The Urban Dictionary defines a slump as “A period of time during which a person goes without an object or action.” When I think about what it feels like to be in a slump, the geological definition seems so much more apt: “a form of mass wasting that occurs when a coherent mass of loosely consolidated materials or rock layers moves a short distance down a slope.” Yes, that pretty much describes the slump sensation—an inexorable slide down the productivity slope of life and work.
Sometimes a slump creeps up on you, slowly building until its sheer weight overcomes your ability to resist. And sometimes it crashes down on you like a runaway landslide, triggered by the emotional impact of a major life event or even the aftermath of a resounding professional success.
Either way, suddenly you find yourself struggling to deliver on the most simple of daily commitments.
Recognizing a Slump
As with most personal and professional challenges, recognizing a slump is the first step in overcoming it. Here are some common signs of slumpdom:
- General loss of motivation.
- Dread of going into work on Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday…)
- Inability to focus on the task at hand.
- A tendency to reschedule important meetings because you put off preparing and have run out of time.
- Catching yourself staring at a blank page (again!) that should have been filled with words by now.
- Reluctance to set even the simplest of goals—or giving up on the ones you already set.
- Breaking the good habits you worked so hard to establish.
- Ratcheting up the negative self-talk.
Strategies to “Shake it Off”
Everyone experiences the occasional slump. For some, a slump is an opportunity to practice active patience and recharge mental and emotional batteries. Most people (and some persistent goats), when faced with a slump, find their own way to shake it off.
Whatever the source of your particular trough of sorrow, here are some strategies to help you find your way back to your positive and productive self.
- Take inventory. Are you trying to do too much? Are personal and professional stresses sucking away your motivation? Is your body fit and healthy?
- Gain perspective. Go away for a day or two and distance yourself from the daily grind. Take a bird’s eye view and think about what needs to change.
- Reduce distractions. How much of your energy is being wasted on inessentials? Ruthlessly slash unnecessary attention drains.
- Choose one small goal to focus on. Let the successful attainment on that one small goal feed your motivation for the next one.
- Find and tap into sources of inspiration. Listen to music you love, read stuff that stirs your soul, hang out with amazing people.
- Identify something to look forward to. Once you have identified it, start anticipating it. Let yourself get excited.
- Put your one goal in writing. In addition to the words writ large, find a picture that illustrates your goal. Post the goal and the picture where you’ll see them often. Keep your goal top of mind.
- Stay the course. Life is a journey. A slump is just a speed bump or pothole along the way. Accept that motivation comes and goes and detours happen.
- Don’t beat yourself up for being human. Stop dissing yourself with negative self-talk. Be your own internal cheerleader.
- Celebrate success (even tiny success), as one step toward something bigger.
- Focus on outcomes not obstacles.
If none of these strategies makes a difference, or you just don’t care enough to try any of them, what you’re feeling may be more serious than a typical slump. When symptoms persist and you just keep feeling down, reach out to a professional (e.g. your doctor or EAP counselor) and talk things through.
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