The Productive Mindset: Get Unstuck with a Future Reality Tree

Tapping a Pencil by Renett Stowe

We all experience procrastination that delays progress from time to time. This post is a simple example of how Thinking Process
techniques can be applied to getting unstuck and back in a productive mindset.

A Current Reality Tree for the Procrastinating Mindset

Neil Fiore’s Now Habit is a good study of why and how we procrastinate. He offers several powerful methods for breaking out of this non-productive mindset. There are a number of good reviews of his book, such as in the Litemind or LifeOptimizer blogs, that are well worth reading.  Fiore describes our internal dialogue or mindset as ‘How we talk to ourselves’. Following the Thinking Process introduced by Goldratt, let’s use a mind map to capture this in a Current Reality Tree (CRT). A CRT is a map of how existing conditions create the current outcome. Using Fiore’s internal dialogue for procrastination and the underlying causes, we can create a CRT for a procrastinating mindset:


Procrastination mind map

A Future Reality Tree to Change This Mindset

A Future Reality Tree (FRT) changes the underlying causes in the CRT to change the outcome. Applying many of the ideas covered by the authors in the references, we see how some simple (and often easy) changes can lead to a new productive mindset:


Productive mindset from a future reality tree

The Two Simplest Things to Get Unstuck

Just like physical objects, our progress on a project has inertia. Stalled progress tends to remain stalled, but once we get moving the next steps get easier. Looking at the above CRT, clearly fear and uncertainty  are creating the friction that makes it hard to get moving.

Rather than try to attack all the sources of fear, doubt, and uncertainty at once (as shown in the FRT), there are two things that are often the easiest to start with:

  • Take one small step
  • Don’t try to be perfect

Taking a small, imperfect step can often break the friction stalling progress, and once in motion it is easier to keep moving. Making even a small amount of progress can relieve a lot of anxiety. Momentum can then build as you address the other causes of fear and uncertainty, creating a positive feedback loop.

This technique has worked well for me, I hope it helps you too!


  1. Neil Fiore (2007), The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play
  2. Stephen Covey(2004), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  3. Robert Maurer (2004), One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way
  4. H. William Dettmer (2007), The Logical Thinking Process: A Systems Approach to Complex Problem Solving
  5. Richard Koch (2004), Living The 80/20 Way: Work Less, Worry Less, Succeed More, Enjoy More
  • Patricia Crossley

    Hi, I love the demo here. I’m writing a workbook on getting unstuck and I was wondering if I could use these mind maps with reference of course to your blog. Would you be okay with that, and if so, what reference would you like me to put? If it’s not oaky, thank you anyway for a clear and appealing expose.

    Best wishes