How to Cure a Case of the Blahs at Work
You can’t just run from your responsibilities.
Anyone in a demanding leadership position — where every decision is high-stakes and sometimes no good options are available — experiences moments when they imagine just running away from it all. Even President Obama gets decision fatigue.
CEOs are no different. Fortunately, it’s not a lingering condition, but there’s never a good or convenient time to catch a case of the blahs. You can’t always take off on a restorative vacation or park a sticky project until inspiration hits, so it helps to have a few tried-and-tested remedies for reenergizing and getting back into a productive groove.
Here are a few of mine, but they may not serve as a kick in the pants for you. How each of us stays motivated varies, and what knocked you out of a rut before may not be effective the next time. So it’s good to have multiple options.
I’m certainly not the first person to extol the virtues of exercise when it comes to waking up your brain and your body. I find it a lot easier to access and process my thoughts when I’m physically engaged; it just helps everything flow. In fact, we encourage our employees to do walking meetings whenever possible. One of my favorite ways to blow off steam is soccer. I’m part of the company team, which also gives me a chance to connect with employees outside of work.
Change your scenery
What a time to be alive, when Internet connectivity allows us to be productive from virtually anywhere. Sitting outside and breathing fresh air is sometimes all it takes to clear out the mental clutter and motivate me to pick that project up again. I’ll also occasionally set up shop somewhere away from the office. When I’m not at my real desk, I’m far less likely to linger over whatever sapped my motivation in the first place.
Connect to your “why”
For me, my personal mission aligns with my company’s mission of providing access to affordable, high-quality learning resources for anyone around the world. It’s hard to feel uninspired when I read what our students have been able to accomplish and think about the millions more we still want to reach. If you’re low on motivation, get back to basics and remind yourself why you do what you do and who benefits from it.
Chat with a thoughtful peer
I have a group of advisers, investors, and other colleagues I consult with about company matters. I also like connecting with smart, creative thinkers who won’t necessarily talk about business operations or performance but who engage my mind and inspire me. For example, I’m fortunate to have a relationship with the founder of a well-established education company, and he always opens me up to new ideas. In a pinch, watching a TED Talk can pull me out of my day-to-day and inspire me to get back to work.
Try your to-do list
Sometimes I’ll take care of the tactical, less inspiring tasks on my to-do list when I know I’m not going to make a dent in bigger initiatives. I still feel productive, but the pressure’s off to dive into something that requires lots of intensive thinking and strategizing. Instead, I might tackle instead some tedious paperwork. When I’m done, I feel a sense of accomplishment that leaves me hungry to rededicate myself to meatier stuff.
Free-form writing is another trick I use to motivate myself. Writing about whatever’s on my mind — professionally, personally, or in between — when I know no one else will read it is incredibly liberating. I put aside any concerns about how good the writing is or what my audience wants, and do a stream-of-consciousness brain dump onto the screen. By the end, I’ve purged whatever detritus was blocking inspiration.
Like I said, these techniques might not be exactly right for everyone, but I’ll tell you what has never gotten me back to feeling motivated: trying to will myself back to feeling motivated. We all need mental vacations — like Obama’s fantasy of selling T-shirts in Hawaii — so don’t beat yourself up when you have those moments too.
This article originally appeared on Fortune Insiders.