There you are, at the job you were once so proud to call yours, bored out of your tiny little brain, watching cat videos on YouTube and continually checking your phone to see if 5 o’clock – that precious hour when your life once again becomes yours – is any closer to crawling into reality.
A millennia later, the magic hour arrives and you make your way home (probably in eye-pokingly terrible traffic), scanning your frankly uninteresting Facebook feed and dreaming about the packet of salt and vinegar chips you’re going to inhale as soon as you step in the door.
Half an hour later and you’re all but surgically attached to the couch, that crisp packet long since followed by the remains of last night’s Chinese takeaway. You entertain yourself by channel surfing and aimlessly wonder if this afternoon might just be the one where you pick yourself up off the couch, drag yourself into a pair of shorts and go for a jog.
But you know you won’t.
You’re stuck in a rut, and your sofa may as well be your postal address.
It’s happened to the best of us.
Rutsville: That terrible combination of little zest for life, zero job satisfaction and the dawning of the gnawing sensation that this could be all there is.
You want to get out. Explore something. See new worlds. Hell, work somewhere else. But you’ve convinced yourself it’s impossible. The soulless daily commute, constant clock watching and crappy instant noodle lunch slurped in front of your computer screen have become so normal, you’ve started to believe it’s just the price to pay for being an employed 20-something in today’s volatile job market.
So what’s the first step to getting out of your rut and exploring new options?
Acknowledging you’re there in the first place.
4 Warning Signs that You’re Stuck in a Rut
1. You’ve memorised by heart your morning conversation with your workmates
Every day, you walk into the office and share with your colleagues a few grey words about:
- How badly you all slept
- How your coffee hasn’t kicked in yet
- The shocking traffic on the way to work
- The fact that your douchey boss hasn’t graced the floor with his presence yet, even though it’s almost 10am
Then, you all turn to your respective computer screens, sigh sadly, and proceed not talk to each other for the rest of the day.
Get unstuck: Before getting to work, pick one of these icky morning topics and decide not to mention it (even if it means talking less that morning). Change the subject, even flat out lie to yourself about how you feel like a caffeinated, hyper-happy workaholic. Not buying into the complain fest will start your day off differently.
2. Your eyeballs and watch are so obsessed with checking each other out, they might as well take things to the next level
You know that time really can’t have passed at all since you last checked your phone, yet your eyeballs still insist on glancing at the never-moving hour hand. Needless to say, you’re not achieving much in the process.
But you sure know what time it is – the same time as 45 seconds ago.
Get unstuck: Experiment with giving yourself short spurts of time to complete your work in (widely known as the Pomodoro technique). Knowing that your alarm will soon ring lets you off the hook, and will help settle your mind (and let it focus, dammit!).
3. You’ve got an eternal 3pm low
We’re all well-versed in the 3pm low: that awkward time of afternoon before the sacred arrival of 5 o’clock, when your brain simply refuses to focus. Hunger pains are having a party in your gut and you’d sell a newborn puppy to the devil in exchange for a cupcake/cookie/orange-mocha-frappuccino or anything otherwise coated in chocolate and sugar-infused.
What’s worse than this energy-dredging low? That when you’re stuck in a rut, the feeling is continual…
Get unstuck: Got drawers at your desk? A shelf? A bag? Fill it with food! When you start to feel the low-energy jitters coming on, reach in, grab a snack and fuel up (umm, but guys, we’re talking about good food here: think instant soups, crackers and cheese, a handful of nuts, yoghurt).
4. Any kind of change has become impossible to contemplate
Sometimes, colourful thoughts of breaking free from your lifeless work existence taunt you from behind the morning migraine stagnating in your forehead. You imagine yourself out of your cubicle world – travelling, studying abroad, even working in a different, more you-like job. But you just can’t manage to turn those golden tendrils of positive thought into action.
So you punch the clock, wait in traffic, and finally arrive home to binge on your evening drip feed of Netflix and white wine. And tomorrow? Rinse and repeat.
Get unstuck: Think in terms of small changes. Want to change jobs? Then, update your CV and make it all attractive. Itching to go overseas? Instead of crashing when you get home, go sofa-travelling through a few countries by reading guides and browsing pictures online. Start small and give your change-making idea time to incubate and grow.
Realised you’re stuck in a rut?
Don’t panic – congratulate yourself – you’re on your way to being somewhere better.
Over to you…
Once you realise you’re stuck in a rut, what’s the first thing you’d recommend doing?