How many times have you stared aimlessly at a blank document with no idea what to do? If your answer is "never," take a walk around the block and think deeply about the lie you've just told.
Even people who crush it at their jobs most days come across projects that are so tough, they just want to say, "Oh forget it, I'm going out for an ice cream cone and never coming back." I'm not here to tell you not to treat yourself to dessert every now and again, but before you throw your hands up in defeat and walk away from something difficult, here are a few things you should remember.
1. It's OK to Step Away for a Minute--As Long as You Give Yourself a Deadline
Hey, I get it. It's a good idea to step away from pesky tasks occasionally to clear your mind and do something nice for yourself. There's nothing worse than gazing into your computer monitor and saying, "The answer is in this thing somewhere" over and over again.
However, it's also important to keep yourself accountable when you do need a breather. It's up to you to determine if 15 minutes is enough time to step away, or if you just need to put the entire thing down until the next day. But, when you do figure out how much time you need, don't let yourself go beyond that. That might mean creating an event on your calendar or even leaving yourself a note on your monitor. No matter what you come up with, give yourself the break you need (and can reasonably take), and once it's up, get back to work.
2. Remember: This Is Not the First Challenging Thing You've Had to Do
I'd wager that no matter how far along you are in your career, you had to figure out some tricky problems to get to where you are today. And sure, I know a thing or two about looking at previous accomplishments and saying, "Oh, that little thing? That just took a little patience, scotch tape, and a very blunt conversation with my boss."
The truth is that even the little things are evidence that you have the right amount of determination and skill to tackle the project you're stumped by in this moment. You've powered through plenty of other challenging tasks in the past. There's nothing stopping you from taking this one on either.
3. Asking for Help Doesn't Make You a Failure
If you're anything like me, one million thoughts and emotions run through your mind when someone suggests asking for help. You don't want to look incompetent, or you don't want to bother someone else with your problems (which you're convinced are kind of stupid).
But here's the thing: Everyone has been exactly where you are, dealing with a project that doesn't seem to have an obvious solution. And because everyone can relate to that, most people you'll come across will be pretty empathetic about your predicament. Even better, if someone on your team has a solution, he or she will probably be willing to share. So, while it might seem like a great way to sabotage your career, don't be afraid to ask for help, even if all you need is a little reminder that you can do this.
4. You Really Can Do This
Add this to the list of the cheesiest sounding things I've ever written, but seriously, it's true. There are plenty of reasons you should remember this whenever you don't think you can do something at work. For starters, I've made no secret of the fact that when I was on the hiring end of things, I had some pretty lofty standards for candidates. I had those because it meant that when people did successfully make it through multiple rounds of interviews, we could feel confident in the fact that even when they inevitably hit a wall, they were smart and resilient enough to find a way to get it done.
That is 100% true about you, too. Your boss didn't hire you because you were good enough. Your boss hired you to get stuff done, even if it doesn't go your way right off the bat. So you really can do this.
It's jarring when you have days at work where all you want to do is flip your desk over and tell everyone you're going for a two-year walk around the block. Sometimes tasks are harder than you think they should be and you'll want to give up. But you're not alone in feeling this way sometimes. Rather than throwing in the towel, take a deep breath, (re)read the above, feel confident in the fact you can get this done.