Twice last week I worked with clients facing the same issue – not knowing how or where to start. One had multiple possible activities to choose from, while the other had a mass of data they needed to make into a presentation.

It wasn’t that they weren’t able to do what was being asked of them, they just didn’t know how to go from where they were to where they needed to be.

This is a particularly tough challenge when the task is outside your core skills or you aren’t sure what the brief is. It’s extra tough for those with a more process-led style who like to see the lines before they start colouring in.

Lots of advice will tell you that there’s a simple solution – start. Just do something.

Good advice – that will certainly get you out of the fear zone or inertia park.

Other advice will tell you to break down the bigger task into smaller steps. 

Great advice – the task becomes more manageable and less daunting.

BUT (big but) how do you know what to do after that? 

I recommend a ‘jigsaw’ technique to clients. 

Let’s take Lucy’s data-to-presentation challenge first. In this case, there is a mass of raw data but no narrative (yet). Without a clear brief, Lucy just doesn’t know which bits are important nor how to find the ones she needs to build a story.

I suggested taking a few pieces of the data, putting them on a fresh slide and then moving them around, swapping them for other pieces until something clicks, until a connection sparks and you see the glimmer of a narrative. You then keep adding and testing until the story becomes clearer and stronger.

In Anna’s scenario, she is setting up a brand for her new business and has so many things she could do but she doesn’t know which to pick or how they fit together.

The technique is the same, like a jigsaw, take each ‘piece’ and put them together in front of you.

Try them in different combinations until some connect together. Keep swapping the others until more fit and add to the overall picture. 

Don’t be afraid to discard or put a hold on those that don’t fit for now. A key part of this process is realising that you can’t and don’t need to include every possibility. Besides, you can always come back to them later.

So, if you’re stuck and can’t find the way forward, try this simple technique and see if you can’t find how to get things moving. 

If you’d like some help in getting started with your project or career, then why not get in touch for a chat?

Email louise@careertherapy.co.uk
Linkedin Louise Newton
Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

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