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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. A rut can manifest as a productivity vacuum and be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. Is it possible to learn how to get out of a rut?

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, or a student, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on Small Tasks

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks that have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate positive momentum, which I bring forward to my work.

If you have a large long-term goal you can’t wait to get started on, break it down into smaller objectives first. This will help each piece feel manageable and help you feel like you’re moving closer to your goal.

You can learn more about goals vs objectives here.

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2. Take a Break From Your Work Desk

When you want to learn how to get out of a rut, get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the bathroom, walk around the office, or go out and get a snack. According to research, your productivity is best when you work for 50 minutes to an hour and then take a 15-20 minute break[1].

Your mind may be too bogged down and will need some airing. By walking away from your computer, you may create extra space for new ideas that were hiding behind high stress levels.

3. Upgrade Yourself

Take the down time to upgrade your knowledge and skills. Go to a seminar, read up on a subject of interest, or start learning a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college[2]. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a Friend

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while. Relying on a support system is a great way to work on self-care when you’re learning how to get out of a rut.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget About Trying to Be Perfect

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism can lead you to fear failure, which can ultimate hinder you even more if you’re trying to find motivation to work on something new.

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If you allow your perfectionism to fade, soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come, and then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

Learn more about How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up.

6. Paint a Vision to Work Towards

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the ultimate goal or vision you have for your life?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action. You can use the power of visualization or even create a vision board if you like to have something to physically remind you of your goals.

7. Read a Book (or Blog)

The things we read are like food for our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great material.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. You can also stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs and follow writers who inspire and motivate you. Find something that interests you and start reading.

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8. Have a Quick Nap

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep[3].

Try a nap if you want to get out of a rut

    One Harvard study found that “whether they took long naps or short naps, participants showed significant improvement on three of the four tests in the study’s cognitive-assessment battery”[4].

    9. Remember Why You Are Doing This

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall your inspiration, and perhaps even journal about it to make it feel more tangible.

    10. Find Some Competition

    When we are learning how to get out of a rut, there’s nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, and networking conventions can all inspire you to get a move on. However, don’t let this throw you back into your perfectionist tendencies or low self-esteem.

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    11. Go Exercise

    Since you are not making headway at work, you might as well spend the time getting into shape and increasing dopamine levels. Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, or whatever type of exercise helps you start to feel better.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

    If you need ideas for a quick workout, check out the video below:

    12. Take a Few Vacation Days

    If you are stuck in a rut, it’s usually a sign that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange one or two days to take off from work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax, do your favorite activities, and spend time with family members. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest.

    More Tips to Help You Get out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Ashkan Forouzani via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Celestine Chua

    Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

    13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 11 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Results 20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity 42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

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    Last Updated on January 20, 2021

    How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out

    How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out

    I was weeping in bed for the third time that week, and I’ve never been a crier. But eight months after having my daughter, and four months after going back to work, the motivation and energy I’d originally felt returning to my job had completely subsided, and I’d hit a wall of fatigue and exhaustion of epic proportions. I’d forgotten how to find motivation.

    I felt trapped. I wondered how to stop feeling unmotivated when I was trying to be everything to everyone. In today’s non-stop society, this happens to many people, so if you’re feeling burnt out and exhausted, you’re not alone.

    How to Find Motivation

    When I think about my experience with burnout, I can’t help but get a visual of when the hero Wesley is declared “mostly dead” in the classic 80’s movie The Princess Bride.

    In case you haven’t seen the movie, let’s set the scene: Our hero Wesley is flat on his back, seemingly lifeless with heavy limbs and no strength left in his body after being tortured (almost) to death. Hope is bleak. At this point it seems impossible he has any fight left in him to take on his nemesis, Prince Humperdink, and rescue his lady love Buttercup.

    But with the remaining air in his lungs, he mutters two words: True love.

    This leads us to the first strategy for how to find motivation, even when you’re completely burnt out:

    1. Focus on Your True Love

    Our hero Wesley had one thing that motivated all of his actions: Princess Buttercup, his true love.

    If you really think about it, the same is true for you. Whether it’s an actual person or a passion, you need to remember your “why.”

    What is your reason for rising from this rut? Who or what was your motivation for reading this article? There’s something driving you to not stay stuck. There are some people who are counting on you or some mission that’s bigger than you that provide a clear purpose for everything you do.

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    All of your efforts should be focused on your true love and getting back to being the person who can show up for that noble cause.

    Knowing your true love is your compass. Whenever you’re feeling lost or uninspired, remembering the people or passion that make you uniquely you gives you that sense of purpose that you need to feel motivated to rise, even when you feel like you have nothing left.

    In my case, I had to eventually realize that my true love (my husband) wanted his true love back—not this sobbing, miserable zombie I’d become.

    When I realized that my complete lack of motivation and burn out was really affecting him, I knew it was time to get to the root of what was really wrong, which leads us to step 2.

