Are You Stuck in a Rut?



hamster-wheel.jpgHow many times during your career have you found yourself feeling stuck in a rut? Running on the proverbial hamster wheel, or experiencing the same day over and over again like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day?

Human beings are hardwired to be persistent, an attribute beneficial when things are going well. However, when things become stale over time, this persistence can create a feeling of monotony. When this happens, there are two ways to respond: wait for things around you to change or proactively make changes yourself.

In my experience, when I have ended up feeling stagnant, the following changes have helped me find my way out:

  • Change your routine. Committing to a structured routine quickly transforms into mundane repetitiveness. Before we know it, we end up feeling stuck and operating on autopilot. To break this routine, introduce small changes into your daily life such as:
    • Take a different way to work. Even if it lengthens your commute by a few minutes, finding an alternative route can expose you to different scenery and new patterns. This will inspire new thoughts and experiences, ending that feeling of being on autopilot.
    • Switch up breakfast. If you're like me, breakfast typically consists of a multivitamin and a cup of coffee to-go. Try setting aside time to sit down and have a full meal in the morning. 
    • Move the alarm clock. I like to hit the snooze button. By moving the alarm clock across the room, I'm forced to stand up and move in order to turn it off. This small act of movement wakes up both your mind and body. 

Note: These routine changes do not have to be permanent. Implementing one change every couple of days can be sufficient. Any more than that, and these changes are at risk of becoming just another boring routine.

  • Clean or reorganize your work environment. There is something invigorating about having a fresh, clean workspace. When was the last time you dusted behind your monitor? Cleaned out the bottom drawer in the file cabinet? Or implemented 5S in your work cell? Doing these things will provide a sense of accomplishment, while making your environment feel new again.
  • Prioritize exercise and self-care. When I am feeling stuck, junk food becomes my go-to. At the same time, exercise of any type falls to the bottom of my To-Do list. These bad habits can fuel and prolong the feeling of being in a slump. The next time you find yourself in this place, make time (not excuses) to do some type of activity. Something as simple as parking farther away from the building or taking a quick walk around the block will help release endorphins and lighten your mood. Similarly, swapping out a bag of chips for carrot sticks will leave you feeling more energetic and motivated to finish the day.
  • Find a reason to smile. Being in a rut and feeling gloomy often go hand in hand. There is no better way to get out of a down mood than to smile and laugh. Even if you don't find it funny, laugh at your colleague's bad joke. The act of laughing brightens your outlook and inspires a more positive attitude, even if it's just momentarily. 

No one enjoys being in a rut, but it is a fact of life that nearly all humans will face at some point. The next time you find yourself waiting for change to happen, use these tips to make work - and life itself - more enjoyable and finally break away from that hamster wheel for good.


Nelson_D-(1).jpgDave Nelson, Senior Business Solutions Manager
Dave Nelson is a Senior Business Solutions Manager with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. Joining the The Center in 2013, Dave works directly with manufacturers in Wayne and Monroe counties. He is a seasoned professional with expertise at identifying/opening new market opportunities and increasing market penetration in existing markets. Dave also has extensive experience in generating/growing new business and selling intangible services.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at​

Categories: Other, Workforce