obstacles - Jan Marie Mueller

Being self-employed for more than 20 years now, I´ve certainly run up against my fair share of obstacles to slow me down, hold me back and keep me from doing what needs to be done to reach my goals.

Through trial and error I´ve discovered some effective ways for overcoming many of those obstacles and I wanted to share these tips with you, in the hopes they might be able to help you, too.

#1: Feeling overwhelmed

It´s easy to feel helpless when you have a ton of things you need to get done. After all, how do you know where to start?! If you´re like most people, the tendency is to keep putting them off until later…but then, later never comes and your list just keeps getting longer and longer.

What you can do:

When you´re feeling overwhelmed, look at your list and choose from one to three things you know need to get done right now. Then, just get started.

Sometimes, I choose one large thing to work on and sometimes 3 smaller items. The key here is to choose the most important things for right now; ignore the rest and focus your energies on getting those few things done.  Then do the same thing tomorrow, the next day…and the next.

#2: Struggling with making decisions

I hate indecision because it makes me feel stuck. Still, I know what it´s like to have so many things on your to-do list that you just can´t decide which one to do first.

Sometimes what keeps us in the clutches of indecision is fear…fear of the unknown and fear of not making the right decision. Fear that once we´ve decided we can´t go back…

The truth is we simply can´t know what the future will bring. But we shouldn´t let that stop us from making a decision based on what we know now, then tweaking and adjusting our actions as we learn more along the way.

What you can do:

When you find myself struggling with a decision, scrape together all the information you have available to you, quickly weigh the pros and cons, then take a moment to listen to what your intuition is telling you. And then take action – action is the answer to dissolving the fears that hold you back.

#3: Focusing on the little/easy things first

Before I was aware I was doing it, I used to do this all the time – maybe you do it, too.

You know what I´m talking about…the emails, errands, phone calls, paperwork and myriad other small tasks that need to get done at some point in your day yet aren´t really super important.

The biggest problem here is that running around taking care of all these things gives you the feeling of being productive but, rarely is.

Essentially, we run around doing all this busy work, meanwhile avoiding those tasks that can really make a difference to our work and in our lives.

What you can do:

In this day and age of computers, this is an easy trap to fall into. When you notice yourself doing busy work, stop and re-focus on the important tasks you´ve set for the day. (I always choose 1-3.) Decide on the next step and complete it. Then set a timer and allow yourself to check email or your social media accounts for 15-20 minutes before moving on to the next step of my main projects.

#4: Not knowing where to start

When a project or milestone is too big, it can be hard to know where to start and so we keep putting it off.  The key here is to just break that big project up into smaller ones. And yet, most of us put off doing that as well.

What you can do:

When your catch yourself putting something off over and over again, know it´s time to focus your energies on just getting started. Take a few minutes and ask yourself: What is the smallest step your can take today to move you forward on this project? And what´s the next smallest step? And the next?

Then take that first step and schedule the next one in your calendar for the next day. On day 3, do the process all over again – as you begin  building momentum, your progress tends to speed up of its own accord!

#5: The horror that is email

I HATE having an inbox overflowing with messages! As ridiculous as it seems, somehow I equate an empty inbox with efficiency.

What you can do:

To help you with this, check emails twice daily and deal with the most important and urgent messages you receive then – all the others get pushed into a selection of folders depending on their level of importance, to be dealt with later…or not at all.

In this way, you´ll be able to keep your inbox both organized and manageable and it´ll give you at least a feeling that you´re in control.

#6: Low energy levels

Few people realize what a BIG distraction this one can actually be. When we sleep poorly or don´t get enough sleep, our energy levels sink and it can be really hard to feel like working on anything at all!

Low energy levels make it hard to focus and hard to follow through.

What you can do:

If you´re like me, you´re one of those people who really needs her sleep. That said, notice when your energy levels start scraping the bottom of the barrel, and look at what needs to be done, choose an important step and work on that to the exclusion of all else.

Really focus on just that one thing and get it done.

On top of that, make a point of going to bed early and getting some extra sleep so you´ll feel better and more energetic the next day.

#7: Lack of self-discipline

Quite often, a lack of self-discipline goes hand-in-hand with a low level of energy. It can be hard to feel inspired or motivated and I struggle with “making” myself do something I can´t get excited about.

What you can do:

When you notice you´re struggling with a lack of self-discipline stop and turn your focus inward.  I know from experience that there is usually an underlying reason and I look for it. 

Ask yourself: Is it that I´m overtired? Is there something about the project I´m working on that has me dragging my feet?

Again, take a few minutes to break down the steps and choose the simplest step to do first. Then, do the next simplest and so on until you´re able to begin building the necessary momentum to keep you moving forward.

#8: Being afraid to fail

All of us hit up against this obstacle at some point – we reach the outer limit of our comfort zone, feel overwhelmed and underqualified, worry about what everyone else is going think.

This is only natural since none of us can be great at everything, all of the time.

What you can do:

When you notice fear rearing its ugly head, remind yourself that failure is not the worst thing that can happen to you – not even trying is much, much worse.


Because when you try and fail, you learn and grow. And the next time you try, you´ll do better. You´ll make progress.

But if you never try – if you let fear hold you back – you´ll never learn. And you´ll keep doing what you´ve gotten in the habit of doing…you´ll let fear rule your life.


Push past the fear and Do. It. Anyway.

Stop hiding away inside your comfort zone – you only get this one life. Pour your whole heart into it and DO. GROW. LIVE!

You´ll be amazed at what you can achieve when you dare.

What obstacles keep getting in your way? What have you found to help you get around them? I´d love to hear your  thoughts, will you share with me in the comments below?