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22 Ways to Get Unstuck from a Rut

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I had a conversation with a friend recently, in which she expressed her frustration at feeling like she was “in a rut”. Watching friends and peers move forward while you feel determinedly stuck in place can be suchh a drag! It makes it hard to be happy for others’ success or news when you’re equal parts envious and bored with our own situation.

While my friend’s frustrations were work-related, I started brainstorming all of the different ways we as people can feel stuck – and a whole bunch of ideas flooded in about corresponding ways we could respond by shaking things up. Because sitting around and complaining is boring! So here’s a cheat sheet of actions we could take, both big and small, to spark inspiration, get motivated, change perspective, make new connections, and so on and so forth.

 

Career

Make a workplace wishlist. Google your dream position or industry within your chosen area, and make a dream list of the top 5 places you want to work – regardless of position openings or your skill level. Bonus points if you stalk a current employee on LinkedIn and ask him/her out to coffee. Or if you apply for an open position!

Make an office bucket list. What could you do to make your current position more exciting? Define 3 personal goals you can work towards in the coming quarter. They can be new things to learn, new tools to try, resources to devour, or company-wide initiatives to start. (Real life example: mine were to create an official handbook for new employees, learn how to manage Facebook ads, and get Google Analytics certified.)

Attend a conference – either locally or somewhere that requires travel. Hey, you never know if you can go unless you ask! Many conferences will offer a script you can send to your boss to ask for the funding to go, or at least offset the cost. Just a day’s worth of panels and workshops can spark really cool new ideas that you can incorporate into your own work!

Do something exciting with your lunch break. Maybe you like your job, but let’s say the 9-5 grind has got you down. Take this as an opportunity to do something fun in the middle of the day!

I had a colleague who made a tradition where every Wednesday, she went out to a local Mexican restaurant during her lunch break and treated herself to a plate of nachos and a margarita. (Love this so much, I always say I want to make my own habit of a weekly cocktail hour lunch!) Another friend of mine would pack her lunch and take it to the park across the street for a picnic with her colleagues.

Other ideas not involving food: take an hour at the gym, explore local shops, get a manicure or massage, write blog posts / journal / work on your novel / work on your side hustle.

Join a group with other professionals. Expand your list of contacts – and post-work happy hour friends. Check out Meetup.com, your local Chamber of Commerce, or do a search for other professional groups in your area. Search by industry, profession, niche interests, age group, etc. You might learn new tricks and skills, help others to problem solve, or get feedback on your own work-related challenges. Plus, at least 70% of all new jobs are found through professional contacts!

 

Appearance

Get a new haircut. Haircuts have magical, transformative powers.

Hire a style coach. If you struggle to shop for yourself, define your personal style, or just want a makeover, get an outsider’s opinion! The Web is crawling with style coaches looking to impart wisdom and transform wardrobes. I guarantee you’ll learn more from them than from watching reruns of What Not to Wear (#guiltypleasure).

Clean out your closet. An activity that both minimizes and maximizes your potential outfits! Going through each piece in your wardrobe allows you to eliminate those old items that don’t fit, or go unworn year after year. And having less clutter means more space for items you may have forgot you had, keep meaning to wear, or for brand new clothes for the season 🙂

Experiment with hair and makeup. If you’re like me, you remember oh, once in a blue moon, that you’ve worn your hair down and unstyled for at least 50 days consecutively. Your whole image can change with a little curling, straightening, or new color! If you aren’t sure where to start… seek inspo from bloggers, vloggers, your favorite celebrities, the fab in-store artists in department and beauty stores, or ask a friend who knows what she’s doing if she can give you some pointers!

Go out shopping with a friend, and only try on outfits he or she picks out for you. You may be surprised at how much you like items that you wouldn’t have ever tried on yourself – or at how good you look in them! Let your friend know your budgets, and you might even let them pick one or two stores.

When in doubt, take to Pinterest. Chances are, you already have at least one fashion -related Pinterest board. Go through your pins like a fashion analyst: what pieces or style do you habitually pin? What outfits do you have the potential to mimic in your current wardrobe? Using your curated images can help you to find inspiration in your own closet, or build a smart new shopping list.

