Ever found yourself just staring at the screen, struggling to get through the workday?
No motivation, no desire, and no passion, just running on willpower.
That’s how I felt not so long ago. I seemed to have fallen out of love with the job I once adored, which has sparked so much interest and hasn’t felt like work at all. Now it felt burdensome, boring, like a dead end. I knew I needed to change things, but didn’t know what and how.
Does it seem familiar? Are you feeling stuck and drained? Want to rediscover your professional self? Then keep reading.
When I first realized I was stuck, I went to Google for answers and, strangely, all could find was some generic advice that didn’t really work for me. This is the article I wish I’ve found back then, so I really hope it helps you too!
Why are you stuck?
It pays to find out the root cause of your burnout because then you can deal with it directly. The reasons can be numerous:
- Maybe you’ve pursued some huge kick-ass goals and have fallen short.
- Maybe you’ve reached your kick-ass goal only to find out that it is not what you wanted in the first place.
- Maybe you’ve been so invested in your work that you’ve depleted all your mental and physical resources.
- Or remote work and homeschooling have finally gotten to you.
Sometimes the true reason is not obvious and it can be a combination of things. If you don’t know it right away, don’t worry, it’ll come to you later, in retrospect.
Either way, it is important to realize that you’ve lost perspective. Your daily routines and mind patterns have got you running in circles. To get unstuck you need to start seeing the big picture again and eventually come up with the new vision of the professional YOU that you want to become.
How to get unstuck?
There is a reason ‘stuck in a rut’ is a set expression. A rut is a sort of a hole you’ve got yourself in by some repeated actions, no wonder you don’t see any perspective (the hole can be deep and dark).
Therefore, to gain the perspective you need to essentially do two things: get away from your situation and feed yourself with new good things (knowledge, places, people). This is what the following list of tips is about.
“What you accept, you go beyond” Eckhart Tolle
Acceptance is the baseline and a springboard from which you can start changing your life.
It can be hard to admit that you are burned out. We live in a world that worships achievement and success. Nonetheless, if that is how you feel, you need to be honest about it. Don’t think of this situation as a setback and compare yourself to peers who seem to have it all figured out (at least according to their Instagram). Rather think of it as an important detour, that can become the highlight of your trip after all.
- Take a break
Breaks are always a good idea, even when things are great, but when things are less than great breaks are crucial.
I know, I know… Time off is a luxury. You have responsibilities and commitments. I hear ya!
But, trust me, you just have to stop whatever you are doing right now. Clearly, it isn’t getting you anywhere. Believe me, after a day or two you will wonder why you haven’t done it earlier.
The most important thing for this break is to spend as much time alone as possible. It doesn’t have to be a trip to the Bahamas (although it would be nice!). If you cannot go away, stay in your hometown, but change the scenery as much as you can.
It really helps to be in nature. Nature is invigorating and nurturing (and there are numerous studies to prove it).
Remember the famous movie called “Wild” (starring Reese Witherspoon, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir)? That’s what I’m talking about! Although maybe you don’t need to walk the 1,100 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail to rediscover yourself, perhaps daily walks in the park can do it for you too.
For instance, I took a week off and was just walking along the beach (yes, I am lucky to live near a beach!) each day for a couple of hours. During this time I was able to have some important conversations with myself, which have led to a number of break-throughs.
- Have a side passion
Passion is contagious, it can spill over to other areas of your life. If you have a hobby that you love – awesome! You can, perhaps, give it even more love and time now. If you don’t have any, it’s time to start. Trying new things and meeting new people may be just what you need.
As an example, I love climbing. It totally resets my brain and my mood. I set goals and celebrate achievements, but most importantly I really enjoy the process and the people. It feeds my body and soul, which naturally transfers to my work and personal life.
Reflection is a way to
- Process things
- Reveal your emotions and feelings
- Reveal your persistent mind patterns
- Have conversations with yourself
- Ask questions and look for answers
Journaling can be a great reflection tool. I’ve found journaling to be extremely helpful in my ‘self-therapy’ and, apparently, I am not the only one.
“What I found is when I would get into a rut again in life, is that I could go back to my diaries and see and dissect the times I had success and I found habits that I had when I was successful and happy in my life.”
A lot has been said about the positive effects of journaling and many successful people (even Matthew McConaughey) are following this practice. Tim Ferriss has many useful tips for effective journaling.
Learning became a game-changer for me. It is not only about learning new things (although it is so cool!), the entire process helps to look at ‘old’ things from new angles and stimulates your idea-generation muscle.
But of course, to get the most out of learning you need to have a purpose and goals. That is why I encourage you to get really serious about it and create a personal development plan.
This plan starts with a vision of the professional self that you want to become. Once you’ve got that figured out you can identify your skill and knowledge gaps that separate you from that vision. Now you can make your own study plan aimed at closing the gaps and go ahead and register for online courses, buy the books, and sign up for blogs.
- Get a pet project
Do you have an idea for a project that you’ve been putting off? Perhaps, you want to
- Write a book
- Start a blog
- Build a SaaS application?
Working on your own idea puts you back in the ‘creator’ mode. Maybe your pet project will become something bigger, maybe not, that’s not the point. The main thing is to get excited again and start creating again.
As a byproduct, you’ll become more thought after professional because companies value creators, they already have enough executors.
- Make a plan and stick to it
All of this soul searching will give you ideas of where you wanna go (it ought to!). But then you’ll have a new challenge of not falling back into old patterns (the rut is so familiar and comfy).
To avoid this, make a plan of what you need to do to get to the new place and check back regularly with reflections.
I am definitely still on the ‘recovery’ path, but I have rediscovered the love for work again. It started with some sparks of interest and curiosity, then it grew stronger.
I wish you lot’s of patience and strength! Who knows, maybe this life detour will become something you’ll be eternally grateful for.