A couple of weeks ago I felt like I was hitting a bit of a mental wall. As tasks hit me and ideas needed to come out of my brain and onto paper or outloud in a meeting, it seemed like I was firing blanks. Nothing clicked. Was there anything wrong? Not necessarily. It's one of those things that I believe happens to all of us at some point or another. Even when I ran cross country and track, I would have several week stretches where I just couldn't seem to get a good workout or race under my belt. We all hit slumps in some form or fashion. How can these slumps be overcome? Changing up your scenery for starters.
For me, it looked like a few different things. The first step I took was just working at a different location than what I was used to for a day. I took a rainy Sunday afternoon that I would typically spend at our dining table at home working on my computer to a Starbucks around the corner. Just the different environment, background noise and people working around me that I had never seen before helped me mentally get back into a different zone. One of the benefits of where I work is the work flexibility. If I need to really get work done and want to take it off-location, I have that freedom. I found out that Sunday that I was able to get a LOT done in a shorter amount of time than it would've taken me earlier in the week. Just the brief change-up in my physical surroundings helped climb a mental wall.
I also changed up what I worked on during my office time. Sure, I still had my same clients and deliverables that had to get in. However, I added time to my schedule to attend brainstorms and planning sessions for clients that I had never worked on...and may never personally touch again. Just getting out and using my brain in a different way than the normal day-to-day. I think Einstein once said that a person doesn't so much need rest as they do variety.
Lessons from Running
I ran into the same sort of thing when I was running full time in school. There would be several week stretches where I would just be in a rut. Workouts just wouldn't click. Race performances were flat-lining or even declining. One of my best fixes usually happened on just a couple of runs. Instead of doing the normal loops, I would change up the scenery. Go run a trail I never had. Not take a watch but just run for fun. Being mentally bogged down with sub-par races almost made me forget that I loved running. Those fun runs where I just went out and ran reminded me how fun the sport could be.
Just like running in a new place or brainstorming ideas for a new client project, sometimes you need those little moments to remind yourself how much you love what you do. Once you have those subtle reminders of why you do what you do, overcoming those slumps becomes much easier.
How do you get out of ruts?