When you’re stuck in a rut, everything seems to run along the same track. Nothing ever changes and you find yourself doing the same things day in and day out.
Some might argue there’s nothing worse than endless monotony, but there truly are more serious situations. Like chronic pain, a sudden illness, trauma, financial disaster, losing loved ones, getting fired and so on.
Compared to what you could be experiencing, being stuck in a rut isn’t all that bad – if you want to continue living a life of sameness. But most people want more out of life than that. Once you recognize the rut you’re in and know you want to change, that’s the first major hurdle. Here are some tips on how to break free from monotony.
Scrutinize your daily schedule.
Maybe you think you know your daily routine inside and out, but do you really know how much time you spend doing various tasks? Here’s where you put down on paper what you do and when from the time you get up until you go to bed. This means jotting down everything and assigning the time you spent doing it, whether it’s brushing your teeth for two minutes or taking the subway to work for 45 minutes.
What you’ll discover is that there’s a lot of time spent looking for things you might have misplaced, time spent frivolously on social media when you could be tending to a work assignment, backtracking to fix an error you made because you were in a hurry to finish, and other instances where your head either wasn’t into what you were doing or you just got bogged down in the details and lost the objective.
Add up the lost moments and you’ll find that there’s a lot of time you could be utilizing to better purpose.
Examine your rituals and make adjustments.
If you do the same thing every morning that you’ve done for the past year, is there a reason why you continue? Is it a ritual you do to get ready for the day that you find helps you or has this become a chore you dread?
Whether it’s deciding what to wear or making something to eat, maybe switching what you do or the order in which you do it will remove the element of boredom and monotony and contribute to a more positive outlook on the day ahead.
The same principle applies at work or school. If your first order of business is to open your desk and take out the files for the day’s work, maybe you talk with your supervisor or co-workers first about the today’s top projects. If there’s something hot or new, you want to be the first to know about it.
When you’re not afraid to look at your everyday rituals and make adjustments, the result will be a lightening of the load and adding an element of change to the day.
Prioritize tasks and delete unnecessary ones.
No one has just one thing to do on any given day. There’s always a multitude of tasks, chores, responsibilities and duties to tend to. No wonder you wind up frustrated and feeling stuck in a rut. How can anyone not feel this way when there’s so much to do and only 24 hours in the day?
Knowing that you can only work on one thing at a time, it’s important to pick out the one you intend to work on first. This requires prioritization of your tasks and it’s not always easy to do. There might be an important assignment that you know will take a long time and you’re reluctant to get started on it. On the other hand, you know you can dash off a few short tasks. It’s going to be a trade-off. Sometimes, the prudent course of action is to do some work on a longer task and then intersperse it with several shorter ones.
During your prioritization of tasks, when you come to some that are purely arbitrary, have no real deadline or have outlived their usefulness on your list, delete them. Cleaning up your to-do list will leave you feeling more in charge and less stuck in a rut.
Factor in some free time.
Since you’ve made some changes in your daily routine already and also prioritized your tasks, you’ve likely created some space in your schedule. Use this time to your advantage to do something that you enjoy.
This could be as simple and uncomplicated as going for coffee with a friend on a break or making a lunch date, taking a walk in the park after work and before heading on your commute home.
It may be more involved, such as researching a goal you’re interested in, connecting with friends to arrange a weekend activity, shopping for clothing and equipment for a hobby you want to begin.
The important thing to remember about free time is that it’s just that: free time. This means you use it for whatever you want. By allowing yourself to enjoy your free time, you’re making great strides to break free from monotony and getting out of being stuck in a rut.
If you need help, ask for it.
Sometimes you may be in over your head, swamped with projects and beset with impossible deadlines. This is not conducive to your well-being. You aren’t superhuman and cannot possibly tackle it all at once. You need help.
It may come as a shock to know that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it. Your supervisor won’t be surprised or shocked if you request assistance, an extended deadline or more resources. In fact, if he or she is, that means they haven’t been paying attention, or they may be getting pressured by their own higher-ups. In any case, when you ask for help, it’s a wake-up call. A good supervisor will accommodate in any way possible.
Once you’ve gotten the help, or the promise of it, this will alleviate some of the stress and tension of the overwhelming workload. Be sure you don’t take advantage of this assistance and dawdle on the projects or tasks. Work efficiently and make progress. That shows your boss you value his or her help and you’ve made good use of it.
It also reinforces your self-confidence and judgement to know that you’ve analyzed your situation and figured out where you need a helping hand.
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