Have you ever agreed to take on a project that’s outside your comfort zone, and by the time you hang up the phone, you wonder why do you do this to yourself?

Or, agree to take something on that seems easy, only to find that it’s a lot harder than you anticipated?

Here’s three strategies to cope when you’re in too deep.

1. Punch fear in its Negative Nancy face

When we get stressed, fear sets in, and our brain likes to word vomit all of our memories of past mistakes, failure, and how we’ll never be “good enough” in general.

It normally goes something like this:



I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m not going to be able to figure this out. I’m going to let everybody down. I’m going to fail.

Hey, remember that time in 2011 when you ALSO did that stupid thing and really messed up!  OMG, that was SO EMBARRASSING, LOL!

How did I even to make it this far?

I’m probably getting fired. Should I just quit now, and save my client the trouble?

Instead of encouraging yourself to troubleshoot the challenge, your brain turns into a terrifying hellscape because you don’t want to look like an incompetent fool.

STOP. It’s OK not to have all the answers. It’s also OK to give yourself space to work through the problem. Remember, Google and deep breathing are your friend!

TL;DR version: Step one to attacking the problem: Shut your inner story-teller down. It’s just your fear talking.

2. Use your lifeline, fool

You know when you’ve been staring at a project so long, you can’t even figure out where you went wrong? Then you get even more stressed and confused because your mind is going in circles.

Often, we get too wrapped up in our own heads and become our own worst enemy. Phone a friend, and talk it out.

I find that this happens commonly with people who work from home, i.e. me. Sure, it’s nice not having to deal with Janice from accounting, but we also miss out on that problem-solving dialog that comes with collaborative workspaces.

What’s missing is a fresh pair of eyes and verbalizing what the problem is. Getting out of your head and articulating what’s not working may be the first step to untangling a  convoluted issue.

TL;DR version: Call a friend who has knowledge on the issue. I guarantee they’ll be able to give a fresh perspective.

3. Make it someone else’s problem

If you’ve tried talking it out, and it’s not getting you anywhere, then maybe it’s time to bring in someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

I suggest this solution particularly if the issue is time-sensitive. Sometimes, you have to stop messing around, and figure out a way to make it happen.

What resources do you have at your disposal? Tap into your contacts list. Post the job on Upwork. You may have to pony up a little cash, but isn’t your sanity worth it?

TL;DR version: Hire an expert to save time.

Now, go forth and do the damn thing! In the immortal words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work.”

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