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Here are ten simple and effective ways to break the rut-cycle and get moving when you feel stuck. These are perhaps more important now than ever, with growing numbers of employees working from home, without the inbuilt accountability and structure of an office environment.
However, they can be just as helpful if you need to get yourself off the couch to mow the lawn, off the fast food to lose some weight, or off square one to write that school essay:
#1. Accomplish the insignificant
Believe it or not, research has shown that doing something as insignificant as making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of wellbeing, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. Starting your day with a small but positive activity starts a chain reaction that helps you make other good choices throughout the day.
Just as discussed earlier, there is great power in taking simple steps rather than trying to leap for the stars from a standing start.
#2. Get a drink of water
If you find yourself sitting at your desk, staring at the screen, unable to summon the energy or focus to do what you need to do next, try getting up and grabbing yourself a glass of water. Not only is water refreshing and enormously helpful for brain function, the physical activity and change of scenery may help you press the reset button.
#3. Have a shower
While this may not always be a practical solution, showers have the unique ability to spark creativity and change our mental state.
Renowned neuroscientist Alice Flaherty argues that this is due to the fact that having a shower releases the creativity-enhancing chemical dopamine in our brains. To this point, West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin is famous for taking up to seven showers per day to help overcome writer’s block.
#4. Get physical
Exercise not only oxygenates our blood but it also releases endorphins, which can have a remarkably positive effect on our mood when we’re feeling sluggish. Never forget that motion precedes emotion. It doesn’t need to be much—a short brisk walk around the office or even some stretches can be sufficient.
The key is to not waste time trying to shift your mental state without shifting your physical state. If in doubt, get moving.
#5. Show you care
Introspection is the cousin of inertia, so the best way to get out of a mental funk is to shift the focus from yourself onto someone else. Send an encouraging text message, or simply pick up the phone and tell that special someone you love them.
We are social beings and although it is tempting to isolate yourself when feeling in a rut, reaching out and making a connection is often much more helpful. Typically, you’ll feel positive effects thanks to your efforts to show love and care to others. There is a reason why it is better to give than receive.
#6. Change your environment
As we have previously discussed, this could be as simple as varying your schedule or rearranging the furniture. Other times it can involve getting out into nature in order to clear your head and look beyond present circumstances.
When I am writing, I find that I need to start my day working somewhere enjoyable and inspiring like a local café. Naturally, our environment is not just physical but relational too. If you’re feeling stuck, try getting out and surrounding yourself with positive, inspired people — especially if they are already experiencing the results you’re working towards.
#7. Make a ‘done list’
While some Type-A personalities flourish on long to-do lists, the rest of the population can find that beginning the day with a formidable task schedule is the very thing that prevents them from getting started in the first place. Try cheating a little by kicking off your day by writing a ‘done’ list before you turn your attention to your to-do list. Not only does a list of completed tasks look impressive on paper, but it also helps build a sense of progress and achievement.
#8. Remember past victories
When you feel like the weight of the world is holding you back, reflect on how you have overcome similar ruts in the past. Sometimes all you need is to recall what was effective previously so you can replicate it—after all, what works in giving you a kick start will be different from what works for others. The other benefit of remembering how you’ve conquered ruts in the past is that it offers a reminder that the rut you’re in won’t be permanent—it wasn’t last time and it won’t be this time. This truth alone can help give perspective and inspiration.
#9. Pump up the jam
Music can be incredibly motivating—there is a good reason why gyms play tunes of a certain genre and tempo. Even in a lower-octane sense, music has a unique ability to tap into our emotions, as movie score composers know well. Try putting together a playlist of tunes that gets your blood pumping and lifts your spirits.
#10. Don’t beat yourself up
When you’re in a funk, the worst thing you can do is feel guilty about it. Cut yourself some slack; we’ve all been there. Embrace the rut so that once you emerge, you might be able to lend a helping hand to the next person you come across who is in their own.
As founder of Habitat for Humanity Millard Fuller suggests: ‘You don’t think yourself into a new way of acting, you act yourself into a new way of thinking.’ The simple message is this: while it’s great to be inspired, don’t make inspiration a prerequisite for getting started.
This is an edited extract from Momentum: How to Build it, Keep it, or Get it Back (Wiley $34.95) now available at all good book stores and online at http://au.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0730331938.html