Who among us has not woken up one day to find themselves deeply ensconced in a good old-fashioned workplace rut? It certainly happens with the job you’ve been kind of meh about from Day One, but that dream job you landed four years ago isn’t immune from The Rut either. No matter how motivated we may start out, there is something about weeks upon months upon years of routine, repetition and familiarity that leads us into a “lull.”
Taffi Dollar, CEO of Arrow Global Entertainment, writes for Minutes Magazine that everyone hits these lulls, these plateaus, where we become less excited and less productive at work. One suggestion she has: Take a field trip.
If there’s something specific you’re trying to accomplish at work but you either aren’t feeling motivated to do it or you don’t know exactly how to do it, go out and conduct some research.
Find someone you know or whom you know of who has the wisdom or intelligence you’re after. Then, go observe them in action. If you’re looking to restructure your organisation, for example, pay a visit to a company who already has a similar structure in place.
Sure, you could take a field trip to that annual conference you’ve always meant to attend. Or meet a colleague who works in the same industry for coffee for a little idea exchange. But that’s really more networking and probably not quite enough to pull yourself from the depths of the rut. What you need are some truly fresh ideas from those who are most likely to have them.
Talk to those who are affected
No matter what field you work in, it’s likely that part of what you do (or your employer does) is work to solve some kind of problem. To shake yourself out of a state of stagnation, meet with the people most affected by that problem. And, whenever possible, go to them instead of bringing them to you.
If you work for an education software company, for example, go into your neighbourhood schools. Meet with teachers, ask them about their technological obstacles and observe them as they teach. You’re likely to leave with a deeper and more timely understanding of what teachers need right now to be effective in the classroom.
And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll have a renewed sense of inspiration that your job ultimately helps teachers do their job better. Just remember to think of these people as your focus group out in the wild; be gracious and reward them for their time however you can.
Seek outside experts
Sure, you and those you work with are probably experts in your field. When you do a thing long enough, it starts to feel like you know all there is to know about it. But it’s likely there are folks out there who know even more than you do. There may be an academic at your local university who specialises in your industry and gives lectures on a few topics each year that you may want to sit in on.
Maybe there is a researcher studying the very angle you’re most interested in, and maybe that researcher would allow you to come into their office to see their work.
At the very least, there are likely other groups that work with your target demographic or customer that may be able to provide insight into whatever “problem” you’re trying to solve. Consider who else, besides your competition, might have knowledge, expertise or experience in your field and seek them out.
Take tours, sit in on meetings, ask if you can be a fly on the wall. These field trips might not be quite as exciting as visiting the veggie patch when you were in kindergarten (nothing can top that), but getting out of your office and immersing yourself in the subject matter of your industry might be exactly what you need to get re-energised about your job.