How To Overcome This Annoying Hurdle


The first thing I picture when I hear the word “hurdle” is the large, white barrier over which a racer jumps. These are fairly tall and I’m not sure I could ever hoist my small body up and over one. Fortunately, leaping over hurdles isn’t a skill most of us need to succeed in our daily lives. However, there is another kind of hurdle I believe we all must reckon with regularly, what I call the “tiny hurdle.”

Admittedly, a tiny hurdle doesn’t sound very intimidating. After all, if it is small, how hard can it be to get over it? The answer often is, “Very hard indeed!” Tiny hurdles have one (or both) of the following characteristics:

1. They require a bit of extra time

2. They require that we figure out something new

Unlike full-blown obstacles, tiny hurdles do not demand hours of time or large investments of money.   Instead, they demand just enough of our attention that we avoid doing them. For example:

  • We get a new bicycle and a lock. We want to ride the bike, but every time we think about doing so, we remember that we don’t know how to open the lock. In the moment, we don’t have time to figure out how to work the lock, so we choose another mode of transportation.
  • The clock in our bathroom has stopped working. We are pretty sure it simply needs a new battery, but we have never changed the battery in this clock before. A quick glance suggests we may need to find a tiny screwdriver, and we aren’t sure if we even own one. As a result, we leave the clock unfixed.
  • We find a Christmas decoration that never made it into the decorations box. All of the holiday storage boxes now sit stacked in the attic. Pulling down the stairs, taking the ornament upstairs, and un-stacking the boxes until we find the right one won’t take long, but it is long enough that we avoid doing it. Instead, we sweep the decoration into the kitchen junk drawer so we won’t have to look at it.
  • We know that our car has Bluetooth capability, but we aren’t exactly sure how to make it work with our phone. We want to do this, because it makes talking on the phone both easier and safer. At the same time, because we are not technologically minded, the simple idea of figuring out how to make it work feels unpleasant. The result is that we drive around with our phone in our hands, feeling bad that we’ve never set it up.
  • We get a new chain saw, electronic device, sewing machine, piece of exercise equipment or some other toy. The item represents a significant investment, and we have been looking forward to getting started. At the same time, it arrived with an instruction booklet that we know we should read in order to ensure we are utilizing it properly and getting the most out of our investment. Reading a manual feels like a chore, even for an object we want to use, so we keep telling ourselves we will wait until we have “a whole day to focus on it.” Meanwhile, the object sits untouched.
  • A button pops off of a favorite garment. Sewing on a button takes little time, but we aren’t sure where the matching button might be. We “re-notice” this flaw each time we are getting dressed to go out, at which time we lack the bandwidth to hunt for a button. Instead, we stick the garment back on the hanger, only to relive this moment in the future.

Do you see the pattern? Tiny hurdles don’t demand a lot from us, but they do ask for a little bit of focused attention. The problem is, we never intentionally allocate the time needed to figure something out, learn the new skill, execute the repair, put the item in its proper location, etc. Even when we know that we would benefit and it probably won’t be too difficult, we never seem to find the convenient moment to take the necessary action.

The solution is simple. We need to set aside dedicated time to focus on completing whatever small bit of work is needed. Ideally, we schedule this time into our calendar, just as we would schedule a meeting, doctor’s appointment, game, call, or other commitment. The key is to resist the temptation to tell ourselves that we will spontaneously get around to addressing this “someday.” Such pockets of time never arise, and we end up missing out on the enjoyment of our time, space and belongings.

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Does the idea of a “tiny hurdle” resonate? Can you think of a tiny hurdle that you’ve been avoiding?

18 thoughts on “How To Overcome This Annoying Hurdle”

  1. This article totally came at the perfect time and you’d be proud of me. Like the other day, I was wanting to replace the shower caddy in our bathroom. It had a tiny screw to keep it screwed to the shower head. I had to find the right size screwdriver in our garage. I wouldn’t give up until I found it and was able to get the old one off the shower head. Lo and behold it wasn’t easy, but I did it and overcame this small, but hard hurdle 🙂

    1. Good for you, Janine! That is exactly the kind of task that drives us crazy, and often gets abandoned if we cannot find the tool we need. It feels so good to see it through to “finished,” doesn’t it? Over that hurdle you went, and now you have a new shower caddy to enjoy. These small victories really do feel terrific!