 

Personal

Make a bucket list for the year. Save the boring, lofty goals for New Years, and instead pick 5, 10 or 20 fun things you want to do in the year ahead. This idea comes from the awesome Sarah von Bargen, whose own lists have included everything from go stormchasing to do a five-day cleanse and go to a nudist beach or resort.

Plan your dream vacation. Did you know that planning for a vacation can help alleviate depression? You don’t even have to GO, the planning in itself is a really cathartic process! In fact, since money is no option, it’s arguably more fun. Schedule your whole itinerary, including your hotels or hostels, flights, the cafes, clubs and restaurants you want to visit, sites you’d want to see, and more! Maybe one day you’ll take that trip; maybe you’ll plan another, more realistic and affordable option as a result of this exercise; but you’ll definitely feel more connected to your desires, and more hopeful about alllll of the possibilities and opportunities that exist out there for you.

Take a course just for fun. What’s something you’ve always been interested in, but never pursued? Hint: pick the thing that’s NOT AT ALL related to your career. Is it a sport? An instrument? You bet there’s a local class in which you can sign up to ten your hand at basket weaving, pole dancing, painting, butchering, woodworking, jewelry making, swing dancing, outdoor survival skill (there’s definitely an official name for that, right?) and more! Choose one crazy thing, and commit to one class. At least you’ll know whether or not it’s still of interest to you! No pressure on whether or not to pursue it!

 

Relationships – Friends and Family

Designate time to play catch up. Block half hour (or an hour, or more!) in your calendar each week to spend calling, Skyping, or grabbing coffee with  catching up with friends and family. Call them out of the blue, or plan a wine night over Skype with a good friend who lives out of driving distance. If you aren’t a fan of in person coffee dates, here are 15 other options.

Host a dinner party. Skip the happy hours for a much more personal experience. Invite one, two, or a dozen friends to your abode for a night in with good food and drinks! Dinner parties can be as fancy or casual as you like – and if you aren’t a whiz in the kitchen, you can always turn the evening into a themed potluck!

Try one day of volunteering. Maybe you’ve thought about helping out a local shelter, soup kitchen, or thrift store that funds a worthy cause. Get online and schedule a full day of giving back on your calendar! You’ll have the opportunity to connect with people from various walks of life, probably pretty different than you’re used to hanging out with. Charity is fantastic for finding a new perspective, as well as making important connections!

Join an adult class or sporting event. The best part about adult classes – no matter the subject material – is that everyone is much more focused on themselves than on how well or how poorly they’re doing in comparison to you. Rekindle a passion from childhood or your teenage years in a space without competition, and with plenty of new friends – and even potential SO’s – to meet! Need some ideas? Try pool, bocce, softball, aerial sports, painting, pottery, cooking, graphic design… or simply Google what you’re interested. I guarantee there’s a group for you!

 

Relationships – Dating

Try a dating app and challenge yourself to go on 3 dates. Maybe you’re holding out for a serendipitous moment with an attractive stranger, and kudos to you for that. But if you haven’t tried a dating app or website before, you can be sure of what you’re missing out on. Our challenge to you is to sign up, fill out your profile, and give it 3 dates before you decide whether or not the bar scene is better.

Ask a friend or fam member to set you up. Your mom, aunt or work friend will be thrilled that you’re FINALLY giving ao-and-so a chance, and what could a night of drinks and new conversation hurt?

Plan a trip together. Same idea applies for solo travel as it does here! Explore somewhere completely new, or travel somewhere one of you has deep ties to. You’ll learn more about them, and they’ll get to make new memories there with you. Win-win.

Prioritize date night or girls/guys night. One or the other, and perhaps even both. For date nights, plan your big night out ahead of time – that means purchasing tickets, a new outfit, doing your hair and makeup and finding something fun and out of the ordinary to do! And if the two of you could use a little breathing room, do the same for girls/guys night. Give the same energy to your friends as you do your dates, and give your SO the time and space to do their own thing.

 

We covered a lot of ground here, but I bet we weren’t close to covering it all! What tips do you have? If you’ve been in a rut yourself, how did you pull out of it? We wanna hear!

Jess works in the e-commerce and nonprofit industries with a focus on digital marketing, search engine optimization, social media, and public relations. She loves pop punk, performing arts, big cities, books, and chardonnay.

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