How can I break free from a rut at work?


You should acknowledge that everyone experiences highs, lows and doldrums in their careers. The latter is especially prevalent when people have mastered the skills required at a particular level and are no longer challenged at work.

One may also experience this “rut” when workplace environments don’t allow for creativity, growth, recognition and so forth. However, life coaches recommend that one should not focus on these external factors as they can lead to a “victim” mentality: “poor me, my job or my boss doesn’t allow me to shine”.

Rather, focus on how you approach the rut; focussing on what you can control will see you jump, scramble out of or never escape the situation.

Listen to yourself

The fact that you are dissatisfied is a subconscious call to action.  Do not ignore it as you will probably become more and more miserable.

Acknowledge that you have the strength to change your path

Even though it may mean facing a fear or two, you need to find the key to release yourself from what locks you in the rut. Are you scared of failing at something else?

Are you financially bound to the stability of your current role? You may need to seek the support of a friend or mentor to help navigate your way out. It all starts with a change in your mindset and a game plan.

Remember what you want

There are times when we accidentally coast in life. However, I encourage you to live  purposeful life by developing a clear idea of your life goals.  

Write these on a vision board or simply on Post-Its and . Put them on display at home and at work and be clear about what you need to do every day to move closer to those dreams.With a clear idea about what your current job is enabling, you will feel less trapped in that rut!

Look critically at how you spend your time

Do you look for innovative and creative ways to get your work done? Do you socialise with people who engage in different activities all the time or is your social life limited to the routine of watching sport over a braai on a Saturday afternoon?

The more variety there is in your life, the less you are likely to feel stuck in a rut. It’s the “sameness” of every day that makes us feel trapped: wake up, take kids to school, spend eight hours doing what’s on your job description, go home, eat, sleep…repeat.

It’s mind-numbing! Break that cycle by spending some of your time every day doing something intellectually or physically challenging. Do something fun at least once a week (preferably on a week night to really challenge the status quo). Do whatever it takes to step out of the routine.

Work hard NOW

If you have any hope of getting to where you dream of going, you’re going to have to put in the work. Don’t wait for someone else to challenge or develop you.

If you feel like you are in a rut, you are probably wasting a lot of time at work. Instead of surfing the net, chatting at the water cooler or taking frequent cigarette breaks, use the time to look for opportunities to learn lessons, practice skills and gain experience that will make you more marketable or stand you in good stead for career progression.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more depth, email [email protected] .