  2. It’s true that even the smallest obstacle can keep us from moving forward. There’s no easy way to overcome this small task. Sometimes just acknowledging is the most we can do, then laugh at the impediment she then just get to work.

    1. Yes, I do a lot of laughing at the various hurdles I seem unwilling to jump over. I was just talking with someone about how I find clothing tags sitting on shelves in every closet. There is something about walking them over to the nearest trash can that sounds difficult. Of course, this particular task doesn’t require much time or energy, but still we tend to avoid it!

  3. Tiny hurdles are a great way to think of these small but annoying tasks. These things do require scheduling into your calendar. I can’t think of one I’m struggling with at this moment but your post sure did resonate with me because I have come across many of the hurdles you mentioned in the past!

    1. As I was driving home today I was reminded of another example. Suppose a new and nicer grocery store comes into town. You want to shop there, but you know it will take more time because you know where everything is in the old store. All it would take is one or two intentional visits to the new store to learn it, but the switching costs are just enough to keep us going to the old one. I never cease to be amazed at the intimidating power of even small little challenges!

  4. I love your imagery for the “tiny hurdle” concept! And you’re so right that these small hiccups are often the things that remain undone for a long time. Also our avoidance for attending to them, the longer we wait, the bigger and more problematic they become in our minds. That exacerbates the issue. Committing to a specific time to jump that hurdle makes a lot of sense. The relief and sense of accomplishment that will come from taking action will far outweigh the time spent stressing.

    Back to hurdle jumping. I remember when I was in high school, one section we had for Gym was track. And during that period, guess what? We had to run and jump hurdles. I remember doing it, although it wasn’t easy or comfortable. And I also recall tripping and falling several times because my foot got caught as I was leaping over the bar. The point is that I learned how to jump over a hurdle. While I no longer do that type of hurdle-jumping, I’ve continued to approach life’s tiny and huge obstacles. There are times when this is awkward, like my hurdle-jumping experiences during school. I continue to push, experiment, fail, and succeed.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…Top Time Management Trap to Avoid If You Want to Be More PunctualMy Profile

    1. There actually is a “science” regarding how to jump hurdles, as your story so clearly states. It might take a while to figure it out, but once you do, you’ve got it. You may not need to use that skill very often, but it is there, tucked away in your physical and muscle memory. Setting aside the time is the key because that is when we give ourselves permission to fall, stumble, trip, try again, and learn without being rushed. When we try to squeeze it in the fly, any tiny failures stress us out, making us want to avoid working on the issue in the future. All that said, I decided early on that I preferred other activities to hurdles. Activities where being small was an asset, instead of a liability:)

  5. For me, most hurdles seem so large until I do them and usually I have overblown them in my mind. It’s easier than I think to get over them and take much less time. That’s what I tell myself when I identify on-coming hurdles.

    1. I just adore this comment because it is so true. Many times I’ve had that exact experience! Afterward, I chide myself for not having tried sooner. Personally, I prefer to have someone else show me how to do something, rather than trying to figure it out for myself. However, sometimes that is just what needs to happen, so a little positive self-talk can work wonders.

    1. Such a great way to manage these things. I could just keep a running list of the little projects and then address them as I wish in the time I’ve set aside each week. This is a great tip!!

  6. I love your examples of tiny hurdles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found that one Christmas ornament elsewhere in a client’s home (and in my own a few times). We definitely need to set aside time to do these tiny hurdles that can pile up.

    1. Another suggestion particularly for the “left out” holiday decorations is to have a bin that is fairly convenient labeled “found decorations. Any remnant items go in there, and when decorations are extracted the following year, just check that bin to see what might need to come out and get back into the rotation. I guess this is a pretty universal problem:)

  7. Oh yes – I have the SAME one with the bluetooth in the car. Sheesh.
    My life is tiny hurdles sometimes. I get paralyzed by them sometimes too. I love that you wrote about this. Sometimes when I’m in the mood, I can overcome all of them at work. It’s like I have an inbox full of tiny hurdle emails. At times, I am paralyzed by them all. Other times, I do all of them, with full attention, in a row and feel great about it.

    1. I have similar energy surges where suddenly I am “in the mood” to tackle the backlog of projects. So much easier to deal with them when I’m not in a rush. Exactly as you said – about giving them my full attention. It does feel terrific:)

    1. That is when I ask myself, “Why did I wait so long to figure this out?” I know I’ve been through that feeling many times. Now I’m going to try and take my own advice and schedule time specifically to deal with these things!

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