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The past six years has been a period of a very sluggish economy and frighteningly high unemployment. Everyone knows someone who has been out of work for a long time or who is under-employed. The reality of these times has led to people staying put, keeping whatever job they’re in regardless of their aptitude for it, and hesitating to “rock the boat” in any way. As of result, many of us work in departments or entire companies that are stuck in a rut.

If you are surrounded by people who are sharing the same atmosphere of unchanging behavior and routine, you might be in quite a deep trough without realizing it. Take time to take stock. If you’re bored or on auto-pilot at work, or feeling like you’re spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere within the company, your department, or your career, it’s likely you’re in a rut. If you’re not having fun anymore, or don’t seem to have any ideas on how to contribute something new and of value to your company or department, you’re in a rut.

You can’t see much from down there in a gulley. But how to get to higher ground?

Impact Performance Now

You may have fallen into this funk because of outside forces that are beyond your control, but once you recognize that your work-life has become humdrum, you have the power to change your mindset and so your situation. The first step upward is to realize that the solution isn’t likely to be provided by anyone or any event outside yourself. The ability to climb out of your rut lies within you. This essential bit of wisdom has been around awhile:

“Let him who would move the world first move himself.”
― Socrates

So how do you move yourself? Ruts come about because of a pervasive resistance to change. The stairway out of a rut is created by increasing your personal effectiveness, shaking things up a bit—seeking change. Once you’ve made the decision to help yourself put the following 4 suggestions to use to lift your mood and maybe even to lift the mood of those around you.

1. Reach out to different people. For your next project, choose 1 or 2 people you haven’t worked with to be on your team, or volunteer to work on a team that has some people you haven’t yet worked with. When mulling over an idea, stop by a different co-worker’s cubicle or desk to brainstorm or ask someone new to lunch.

Make an effort to get to know people in other departments. They will have a different view of your company. Their perspective will help you to see your own work in a new way.

2. Do things differently. Give yourself the opportunity to learn and grow by volunteering for a new responsibility, especially if it is a challenge. If that isn’t possible, then take a fresh look at your current responsibilities with an eye toward improving the way you now do things. Review and rewrite a template that you use for reports or for answering queries, update your method of filing paper or digital material, or reorganize your work area to make it more efficient.

3. Change your schedule. Switch routine morning tasks with those you do in the afternoon. Switch lunch times with someone else. Take a day off, or take a vacation. Nothing reinvigorates like a change of scene. If you have a choice, don’t work overtime, instead go home and enjoy your family or some favorite pastime. Creative ideas come when the mind is relaxed and free to imagine.

4. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Always take a break for lunch and, if possible, walk to and from lunch. Take the stairs. Walk over to a co-worker’s desk instead of asking a question by email or phone. Stand up to file or pace when talking on the phone. Take correspondence to the mailroom. In other words get out of your chair—move!

These simple changes can make a surprising difference in your personal effectiveness at work and, as a result, in your sense of professional fulfillment and enjoyment. Learn more with our course, Increasing Personal Effectiveness, and give yourself the skills to avoid future ruts and move on to a more satisfying and successful career.


EDSI is going on an 11-city tour this summer (2014). We are giving a complementary 1/2 day program based on Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. We invite you to join us!

Click below to learn more and reserve your spot.

Reserve Your Spot


Employee Development Systems (EDSI) is a mission-driven company. We know that we can increase engagement, impact, and productivity with our hallmark programs. We invite you to learn more about our programs and connect with us.

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