It’s a story to which many people can probably relate: A few months after I started at a new job, the excitement of the new opportunity had begun to pass, I had finished my first few major projects, and the arrival of summer began to divert my attention elsewhere. Suddenly, after being highly motivated since getting hired, I felt lethargic and slow in the office. My procrastination levels rose and my productivity faltered.
I knew that my experience was not a rare one. For every worker comes a stretch of time when they feel less motivated, less productive, and less capable of walking into the office every day and handling their workload.
Sometimes this happens in the let-down period following a big project or the first few months on a job; sometimes it is simply a product or outside factors or the natural rhythms of working life; and sometimes it derives from concrete influences, such as the removal of a contract incentive or the attainment of a senior position in the firm.
Whatever the reason, it is not OK to doubt your capabilities when an unproductive stretch comes around. It is important, however, to take concerted efforts to snap out of your slump. Otherwise, your lack of motivation and productivity could turn into a negative pressure, which in turn could make you feel more stressed and no more accomplished.
On that note, here are a few tips and strategies for dealing with those dog days of work:
Switch Up the Routine
The degree to which you switch up the routine should depend in part upon the flexibility you have with your job. If you have a high amount of flexibility, you can switch things up by working from home, working odd hours, trying a different project, or taking a new approach.
Such major moves may not be an option if you have less flexibility, but even then you can change up the little things in your routine: pack a different lunch, bring a water softener instead of a water bottle, or tackle your daily tasks in a reverse order.
Create Personal Incentives
Studies show that employees are generally more motivated when they are properly incentivized. If your company does not give you the right incentives – or if these incentives are not enough – you can always give yourself personal goals, targets, and rewards.
The goals may reflect productivity objectives on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly level, while the rewards, meanwhile, can range from small treats (go out for lunch on Friday if the week has been productive) to larger luxuries (a vacation as a year-end bonus for you and your spouse).
Mix Exercise and Work
People who exercise regularly are much more relaxed and less stressed than their peers, traits which help make them more capable of exhibiting healthy time management strategies. They have a daily commitment that extends beyond their workplace.
For these reasons, incorporating exercise into your daily work routine can help switch up that routine (see tip #1 above), provide you with goals and make you more motivated overall (tip #2), and generally help you relax during the day. The best way to do this is by running or biking to work, or by making time to exercise during a lunch break.
Take a Break
Sometimes a period of stagnation simply needs that you need a brief break during which you can take a step back, refresh, and regain the momentum that you lost. This break doesn’t need to be a week-long tropical vacation; instead, take a personal day on a Friday and drive somewhere nearby for the weekend. There’s a good chance that you’ll return to work on Monday energized and ready to go.
Consider How Your Approach Has Changed
If you were once motivated and productive than you are at present, take a moment to consider what happened to cause that change. Was it something that you did or that you can correct? Trying to replicate your past approach can often prove fruitful when trying to correct the current one.
Talk About It
All too often, our feelings of inadequacy on the workplace turn into self-imposed pressures and frustrations that only furthers a cycle of stagnation.
In many cases this can be avoided by sharing your concerns with another person, ideally someone who works with you and can understand your pressures. Tell them about your lack of motivation and use them as a support when you need some encouraging words in the future.
Change the Pace
Some people don’t want to switch their routine, add incentives, take a break, or talk about their productivity problems. My final piece of advice is a more straightforward one aimed at this crowd. By working longer, more relaxed days, or by going into the office on the weekends, your change of pace may certainly translate into more time on the job – but this temporary measure can help you remove pressure and snap out of your work funk.
In other words, just do it — finish what’s bothering you.
These are few of the ways to help you overcome a period of stagnancy in your work life. While these periods are normal and common occurrences, it is still important to address them when they arise – for both your short-term sanity and your long-term productivity and in order to keep motivated.
Photo by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden.
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