How excited do you think Pat Sajak is to ask contestants to buy a vowel after all these years? Do you think Beyoncé is tired of singing “Single Ladies” yet? Which do you think Michael Jordan loved more – the championship rings or shooting practice free throws for well over two decades of his life? There are monotonous phases of every career, even if your career is that of a pop star, a game show host, or a sports legend. We are certainly not exempt from that monotony either! You might not be experiencing it right now, but someone you lead may be. You might be in the height of peak professional fulfillment season but start to coast after the holidays and need a boost. The purpose of this post is not to serve as a downer, but to serve as a preemptive boost to what everyone will experience at times throughout their careers. We’ll address short-term solutions for managing a slump, mitigating boredom, and developing a carefully balanced mix of deliberate grind and patience. Even if you are in a great place professionally, if you implement a few of our suggestions, your great year can continue to evolve into something even greater. Here are some tips for surviving the slump.
Slump vs Burnout
Before we jump in, recognize that there is a difference between a slump and being burned out. A slump requires reengagement, whereas a burnout requires a comprehensive analysis of responsibilities and an analysis of future career path. A burnout can be solved by adding responsibilities to your plate, by building a team around you, and by outsourcing the lower level competencies that would allow someone to spend more time performing highly valued tasks. In order to successfully accomplish all of that, you have to be someone who others want to follow. If you are fearful that you are facing burnout, start first with treating it as a slump so you can pull yourself (or others) out of it long enough to give options for a long-term solution.
Commit to Change
Pop quiz: Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left?
The answer is five. Why? Four decided to jump off, but that’s all they did. There’s a big difference between deciding and doing.
Commit to just a couple of changes and commit to how long you will change those things. At the end of that timeline, ask yourself “did I get enough from that that I want to keep doing it?” If you want to keep doing it, great! If not, commit to changing something else. But instead of committing to running a marathon, commit to running twice a week for two weeks and then reevaluating. Instead of making dramatic statements about changing your work habits, commit to working late two nights a week for the next two weeks. Do not get overwhelmed with the long-term nature of significant change; instead, focus on small wins that you can control and then control them.
Next, consider removing the unnecessary from the calendar. Focus on whatever those most important objectives are. If your mission is to generate new clients, then remove essentially everything else from your calendar that’s not related to developing new clients. If your key objective is to complete some projects that have been looming over your shoulder, postpone coffee meetings and other tasks until those key projects are complete. Contrary to what you might be thinking, this is not being irresponsible or avoiding responsibility; it’s reassessment, and it is at the very heart of getting out of a slump. Eliminate everything except for the most important objectives and don’t get distracted by anything else.
Have a Plan
Benjamin Franklin is credited with the phrase “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Two hundred years later, that still rings true. Do not leave the office or go to bed at night without knowing exactly what your day is going to consist of tomorrow. Some adults view a plan as something that is boring and stifling; as an alternative, many “wing” their day and have no idea what they are going to do. Subsequently, many feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed and as though they are falling short of their true potential. The answer lies in carefully designing a routine that works best for you – one which helps you be productive, in control, and the best version of yourself possible. When you carefully craft a personal routine and stick to it, it allows you get the most important things done first and out of the way.
In nature, plants either grow or decompose; they do not stay the same. People are the same way; in an organization, nourishment is supplied by learning. What are you doing to foster training, growth, and new perspectives for yourself on an ongoing basis?
Consider this dilemma: a horticulturalist is stressed out because his plants are dying but is so preoccupied trying to figure out the underlying problem that he does not have time to water the plants. Should he just continue to pray for the good luck of rain, or would he be better served by changing his schedule around so he has time to water his plants? “We don’t have the money to invest in training.” “We’ve had a really bad quarter and don’t have time for this right now.” “I’m not in the right mindset to be open to new ideas right now.” These are all the same thing as saying “my plants are dying, but I don’t have time to water them.” Be proactive in seeking your own professional water, and actively learn – with outside help if needed!
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