    2. Identify Your True Adversary (and Focus Your Limited Energy There)

    There’s always someone or something that has to be defeated in every hero’s journey when learning how to find motivation. In the case of our hero Wesley, he had to defeat Prince Humperdink in order to rescue Buttercup. This singular mission helped him reserve his energy for the most critical moment, when he finally met Humperdink face-to-face.

    In the case of your burnout, there is most likely a root cause that has to be addressed in order to reclaim your motivation. Getting clear on what that is will prevent you from running around trying to fix every aspect of your life and allow you to simply focus on the one or two things that are really the reason everything’s feeling so hard.

    When you’re truly burnt out, it’s likely that it’s negatively impacted multiple areas of your life, so it may feel impossible to identify the root cause of your struggles at the moment.

    To get the root cause of your burnout, do a gut check. What are the first 3 reasons that you think have caused you to burn out? What were the first things that popped into your mind?

    If you’re stuck, you can also rank each of the following categories of your life from 1-10 (10 being awesome, 1 being awful):

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    • Career
    • Family
    • Friends
    • Money
    • Contribution
    • Personal Growth
    • Spiritual Life
    • Health
    • Romance
    • Fun

    The aspects of your life with the lowest numbers should help you identify the true root cause of your burnout.

    One way to really figure out what’s wrong is to imagine what a 10 would be to you in each area you rank low. For example, if you rank your job a 2, what would a 10 be to you? Describe it in as much detail as possible and compare it to your current situation.

    For example, maybe your 10 job would be remote, but your current job forces you to commute and travel constantly. This has the potential to affect every area of your life, but the solution to most of your woes is to get a job that lets you work from home and doesn’t require so much travel.

    When you’re clear on what’s not working, you can start to see a way out, which leads us to step 3.

    3. Remember That You’re the Hero

    It would have been easy for Wesley to play the victim. After all, he literally was tortured to death and endured unimaginable pain in the Pit of Despair.

    However, instead of focusing on what had happened to him in the past, as soon as Wesley was brought back to life, he focused on what needed to be done in order to get his girl. He remembered he was the hero, despite how things may have felt or appeared in the moment.

    When we’re burnt out, it’s easy to want to play the blame game or feel victimized by our circumstances.

    This isn’t a good way to learn how to find motivation because it prevents us from having any agency or creative point of view on our situation.

    If anything is going to change in our life, we have to always remember that we’re the hero of our own story. Despite what circumstances come at us, our responses are 100% our responsibility.

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    In my case, I knew the commute and stress from my job was one of the major sources of my burnout. I also knew something was wrong with my health but didn’t have any answers or solutions yet. What was clear was that the stress I was feeling wasn’t going to get any better if I kept doing what I was doing.

    I had to save myself. I had to do the work, and perhaps I was using my husband as an excuse because in admitting I needed a break or help, in my mind I was admitting weakness.

    I was afraid to be that vulnerable and to ask for and expect his complete love and support when I wasn’t “working for it.” I was more comfortable playing the victim of my circumstances and falling on my noble sword because it made me feel strong.

    Can you relate? If so, spend time answering these questions:

    • If you’re honest with yourself, have you been playing the hero or the victim of your story?
    • Claiming your role of hero, what’s your next play?
    • What are you secretly wanting permission for that you need to grant yourself?

    Once you take complete responsibility for your circumstances and for saving yourself, there’s another key thing you’ll need.

    4. Accept Help From Your Friends

    Our hero Wesley was “mostly dead” and unable to walk, feed himself, or hold his head up when his friends Inigo and Fezzik found him. If it wasn’t for them, he would have died in the Pit of Despair, but they held him up, found Miracle Max, advocated for a remedy, and carried him on their backs until he could stand on his own again.

    My story is no different. In order to find my motivation again and recover from burnout, it required me to rely on my husband and support network more than I ever had before. It also required doctors, life coaches, and the support of friends and family.

    Sometimes showing weakness is the ultimate show of strength.

    You are the hero, and you’re also human. None of us can do this on our own, nor are we supposed to. When you’re burnt out, it’s important to ask for help and seek out a support system while you find your way back to yourself[1].

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    This is how you learn to achieve your goals after losing motivation.

    Final Thoughts

    Remember, burnout happens to all of us from time to time, and it’s during these times that we may need to learn how to find motivation again.

    Sometimes, doing this requires making a huge life change, but other times, it can be fixed with a new habit as simple as shutting down your computer, putting your phone out of sight, and giving yourself some down time.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities on your plate and with all of the things you’re thinking you need to change, remember to start small and focus on the ONE thing that’s going to make the biggest impact.

    My thing was leaving my full time job, which, after months stressing about it, was accomplished in one 10-minute conversation with my manager.

    Save your precious energy for only doing the things that truly matter right now, and your motivation will start coming back sooner than you thought possible.

    More About Finding Motivation

    Featured photo credit: Tania Mousinho via unsplash.com

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