How to Jumpstart a Stuck Project

The Hack I Use to Gain Traction and Get Moving

Have you ever been stuck on an important project? You have a big idea, you know it’ll be great for your business or personal life, but you can’t get moving? Yeah, happens to me all the time, too.


Courtesy iStock/Antonio_Diaz

So what do you do when your doing gets stuck? There are probably a million ways to gain traction and get moving, but here’s what works best for me. It’s a simple hack I use every time I start a major project.

I create something that helps me visualize the finished project. Here are a few examples:

  • When I wanted to launch a podcast, I started by creating the album art.
  • When I wanted to publish a No. 1 New York Times bestselling book, I mocked up a page from the NYT bestseller list with my book in the top slot to hang in my office.
  • When I wanted to build my carriage house, I “printed” a 3D model of the finished building.
  • When I wanted to lead a strategic planning retreat for my team this past week, I had my designer create a book cover for the agenda and notebook.

Why does this work? Simple. An envisioned outcome is easier to attain. If we don’t know where we’re headed, it’s impossible to know what it takes to to arrive. But if we can visualize the end product, we have at least six advantages working in our favor:

  1. It makes it real. It’s easy for our dreams to live in our heads. But there are a million distractions that can pull our minds this way and that over the course of days, weeks, and months. Suddenly, that project we wanted to finish is fuzzy or even forgotten.

    When we create something visual, it gives shape to our dreams. It becomes a real thing, not just a thought. And the more compelling the visual, the more we can emotionally connect with the the project, which leads into the second advantage.

  2. It ignites passion. I connect with my work at a very emotional level. The work I do fires me up. Visualization enables me to focus that energy around a particular project.

    When we realize our dreams, we get excited. But we can get a jolt of that power supply on the front end by creating something that helps us visualize the end product. It’s a way to connect with the passion we need to get started and stay the course.

  3. It sparks creativity. A powerful visual can get our creative juices going like nothing else. Why? Because our minds are always working.

    When we face a problem, our minds try to find the answer even when we’re not consciously working on it. That’s why we get such killer ideas when we’re relaxed. If we create an emotionally engaging visual, it will spur our subconsciouses to work even if we’re distracted. The image works like magnet, pulling our thoughts back to the project.

  4. It forces clarity. Sometimes our procrastination on a project means we don’t adequately understand it yet. It’s hard to take a step when you don’t know what you’re moving toward.

    When we take the trouble to craft a visual, we’re forcing ourselves define what we’re after, and that clarity leads has benefits for not only how we start, but how we stay on track.

  5. It defines a path. If I can’t define the goal, there’s no way I’ll find the way to reach it. But once I have clarity on the target, the path to get there usually emerges.

    When we create a compelling visual, it’s like creating the road signs we need to reach our destination. This happens two ways. First, the clarity we get helps create the kind of internal logic that light’s our path. And second, it enables us to eliminate dead ends.

  6. It encourages positivity. Scroll back to the list of examples at the start. Each one of those projects had its own reasons I found it hard to get going. In fact, a few felt more than hard. But creating the visual changed the dynamic for me—and does so every time I try it.

    When we’re after something real, that we’re passionate about, that sparks our creativity, that we’ve clearly defined, and that we know how to reach, it’s easy to stay positive about the journey. And it’s not only easy to start, but it’s easier to keep going as well.

Work is work. And big projects are always work. But that doesn’t mean we have to stay intimidated and stuck when we think of how big and daunting a project can be.

Creating a powerful visual can not only help you break a project down to something objective and manageable, but also inspire the creativity and energy you need to get going and see it to completion. This process helps me all the time.

Question: Have you ever tried visualization when you’re stuck on a major project? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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