Getting Out of a Rut
You know those times that just feel “blah”? There’s nothing necessarily wrong, you just find yourself bored, uninspired, unmotivated? We’ve all been there, and it can seem endless when you don’t know how to snap out of it.
Our character, Oni, sits staring blankly at her screen, tapping her pen in frustration, sighing in indignation. Here she is. Once. Again. The same old activities she’s been doing are producing the same old results. After 11 months of spearheading her organization's DEI programming efforts, she’s starting to feel like a hamster on a wheel. Round and round, having the same inner dialog, the same defeated sense of bewilderment at the nonparticipation by the folks who say they want this, but then don’t show. She’s about to create an email campaign for yet another event, and she can’t help but wonder if this time the results will be any different.
Oni has been on the hamster wheel for a while now, and needs help finding a way off. Let’s walk through some tips, and see how Oni handles breaking the same old, same old.
Remember your “why”
Sometimes we forget why we have the goal in the first place. So remind yourself - what makes this goal important? If it’s a personal goal, maybe you’re trying to improve something about yourself. A professional goal could be aimed towards the good of the business and what could help take production to the next level. Remembering the “why” gives the goal - and your efforts to achieve it - its purpose back.
Oni doesn’t have to think hard about her “why” for initiating her organization’s DEI program. She knows how important it is for the organization, its employees and clients, and herself. One of Oni’s biggest goals is making sure all feel welcome. So, although it involves a lot of frustration and setbacks, she knows her efforts are worth it.
Rediscover what makes you happy
When we get in this rut or we feel kind of low, it’s good to find something that gives us positive feelings instead. Maybe you enjoy exercise because the rush of endorphins helps you focus, and you haven’t been to the gym in a while. Or, there’s a special dish you don’t have very often, but makes you feel sentimental and gives you warm fuzzies. Interrupt the “blah” with something that gives you a rush or puts a smile on your face. Make time to reintroduce yourself to these things every once in a while.
Oni decides she'd like to take a brain break, and realizes the sun has come out of the clouds. She heads outside and takes a short walk around the organization's complex, allowing herself to soak up some rays. This causes a calm to wash over her and a smile grows across her face. She's then able to return to her tasks with a more positive attitude!
Learn what energizes you
Sometimes we get in the rut because we feel stuck in a routine. “I go to bed, wake up, go to work, fix dinner, and go to bed just to do it all over again.” Sound familiar? Pay close attention to your everyday activities - is there anything that gives even a little spark? Maybe you notice your jam session on the way to work gives you a boost, or chatting with your desk neighbor over lunch helps you feel more engaged. Find ways to integrate those things more regularly - such as having your music play in the background while you work, or invite that desk neighbor to grab a coffee in the afternoon.
Lately, Oni had been feeling bogged down by the constant barriers she was facing to put together this program. It seemed like all she was doing was fielding calls, making pleas, and working through rejection. However, she found light in the small group of coworkers who were helping her to do so. This team began going out for lunch regularly, just to get together as humans. She found this break a relief, and was able to return each time with a refreshed attitude.
Recognize the undermining thoughts and actions
It’s easy to talk ourselves out of something or find distractions - anything to keep from actually doing the task. Recognizing those thoughts - things like “I can push that off until tomorrow” - is the first step. Then we can see we’ve been saying that for a week now and still haven’t done anything. Maybe you often find yourself losing track of time while scrolling on your phone. If you recognize that, you can try things like setting a timer or leaving your phone in another room. Once you’ve recognized what gets in your way, you can find ways around those barriers.
Oni was realizing that every time she was met with another roadblock, she would let negative thoughts in. With each setback, she was telling herself to take them as signs - “If it’s this difficult, it’s just not meant to be!” Oni sensed this pattern, and now that she recognizes these thoughts, she doesn’t let them win. She reminds herself that they come from a place of frustration and disappointment - it doesn’t mean her goal can’t be achieved, she just has to find another way!
Lastly, taking big steps can be daunting, and throw us off track from the beginning. To use a cliché, don’t bite off more than you can chew! If crossing off a big ticket item is too much right now, focus on the little things instead. Or, figure out how you can break the big task into smaller bits. And, by the time you’ve completed a few of those smaller bits, the big task won’t seem so terrifying. Plus, you get to celebrate each completed task along the way - that’s a lot of wins!
While this program is important and means a lot to Oni, she understands it won’t be done overnight. Here’s another one - Rome wasn’t built in a day! She knows it will take time for the program to get on its feet, especially when done with intention and care. Oni finds the small wins in her day and takes the time to celebrate with her team. She doesn’t allow herself to get discouraged - she knows what it takes and is hopeful for the outcome!
These tips are just a few of the ways to dig yourself out of a rut. You can also try these 10 Sentences to make today better! What other ways have you found helpful? We’d love for you to share - let us know in the comments!