Ruts bite. We’ve all been there. They suck your energy and drain your creative juices. Deep ruts can rob you of optimism and sometimes, even hope. Chances are, are that if you’re in one you might not even know it. All of this makes for all the more reason for you to become fluent with what gets you in one, what gets you out and what helps you stay out. Having been in a few myself, and having helped many others clamber out, knowing when you’re in one is the very first step.
You Know You’re in a Rut When…
For me, like many, ruts are usually marked by physical, behavioural and emotional indicators that can last for days, even weeks. You may feel less energized than usual and drag your feet more. You might be slower to follow through with tasks and projects. Emotionally, your creative motor might feel like it’s ground to a halt and your positive outlook becomes decidedly less sunny. Rather than looking forward to something, you might instead look for escape routes. For myself, when this all conspires, I know that something is amiss. I’m definitely not in my groove.
Step 1: Rut Spotting
I employ a very simple system based on my weekly schedule and how I feel. I do a temperature check at the end of work every Friday. I review my week with regards to what I’ve achieved, how much I’ve stayed on track and how I’m feeling overall. In fact, it is how I’m feeling that serves as the most reliable litmus test as to whether or not I’m in the groove.
Step 2: Getting Out: Just Do It!
If I’m feeling unsatisfied, drained or frustrated, the first place I look is my schedule. I track all of my routines & activities, both personal and professional. While I don’t include detail for everything, I plan specific blocks of time for wellbeing, work, and personal stuff. The vast majority of the time that either myself or my clients get off track and feel that our mojo has departed is when personal sustainability routines are ignored. Really.
No matter who it is, what level of the organization, or type of business, the primary reason for people hitting the skids creatively and productively is when they’ve taken care of everything but themselves. Been there?
So what to do? You simply start doing again those things that re-energize you. And you do it all regularly. Even if it feels at first that no change is happening, you keep doing it. These things can take time. For me, the most important thing I do to keep me in top form is meditating. This alone can sustain me more powerfully than anything else. It may be different for you, perhaps it’s running. I have a number of clients for whom that long daily run is a near-religious experience for them. Whatever it is, start doing it again. Now.
Other key habits for my wellbeing include hanging with my friends, working out, eating well and following good sleep practices. Being off-kilter with any of these can knock me off balance and it shows up in the energy and focus I bring to my work and relationships. If you don’t already know what works for you, you owe it to yourself to figure it out – this is the key to getting out of and staying out of ruts.
Step 3: Staying Out
Most people I know and work with already know a lot about what makes them feel good – the people, places and activities – few though realize the primal sway these exert in their work and home lives. Why else would we have so many people putting aside what they miscategorize as “optional” that is anything but?
While it would be impossible to avoid tripping into a rut now and again, the goal is to make them as infrequent and as short as you can. Riding your bike, going to dinner with friends and spending time with your family just may be your salvation…and the key to you being that creative spark at work.