You know you ought to be working on it, but there it still sits, in a bag/on a shelf/in the corner, looking at you.

You know the deadline is approaching. Your project keeps whispering to you about it. You know it’s going to be a last minute nightmare, or worse, a missed opportunity.

So how do you break the standoff?

I thought I was over this sort of thing, but I’ve been procrastinating with the best of them lately.

A friend pulled out a precious item of clothing in front of me last October, and was horrified to find that three huge holes had been gnawed in it by rats. I’ll spare you the backstory for now, but suffice it to say, he declared it ruined.

After a brief historical sewing soapbox moment – the value of mending, the way it adds to the garment’s story and prolongs its life, you know the script – I had myself a project, of course.

And you’ll recognise the next part too – it turned out to be a bigger undertaking than I had in mind. Of course it did.

What started out as a simple mending project became an intricate labour of reweaving love. And there it sat in a bag, waiting for me to summon up the courage to tackle it.

Multiple issues built up. It is a precious garment to my friend. (No pressure then.) It involves a new technique that I’m not familiar with. A key piece of equipment I needed for the project – namely, an exceedingly useful magnifying lamp – broke as I began work. It required a very specific kind of yarn that I had no idea how to source (yarn is not my wheelhouse). And I thought I might as well film the process and produce a video with it (see above re: no pressure then.)

All of these factors became parameters that fenced me off from continuing, one by one.

I think we both know you have a project like this. (Maybe more than one.) I suspect that your project has a similar fence around it, made of requirements, obstacles, and points of pressure. And that constellation of factors is held together with a tangled web of shame, guilt, embarassment, or just plain resistance.

So how do you break the deadlock?

Try listing the pain points. Bring them out into the light, and figure out how to tackle one of them. Because I think that what got me was not the fact that there was a Problem; it was that multiple problems piled up.

By itemising the problems, you can pick one and fix it. And then the others will start to give, one by one, until there’s enough momentum to begin work again. Here’s how it worked for me:

This project will continue to be precious to my friend; I couldn’t fix that feeling of pressure on myself easily. So I moved on to the next issue.

I can practise the unfamiliar technique on a small area.

I can find another lamp, fix this one, or take the darn project outdoors in summer daylight.

I can ask someone who knows yarn for help to source what I need.

And the big knot that loosened the whole thing and got it moving again: I just stopped filming. I took that pressure off until I was feeling confident again.

Yesterday I was outdoors in the garden, using the best light in the Universe and some beautiful yarn, filming again and sending progress photos to my friend. His excitement released the pressure on me to make it perfect. We’re off and running again, and I expect to have the project finished in time for my visit to him in September.

A project that’s suffering from serious procrastination is just a tangled mass of fairy lights. Just sit with it, identify the individual issues and release one at a time, and you’ll soon be off and running again.

What’s your stalled project – and what are the issues holding it back? And more importantly, which issue can you release first to get it moving again?