7 Ways to Get Motivated and Break Out of a Work Slump
These motivational strategies can put a stop to your workday blues.
7 min read
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We all experience a work slump from time to time. Sometimes it’s just a case of the blahs, when we feel disconnected and indifferent to our projects and not motivated to achieve our goals. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re down because we’ve been robotically going through the motions of work and life.
Has every day become a rinse and repeat of the last? Have lost your zest for what you’re doing? Do you feel unsatisfied, but can’t quite pinpoint why? If so, you might be in a slump.
Stop yawning, put your coffee mug down and decide it’s time to put a stop your workday blues. Here’s how you can kick your rut to the curb.
1. Determine why you’re struggling.
The first step to getting your work mojo back is to consider what might have prompted your slump in the first place. Can you pinpoint when you first started feeling “off” and what might have triggered the downturn?
Often, career ruts are caused by feeling complacent or bored by what you’re doing. Once you’ve mastered your role at work, it may stop feeling exciting and interesting. Or perhaps you’re feeling burned out because you’ve overextended yourself. Is there something going on outside of work that is distracting you (either positively or negatively)?
Another issue may be that you no longer take pleasure in what you’re doing. Pay attention to what your gut says and how you react to different situations — this may clue you in on what’s behind your slump.
2. Get off the hedonic treadmill.
Even people who are working in jobs they like and excel at can find themselves in an extended lull at times. This may be due to a naturally occurring phenomenon called “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation.” This phenomenon happens when we get used to things, even the things we consider great and wonderful in our lives.
As Tim Bono, lecturer in psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has said, “Someone who loves chocolate will grow tired of eating it after a while if chocolate is the only thing they have to eat every single day, day after day.” The same is true for anything in life, including a job you initially loved and felt excited about, but that now feels routine and humdrum.
If this is the case, consider ways to rotate through things that you enjoy. Mix things up. Look for new ways to engage your mind and make things interesting, even if you are still doing the same basic tasks.
3. Return to what inspires you.
Breaking a slump happens when you rekindle your motivation; when you feel excited about something and look forward to accomplishing a goal. Inspiration can be the key to motivation.
Are there activities or interests that energize you or spark your creativity? For some people, it’s engaging with art or music. Others find inspiration in nature, such as taking a long walk in a shady park or sitting beside the ocean.
Still others are energized by the hustle and bustle of a busy city, getting lost in the crowds and feeling humanity all around. Whatever ignites you, make time for it in your daily schedule.
4. Make a motivational vision board.
Another powerful tool to help you feel inspired is to create a vision board. This will help you visualize and focus on the things that are most important to you and your future.
Think about your intentions and goals in life. What do you want? What do you value? Do a mental scan of your career, finances, relationships, personal growth and health. What do you want each of those areas to look like in the future? How do you want to feel when you accomplish those goals?
Select images that represent those desires — these should be pictures that resonate with you and invoke the feeling or state of mind that you connect with those goals. You can cut up magazines or find pictures online — Pinterest may be a helpful place to start. Paste or tape these images onto a poster board or large sheet of paper. Then display it where you will see it frequently, so it becomes a regular visual reminder of your core values.
5. Identify the thing you’ve been avoiding.
Work slumps can crop up when the strategies you once used to produce results are no longer effective. This may be an indication that you’re avoiding something that’s bothering you, and this is holding you back and impeding your workflow.
Perhaps you have a decision you need to make, but have been putting it off. Or you might be sidestepping a difficult situation, like confronting your boss about something, dealing with a problematic employee or owning up to a mistake you made. It could even be that you simply aren’t happy in your current job, but you’re putting off looking for a new one.
The more you try to dodge these troublesome issues, the more they will weigh you down. Stop evading. You must confront this obstacle and take action. It’s the only way to move past your rut.
6. Shock your system.
Slumps can come from getting in a rut that has become set in stone. You become comfortable with the way things are and you stop pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If that’s the case, it’s time to shake things up!
You can start by changing one part of your routine every day. Get up at the break of dawn and go for a run. Go to a farmers market instead of the grocery store to buy your fruits and veggies. Liven up your workspace by bringing in some new decor or moving your office furniture around.
Try doing something radically different at least once a week. Take a new class or try a new hobby. Do something that scares you a little. Go on that roller coaster you’d normally never ride. Start conversations with strangers. The point is to make every day unique by doing away with boring and humdrum routines.
7. Take a mental health day.
There are times when the stress and pressures of life just pile up. The result of being chronically overwhelmed is a slump where you just don’t feel like you can handle anything. This is a clear indication that you need a break.
Taking a mental health day is similar to calling in sick when you have a cold or the flu. It’s a crucial part of self-care, giving yourself a chance to rest and recharge. This is time you should be using for stress relief and burnout prevention. It’s a break from the noise and confusion of daily life.
If you’re taking a mental health day, it’s important that you actually do things that will help you relax and feel restored. That may mean a day spent in your pajamas binge-watching Netflix. Or getting a massage, practicing gratitude or doing yoga and stretching. It can mean spending time with a friend or loved one. Just remember to pick something that will provide tension relief and avoid doing things that stress you out.