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5 Consultant Strategies for Getting Unstuck

You’re stuck. Or your consulting firm is stuck.

A task or goal has claimed permanent residence on your to-do list. (Write a book, or track consulting project profitability, or win a consulting project from the Danish royal family.)

Or some Godzilla task smashed its way to the forefront and all your (consulting firm’s) work has ground to a halt while you stand there, flummoxed and unmoving. (Finish tomorrow’s, huge, project deadline, or write next week’s keynote speech, or clean the office before the Danish royal family arrives.)

Whatever the task or goal, and whatever the reason, you’re stuck.

It’s like you’re at a complete standstill on a bicycle locked in 10th gear amidst a steep, uphill climb.

With flat tires.

In a thorn bush.

You may ask how you or your consulting firm arrived in this unfortunate situation, but don’t spend too much time contemplating why you’re on this particular hill, your bike is broken, and you’re exhausted.

While root causes are nice to know, contemplate once you have a bit of momentum. Right now you need movement.

Five Consultant Strategies for Getting Unstuck

Get a Push

Is there someone in your consulting firm or on the outside who can get you started on your stuck task?

Maybe a writer can knock out a first draft, your assistant can set up an analysis template, or a colleague can source a sample consulting deliverable from Google or Flevy that you can adapt to your needs.

A friend, spouse, subordinate, partner or virtual assistant can make a phone call for you if you have trouble picking up the phone, then transfer the call to you.

Using this strategy, you’ll still power your way up the hill, after you’re gifted a boost of energy from the outside.

Lighten the Load

If you’re carrying your entire consulting firm on your back, you may not be able to move anywhere.

No wonder you’re stuck! Offload every task imaginable (and some you can’t imagine) to others, freeing you to pour your energy into the climb.

Practically, this means transferring many of the tasks on your to-do list that don’t weigh you down. Ironically, easy tasks and small obstacles may be stealing the energy you need for your most difficult challenges.

In this strategy, you’re enlisting someone else to remove the thorns, pump up the tires and carry the panniers while you motor up to the summit.

Call an Uber

The ultimate in offloading is throwing your bike on the back of someone else’s car and letting them drive you to the top.

“That’s cheating!” you protest. Uhm, who cares? Your objective is to reach the top, accomplish your goal, complete your task, and pamper the Danish royals.

Hire a freelancer, a contractor, an agency, a consultant, a ghostwriter, a programmer, a babysitter or whoever else is appropriate for hauling your bike up the hill.

In this strategy, you’re throwing a bit of cash at the problem in the form of hiring someone else to takeover the stuck task.

Turn Around, Go Downhill

What happens if you temporarily abandoned your recalcitrant goal or to-do while you double down on the work that’s going well? I can tell you:

You enjoy increased momentum and progress. You accelerate your personal growth and your consulting firm’s success.

Then, you can borrow that exhilarating speed to revisit your stuck goal and bust through the thorn bush.

Clear all the stuck tasks off your list and crank out killer results that jazz your internal engines. When you return to the hill, you can start with high velocity and manage your climb better.

The idea here is to harness your personal gravity by focusing first on the tasks and projects you’re already moving forward.

Walk Away

Here’s an idea: drop the bike and walk away. Leave the hill. Abandon the goal. Who needs those royal Danish anyway?

When you or your consulting firm is not making progress on a goal, it’s time to look in the mirror and ask a fundamental question:

Is this goal (or task) truly a priority?

If writing a book, tracking consultant utilization or entertaining the King of Denmark has been on your to-do list for three years and you’re not willing to jump on one of the four strategies above, maybe it’s time to set those goals aside.

You can always revisit them later.

This strategy is about conversing honestly with yourself and accepting reality. Invest in being the best consultant you can be, and stop chasing the best consultant you think you “should” be.

There are many more, effective mechanisms for unsticking yourself or your consulting firm.

What are your strategies for getting unstuck?


14 Comments
  1. Gopal
    July 17, 2019 at 7:05 am Reply

    Sage advice David. Wonderfully explained.

    • David A. Fields
      July 17, 2019 at 8:32 am Reply

      According to some folks, burning sage in your office rids the air of all sorts of evil that could be holding you back. I’d forgotten that unsticking approach and appreciate you contributing it, Gopal! 😉

  2. Belden Menkus
    July 17, 2019 at 9:37 am Reply

    David, Great suggestions. I probably know them all, but don’t think of them when I need to! Good to have them all in one place, with helpful illustrations. And chocolate. Thanks. Belden

    • David A. Fields
      July 17, 2019 at 9:44 am Reply

      Chocolate is the key ingredient in any unsticking strategy, of course. Thanks for sharing your reaction, Belden. I appreciate it!

  3. jose
    July 17, 2019 at 10:08 am Reply

    Great ideas. Thank you. Came at the right time

    • David A. Fields
      July 17, 2019 at 10:57 am Reply

      Let’s hear it for serendipity, Jose! I’m glad you were able to find inspiration or direction exactly when you needed it! (And I’m also glad you let me know – thanks for that.)

  4. Patty
    July 17, 2019 at 10:12 am Reply

    I find waiting till the last minute to be a tremendous motivator. 😉

    • David A. Fields
      July 17, 2019 at 10:59 am Reply

      You’re not alone in that, Patty. Many of us work best under tight deadlines and high-pressure.

      Of course, that “Jump on the bike five minutes before you’re supposed to arrive” strategy comes with some risks. Also, it can be a bit hard on the nervous system!

      I appreciate you chiming in. 🙂

    • Chris
      July 17, 2019 at 11:04 am Reply

      Hah! There’s a researcher on procrastination who asks if you really “work better under pressure” or ONLY work at the last minute. For me, it depends on if I’m in a rut or not.

      • David A. Fields
        July 17, 2019 at 12:04 pm Reply

        My sense, which is admittedly based on observation, not research, is there are people who literally do better work under pressure. It focuses their attention and they’re able to create better output. For those folks, strategies to artificially create pressure (and practice focusing attention) can be helpful.

        Love the research addition, Chris.

  5. Ruth Winett
    July 17, 2019 at 3:08 pm Reply

    David,

    This is great advice, as always.

    Another strategy I like is “Divide and conquer.” Break the daunting task/project into smaller doable chunks. In a pre-Internet era I had to research the adoption of a very complex telecom technology in 18(!) countries. This was overwhelming until I decided to approach it region by region and then country by country..

    • David A. Fields
      July 17, 2019 at 5:25 pm Reply

      Terrific approach and case study, Ruth. If you turn the bike so that you’re tackling a smaller piece (zig-zagging your way up), the ascent is less steep and you may have an easier time getting moving.

      I love that addition to the list!

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