9 Ways to Break Out of a Rut at Work
No matter how much we love our work, there’s no escaping the fact that, from time-to-time, we find the enthusiasm for our job waning. There can be any number of reasons why this happens, but the bottom line is we’re not firing on all cylinders.
Instead of excitement, there’s boredom.
Problems are no longer challenges, they’re simply problems.
Instead of flying by, the day seems never-ending.
Our capacity for creativity is diminished — leaving only a sense of urgency to motivate us. And, urgency can only get us so far.
So, what can you do to break out of a rut? Here are nine things you can do to get your mojo back.
- Watch for warning signs. We often fail to notice we’re slipping into a rut until it’s too late. If you notice a lack of focus, frustration working with colleagues, deadlines slipping, or a sense of dread when it comes to following up with routine tasks, chances are you slipping into a rut. Acknowledging that you’re in a rut is the first step to getting out of one.
- Break the routine. Having and maintaining a routine is central to getting work done. It gives us control and produces results. Unfortunately, a routine can also become monotonous. It can be dispiriting when the work you do becomes rote. Try getting mundane tasks out of the way so you can focus on the more interesting aspects of your job. If you can’t change your routine, change your hours. If you’re a morning person start earlier. If you work better in the afternoon come in later. Vary your work wherever you can. By changing your routine periodically, you not only avoid the rut, you can also improve your overall work performance.
- Get some sleep. Hard work requires energy and stamina. A good night’s sleep provides the energy needed. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, try an over the counter sleep medication over the course of a week. Melatonin, available at pharmacies and health food stores, can be a safe and effective way to get to sleep. If these medications don’t help, consult your doctor. A sleep deficit is not only bad for your day-to-day work performance, but it can also lead to serious health problems.
- Eat better. What we eat has an incredible impact on both our bodies and our minds. When you don’t eat well, you don’t feel well and are unable to perform to the best of your ability. A candy bar, soda, or donut will give you a sugar high, but it won’t give you the energy that a good protein-filled breakfast or lunch will. Too much caffeine can make you lose focus. The resulting irritability can turn a small problem into a big issue. Eating well doesn’t mean you need to give up everything. It just means you need to practice moderation in all things.
- Aerobic exercise. A good, heart-pumping run or workout is a great way to boost your energy level. A daily, or every other day workout, gets you out of the office and focused on your own health and well-being. Exercise builds stamina and ensures resilience — two key ingredients for success.
- Go for a walk. If you can’t get to the gym, make time for a daily walk. Adding an early morning or lunchtime walk to your routine can clear your head. 20 minutes out in the sun can brighten a dull or stressful day and provide a new perspective on work and can help you resolve problems. A good walk gives your mind the chance to process information and generate ideas. If you can’t get a walk in, get up from your desk and stretch once an hour.
- Take some time off. When was the last time you took a vacation? Quality time away from work is crucial. Taking time for yourself and spending time with friends and family refreshes and recharges us physically and mentally. If you’re unable to get away for a longer period of time, try a couple of three-day weekends.
- Meditation and yoga. Whether it’s mindfulness mediation, or more traditional transcendental meditation, freeing your mind for a fixed period of time each day can be relaxing and rejuvenating. The act of meditation can help to center you. Adding the physical discipline and controlled breathing of a yoga practice can help you achieve that same meditative state and, depending on the type of yoga you choose to explore, the added physical benefits of a workout
- Take a class. Whether you choose to strengthen your knowledge and improve your skill set by taking a course for work, or take a course outside of your field, going back to the classroom can be energizing. A class in your field can open your mind by offering new tools and approaches to the way you work. While taking a course unrelated to work gets you out of your comfort zone. Learning new things can make you more open to new ways of doing things, help you regain focus and improve your listening skills.
Changing your routine, getting the sleep you need, along with exercise and healthy eating habits, can refresh and energize. Seeking outside stimulus by taking a class, a vacation, or practicing meditation, can reinvigorate creativity and give you new tools to use when you feel yourself losing interest and focus.
Finally, if none of these things seem to work, you may be ready for a new challenge. Review your goals. Are you where you thought you’d be five years ago? What would be the next step in building your career? Talk with your supervisor about other opportunities in your department or elsewhere in the organization, or take on a special project. Your colleagues and managers understand how important is to be motivated and engaged. After all, we have all been in a rut at one time or another.
And if you can’t find the support you’re looking for at work, it could be time for a change.