Thursday, October 06, 2005

Beating the doldrums

Many years ago, in the days where the sailors used to travel across the oceans, they’d often have to cross this area of the ocean that they now call the “Intertropical Convergence Zone” or the “ITCZ”. There are all kinds of geological and meteorological reasons for the phenomenon, but basically what it boils down to is that in these areas of the ocean, there can be days, or even weeks where there’s no wind.

Now to a guy on a sailing ship, whose primary propulsion method is wind being caught in his sails, that would be a very difficult time. Add to that the fact that this usually happened near the equator, where it’s very hot and humid, and you can see that they’d have problems.

They’d sit there, lightly floating on the still water, doing nothing.

For days, or, like I said, sometimes weeks at a stretch. With supplies getting low, and tempers getting short.

These times were called the Doldrums.

Since that time, we’ve all encounted times where we feel like we’re not moving forward, not getting anything productive done in a project or endeavor we’re involved in. The energy and motivation wanes, and even when we do put in effort, it seems to be not effective, leaving us sitting dead in the water.

When that happens, here’s some things that can be done about it.

1. Take a step back and look at the big picture

Re-assessing the goals and objectives that fill out the big picture of your business can be a great motivator. Often we get so locked into the day-to-day efforts of running our businesses that we forget what we were trying to accomplish in the first place.

Assess what your big goals are, and how your current steps are moving you toward that goal.

2. Take a step in and focus on each step one at a time

Sometimes the big picture can be so huge and so overwhelming that focusing too much time and attention on it can be detrimental, or overwhelming. At times like these, it’s good to get myopic and only look at the next step. What tasks do I have to do today? Can I get them done and crossed off my list?

3. Take a step aside and do something else for a time

Sometimes we simply get to wrapped up in our endeavor, that we get overly focused, even obsessed. At times like that it’s a good idea just to take some time off. I’m not saying weeks or months, but even a day working on some other project or even a day with your family can re-energize and get the wind back in your sails.

4. Take a step forward

Ultimately, no matter which of the other approaches you take, it’s going to come back down to doing something. And often, it doesn’t matter so much what you’re doing, as long as something’s getting done. My dad used to tell me, “It’s easier for the Good Lord to guide your feet when they’re moving!” As you begin getting even nominal tasks done, they can get your momentum moving forward and getting things accomplished.

Whatever you do to get your ship moving again, realize that the cycle of activity is natural, and not to beat yourself up over lost time. Just get things moving again, and you can get your business back on track.

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