How stepping back can help you move forward

You know how sometimes, you are just too entrenched in a project to see the bigger picture? Getting stuck on tiny details with the same few ideas just going around and around in your head? It happens to the best of us and it can be pretty hard to get yourself out of that rabbit hole.

It’s kind of like when you’re having a bad dream. You know it’s a dream but no matter how hard you try and change the way it goes, it keeps playing the same sequence. It’s only when you wake yourself up and take a big conscious blink, that you can close your eyes to something new.

In the same way, it’s only when you consciously separate yourself from what you’ve been absorbed in, that you can come back at it with a fresh outlook. Stepping back from what you’re doing can help you to refocus and re-assess the direction you are heading in.

This stepping back process could mean taking some time off and clearing your mind from all thoughts of the project at hand, so you can look at things differently. It could be asking for an outside pair of eyes to look at what you’re doing and give an unbiased opinion.

There are plenty of ways you can get out of your head and reset your thoughts, let’s look at a few.

Schedule time outs

Sometimes all you need is a bit of fresh air and sunshine to help you release all the tension you’ve been building up around a project. Take a walk around the block, go and sit on a park bench and soak in the sun for a minute, go buy yourself a coffee and have a chat with the person behind the coffee machine. In some cases all you need is a little break, to tear your eyes away from the screen, get away from your desk, put yourself in a different environment.

Of course, sometimes you might need more than that, but consciously scheduling a time to step away from the desk is a good start.

Go camping (or take a day trip out of mobile reception if camping’s not your thing)

We can talk about stepping back, but sometimes you need kilometres rather than steps to feel like you’re out of the mental grips of a project.

Get out of town on the weekend and let go of all your digital ties to the real world. Get to a place where you can appreciate things in their simplest form. Take a friend if you want, or go on your own, set up camp, light the fire, toast the marshmallows, talk about life the universe and everything but work.

Getting lost in the bigness of nature can sometimes help put into perspective the dilemmas we are facing in the office. Seeing the way that things happen when we have no control over them can inspire new thoughts and creativity, motivating you to get stuck back into your work when you return.

Ask for an outside opinion

It’s always baffling how two people can look at the exact same object and see completely different things. We forget sometimes that not everyone has the same ideas about things as we do.

While it can be hard to accept a different opinion in a lot of cases, it’s valuable to take on board how an outside eye views your work. Even if just to gain someone’s first impression and compare it with how you have created the work to be viewed, an outside opinion is a valuable resource.

This part of stepping back is where you have to put aside your pride and attachment to what you’ve been working on and accept that it may be perceived differently by a third party.

Write it down

For some people, keeping a journal of their thoughts is a helpful way to get pesky recurring ideas out of the way.

Taking time to write down your thoughts and ideas can give you something to come back to when you are stuck, or help eliminate distractions. Journalling, like talking to someone, is a good way to air out your thoughts. Spewing everything out on a piece of paper (or of course a blank page of a word doc) helps to expand upon your idea, pushing it through to the next level.

Writing down your ideas may just be a way for you to be able to physically burn them and move on, but regardless, this can be a good mental release.

Being able to step back and get a fresh look at those all-consuming projects can be what gives your idea its strength in the end. Whether it’s seeking an outside opinion, working on something else for a few days or any other method of clearing your mind of those revolving thoughts, stepping back from what you’re doing can bring much needed clarity.

Nobody likes being told to take a chill pill, which makes it all the more important for you to recognise in yourself when it’s time to refresh.