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Two Ways to Become Unstuck


It’s the dregs of August. It’s hot and humid. You may be in the office or you may not be. But if you are, this may be the time of year when you start to feel…stuck.

August is like the 4 pm of the day, the Sunday of the week, and while there are beautiful descriptions of how to languish in a porch rocker, listening to the crickets and cicadas while sipping a cool drink as you watch the condensation slowly make its way down the glass…I am not an August person.

Also, some of us may be stuck in the frozen tundra of an air-conditioned office and not sitting languorously anywhere and so the need to feel “unstuck” is a very real one – alas, for me, my home office is the hottest room in my house, so that’s not me either. I’m more like an office hobbit, hunched in front of my laptop, dreaming of crisp fall days and pumpkin-spiced lattes (only a week away!).

But, I digress.

While some of us may start September with renewed vim and vigor, how can we perhaps get unstuck now?

We all do a lot of reading for work. Briefs, arguments, new legislation, blog posts, articles, news items, you name it. So it can seem daunting to try to add yet one more thing into the mix.  But how about, for today, taking a break from all of that and reading something absolutely unrelated to your work?

Perhaps you’re a mystery buff, or you enjoy trashy beach reads (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone). Maybe you’ve wanted to dive into that bestseller that everyone has been talking about or reread a favorite classic novel.

Whatever it may be, as long as it’s NOT related to work in any way, shape or form, ditch the guilt and get reading. If you don’t drive for your commute, use that time on the train or bus to read a few chapters. Give yourself 15 minutes before bed, or force yourself to sit outside for a half hour at lunch, and read.

It seems like cheating, but you’re actually helping your work – by giving yourself a break, you’re doing a kind of reset for your brain. You’re thinking about something totally unrelated to the minutiae of your day-to-day work so that when you come back to it, you’ll have somewhat of a clean slate to start with.

That may help you find a creative solution to a problem you’ve been stuck on or a new tactic to use. Even if you’re not having brilliant new ideas, at the very least, you will have given yourself enough of a break to feel more motivated to dive into your day.

When I was a kid, my dad would take two weeks off in August (he worked VERY long hours and those were the longest breaks he ever took).  He said that he needed the first week to stop thinking about work, and the second week to really relax. My former neighbor was also in the finance industry, and he told me that he would take three weeks once he became a vice president – he said it was the best decision he made.

For those of you in Europe, that sounds like entry-level vacation time, I know. And you’re the smart ones. We may pride ourselves on our martyr-like work “ethic” here in the US, but are we really working smarter and harder? Or are we burning ourselves out?

So if you can manage it, take a real vacation from work this year. Even if you don’t go anywhere, you need to mentally take a step back from the office. Start a new project at home, get a change of scenery, sit on the beach for a few days, and remember what your family looks like outside of the glow of your mobile device.

When we get away and disconnect, we are giving ourselves a fresh start. We return to the office better rested, with clearer heads and more motivation to face the challenges ahead of us.  I’ll admit, it’s hard. It took me YEARS to stop checking my emails while I’m out of the office and on nights and weekends.

But when I allow myself that break, the freedom to not stick to a set schedule, to explore and relax (ish) and breathe, I am a better professional when I return to the office. I have more clarity about the work ahead, more balance and energy, and that ultimately makes me better at my work.

What are your tips for boosting creativity? I can already think of many more, and I’d love to see yours in the comments!


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