This is a difficult thing to admit to myself. After swearing that I wouldn’t let it happen, and taking many precautions to ensure that it didn’t, I have been stuck in a bit of a rut for the past few weeks. While certainly not in the sense that I am depressed or doing nothing but sitting on the couch watching TV, it is more a lack of productivity around projects that I had higher hopes for a few months ago.
If you’ve been on a set schedule for years, as I had been up until October 20th, the lack of structure can totally throw you off. No matter how much you prepare, it’s definitely a shock to the system.
For the first month or so, I worked my ass off to try and make some headway on a multitude of projects. I was working out every day, I got 6,000 words into my personal manifesto, I was spending more time each week sending emails and collaborating with others, and then something changed; I was given direction.
I knew that I’d be heading to Thailand at the start of the new year. I’m not sure what about that made me think I could slack off, but I haven’t been working nearly as hard these past few weeks as I know I should be.
Stagnation can be a scary thing. I’ve been finding myself more stressed out lately, because there has been less going on. Funny how that works isn’t it? When you have deadline after deadline, or goal after goal, you find ways to get it done. You improve your time management, and in many cases, the quality of your work as well. This is all simply because you don’t have a choice.
I’ve been faced with a situation where my projects don’t have any deadlines on them, and I know I’ll be working my ass off once I touch down in Thailand, so I’ve just been taking a bit of a breather. Well I’ve got news for you: I don’t like it.
Whats worse, the deeper you get into your rut, the harder it is to get out. You begin to get more acclimated to your boring lifestyle. Sure, I spend time with friends, and still do stuff I enjoy. I write on the blog, and work on some smaller side projects here and there, but I haven’t gotten into a “working mindset”.
Even more disappointing, is that I haven’t exactly taken advantage of that lack of mindset either. It would be one thing if I were doing something cool like skiing every day or road tripping across Europe, but even that would inspire me to write all sorts of blog posts about the endeavor. I could (should?) be writing 5 posts a week and I am only writing 2. There is something innately wrong with that.
But here is the good news, I realize all of this. Whereas a few weeks ago, I would try and convince myself that I was being productive and getting lots done, now I actually recognize that I’ve been slacking off a bit. And thats OK. I think sometimes you need to go through phases like that, to make yourself that much more motivated to bump up the productivity and really start “getting things done” (which is an excellent book on productivity if you haven’t read it).
So now what? I recognize that I haven’t been fully committing to my manifesto, making the blog better, or connecting with new people, so how do you change that? Honestly, the first thing I would do is go read Getting Things Done, by David Allen. His approach to reducing stress and increasing productivity is second to none, and is one of the reasons I’ve realized that the effort has been a little lacking as of late.
The book will give you more tips than I ever could, but something I have found helpful is to identify what I’m really trying to accomplish, and then create both a short and long term plan from there. Identify things you can do immediately to work towards the goal, and do them! I think I lacked structure and organization, and that’s why I ultimately let my projects get so delayed.
Something that I haven’t tried, but will be signing up for as soon as I am done writing this article, is a program like Rescue Time. My biggest problem when it comes to lack of productivity, is surfing the internet. It is so easy to get sucked in that having a tool that will keep me from doing this seems invaluable. As I said, I haven’t tried it, but I will be sure to update you on what I find. Even better, if you have any experience with this program, tell us about it!
This week I’ve made a resolution to get things done. This includes physically completing tasks that I must do to be ready for my trip, as well as creating longer term goals to ensure that I don’t begin digging any more ruts for myself. I also know that with more work on the horizon, I need to start getting back into the working mindset. That’s exciting to me. I miss the feeling of being “in the zone” and making progress towards a goal. I reached my goal of giving myself more time, but now its time to remember why I had that goal in the first place!
Have your broken out of a rut before? How did you do it? Currently in one yourself? What can we do it help you get out?