Everyone can get into a rut. What starts as one day where you don’t get much done, can turn into a week or two. Avoiding these streaks of laziness is the best solution, but what can you do when you’re stuck?
The best way to get unstuck is to figure out how you got stuck in the first place. If you drive your car into a snowbank, the best way to get out is to get outside and look at the problem. But despite this suggestion, the first reaction is often to step on the gas, wasting more energy as you get even more stuck.
There are many ways you can get yourself into a streak of laziness. But I’ve found there are three big culprits that often cause you to get stuck, even though most people only blame one of them.
#1 – Low Energy
A common source of laziness is simply being drained. This is a silent cause of getting stuck, because human’s aren’t equipped with a fuel gauge. Until you’ve been running on empty for miles, it’s often hard to see that your procrastination is caused by a lack of fuel.
Whenever I’ve been stuck for more than a few days in a row, there are a few questions I try to ask myself to see whether a lack of energy is the problem:
- Have my eating or exercising habits changed in the last month? Even small changes can lead to an impact in your energy levels that you might not notice immediately.
- Have my sleeping patterns changed in the last month? Fewer hours of sleep or lower quality sleep can mean you start each day with less energy.
- Have other areas of my life added extra stress? Unfortunately, you’re only drawing fuel out of one tank, so if one area of your life is siphoning it away, you won’t have much left.
The solution to a low energy crisis is to fix whatever is the source of the drain. This isn’t always easy to do, but sometimes it is necessary. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you might need to set that as a priority before you try to drive out of your slump.
#2 – Forgotten Motivation
Why are you doing this again? Every project usually begins with inspiration. However, if you’re working the same tasks for months, some of the initial motivation for starting might be gone. Your big plans get replaced with smaller frustrations and it can be hard to find the motivation to keep going.
If there were good reasons to get started, there are probably good reasons to continue. Spending time to go through those reasons again can help you bring back your past motivation. If you’ve been stuck for more than a few days, this is a step that can’t be easily washed over. I’d suggest spending at least an hour or two going through your plans, long-term vision and initial motivation before you try to get unstuck.
Sometimes, however you’ll try to retrace your initial motivation and realize it’s not there. In this case, you stumble onto the third culprit for a slump.
#3 – It’s Not Worth It
You don’t like the work. You can’t see a long-term vision from the work. You can’t find a reason to be productive. This is a genuine reason to be in a slump. While a lack of energy or motivation can be a temporary road block, when you face this challenge, you truly are stuck.
When you reach this point, I think there are only two choices you can make in order to get unstuck:
- Keep going, but design your exit strategy.
The first solution is just to quit right there. I’ve done this before on project where the motivating reasons to continue couldn’t be found again. I’ve also done this with jobs that I had no motivating reasons to get started in the first place. Quitting isn’t a dishonorable move when staying means you’re draining your life away.
Unfortunately, quitting may not be so easy. Even if you can’t find an inspiring long-term vision connected to the work, you might be attached for short-term reasons. When this happens, many people try to ignore the long-term desert staying affords them and grudgingly accept what needs to be done.
I don’t think ignoring is an option. If you ignore your slump will only get worse. It may even get worse to the point that you can’t even continue your work for short-term reasons.
I think the only acceptable third-alternative is to continue for the short-term, but plan an exit strategy. If you’re in a career you don’t like, this might mean something drastic like getting new training on the side. If your crisis is smaller, it might mean finishing a project that drains you by planning a better project on the side.
If you can fit your current situation into your long-term vision via an exit strategy, you have a chance to get out of your slump. When I needed to take work I didn’t enjoy before I could support myself through a small business, I used my exit strategy as a means of motivating myself throughout the unenjoyable work.
I’ve listed the three major culprits of a slump in this order, because I think they are the order you need to check. Not every slump is a crisis that means you hate your work. It can be, but I’ve found being drained or temporarily losing your motivation can be equal enemies in a slump.
Image by kygp.