I understand that nobody (including myself) follows any kind of “4 step process” to deal with these kinds of issues.
Instead, I want you to think about one TINY thing you can do today to help you tackle your biggest barrier.
-Are you struggling to get started on that book? Write just 10 words – TEN WORDS – right now.
-Can’t get into a workout habit? Drop down and do 2 pushups RIGHT NOW.
-Want to expand your business network? Text or message a friend on Facebook who works at a company that can introduce you to people.
-Trying to embrace a minimalist lifestyle but don’t know where to start? Find just one thing in the next minute to throw out or donate.
Each of these actions can be done in less than a minute, but they create momentum. This momentum is also a very powerful tool to help you overcome barriers, whether they’re mental, physical, emotional, or whatever.
Thanks for reading – now take action!