You've got to finish this project. You're going to finish this project. You can't finish this project. You'll never finish this project. Your boss loves this project. Your boss needs this project. You've got to finish this project. You can't finish this project . . .
If you're stalled on a piece of work that absolutely, positively has to be done in a certain amount of time, you're probably having this sort of conversation with yourself.
We're not talking here about ordinary, everyday, chronic procrastination. We're talking about the sudden, inexplicable, self-sabotaging paralysis that afflicts all of us from time to time -- usually in the middle of a project that's absolutely crucial.
Here are some paralysis-breaking steps you can take:
* Work on the stalled project at a different time of day. If you've been rolling up your sleeves and digging in first thing in the morning, try saving it for after lunch for a while.
* Work on it in a different setting. Sometimes even an insignificant change of scene can break the cycle of inertia/despair/more inertia.
* Break the project's deadline in to small, manageable pieces. Don't remind yourself every hour that it's due on such-and-such a day. Instead, figure out how much of it you must accomplish each day, each week, each hour, then pat yourself lavishly on the back for each tiny step forward.
* Commit to working on it only for a short, specific amount of time each day. What's important is that you work only on this project during that time, and that you save what you've accomplished -- even if it looks like garbage at the time. It will look better tomorrow.
* Ask yourself what's really scaring you about this project. Be specific. Not: "I'm afraid I won't handle this well," for example, but "I'm afraid I'll make dumb grammatical errors."
When you identify the specific fears that are keeping you paralyzed, you can do something about them. Hire a proofreader, for example.
* Ask yourself if you're angry about this project, as well. Do you feel put-upon because it was assigned to you in the first place?
If you are angry, consider confronting your supervisor with your feelings in a non-threatening manner, using sentences that start with "I," not "You."
If this isn't feasible, find ways to diffuse your anger away from work.
* Ask yourself if you have hidden reasons not to want to complete this assignment successfully. Will doing a brilliant job blow your cover, so to speak? Are you afraid that your boss will forever afterward know what you really can do, and expect more of you?
* Ask yourself if you're paralyzed because you're missing vital pieces of input, directions or information. If you didn't listen carefully enough or ask enough questions when this project was assigned, go back now and get the information you need.
* Finally, make a firm decision to complete this project on time no matter what. What this sounds like when you say it to yourself is not, "I think I can," or "I'll try," or "Maybe I can," or "I'll do the best I can, " but "I will complete this project on time -- no matter what." You'll be amazed by how powerful these words can be.
Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.
) Universal Press Syndicate