Self Improvement

Stranded In A Career Rut? 10 Ways To Reboot Your Work Focus Today

Rob Nightingale 06-10-2014

The longer you feel like you’re stuck in a career rut, the harder it can be to escape. Here are a few methods to bring focus, excitement and purpose back to your work-life.


Back in 2013, Gallup’s State of The American Workplace Report showed that a whopping 70% of American workers were far from engaged in their work. These are people who simply (for whatever reason) aren’t satisfied, fulfilled or excited with how they’re spending a frightful chunk of their waking hours.

The report suggested myriad ways in which employers could encourage and improve employee engagement and satisfaction, yet in all honesty, the onus can’t entirely be on the employer here. As an employee, if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, and unsuccessfully scrambling to get out, there are still plenty of routes you can go down to replenish your dwindling supplies of hope, focus and excitement at work.

Simply put, you can’t wait for a solution to come from somewhere further up the hierarchy, but you can set things in motion and take responsibility to heave yourself out of difficult situations.

Have The Right Training And Equipment

If you’re uncomfortably slouched, day-in, day-out trying to make the most of your lack of training, if you feel out of your depth, or that you’re wasting way too many hours each day trying to complete tasks on a decrepit version of Microsoft Office, then you’re guaranteed to resent your wasted and unproductive time at work.old windows xp computer

If you’re in any (or all) of these situations, take a few minutes to talk these issues through with someone who can make a decision to improve your predicament. This could be your manager, or someone further up the chain. Whoever it is, go into the meeting with a sales pitch.


By explaining exactly what these shortcomings are costing the company, you’re in a much stronger position to negotiate yourself out of them. And, once your knowledge and equipment are up to scratch, you’ll shed pounds of frustration and become (hopefully) far more productive, enabling you to perform your job much more successfully and likely enjoy your time in the office more. Either that, or you’ll get your work done so quickly you’ll just spend the rest of the day watching YouTube videos (it can be productive, after all 10 Daily Distractions To Improve Your Productivity Contrary to popular belief, there are some distractions that could actually make us more productive. Distractions need not be roadblocks...with these deliberate ways, they easily can be catapults. Read More ).

Take Time For Yourself

Often when work time subtly starts to creep into “me time”, months can go by without us realising we’ve been entirely absorbed by work, leaving no time for family, friends and the pursuit of our own projects. We can’t shut our minds off when we lay our heads on the pillow at night. We check our emails as we’re rushing our breakfast. We go on the hunt for Wi-Fi when we should be spending time with our kids.

When life’s like this, it’s easy to blame our job, our managers, and that never ending list of things to do in Trello or Slack. Yet when we’re completely honest with ourselves, it’s clear that the problem more likely lies with our complete lack of time-management skills, prioritization, and self-disclipine.relax-sunday

Force yourself to take a holiday for a week or two. Arrange to meet friends for a couple of nights per week. Head into the great outdoors, or just sit and play on your new iPhone 6.


Whatever you do, make sure you introduce some “me” time that allows you to feel that you have a life outside of your career. In turn, your day job will likely feel much less like a rut. If your mind is too much of a muddle, set reminders on your phone, or use apps like Lift to remind you to treat yourself every so often.

Take A Leap Into The Unknown

If you feel like you’ve been treading water for way too long, maybe it’s time to shake things up, take a risk and throw yourself into some new, deeper waters to get the adrenalin pumping again.

To do this, you don’t necessarily need to quit your job (though in some cases, that might not be a bad idea- if you do, you should check out the free career advice over at The Muse). How about applying for that promotion at long last? In your down time, turn off the TV and start working on a project that excites you. Take the initiative to improve something at work that’ll make your time there more fulfilling.

After all, if you’re not willing to initiate change, don’t be surprised when things stay the same! Take a leap and see what happens.


Share Your Ambitions

When you look around the office, every person you glance at has their own, unique ambitions and dreams, yet very few people actually talk about them.

By opening up to your colleagues (or better still, your manager) about your own career ambitions, you’ll put in place some pubic accountability to push you and motivate you How to Kill Motivation Sucking Vampires & Finish What You Start Life projects that are stalled? Yes, we all have them. The story is always the same. We start with an idea but never see it through. Break the brittle obstacles and persevere with these tips. Read More towards these goals. Not only this, but when people know what you’re working toward, they’ll be far more likely to help you out.

Take for instance a friend of mine. After two years of working in the IT sector, she told her boss that she wanted much more from her career. That within 10 years she wanted to be managing and co-ordinating projcts of her own, while working with clients directly. Her manager, shocked (and excited), told my friend that he presumed this was just a stop-gap job for her, and that she would be moving on to bigger and better things within a couple of years, but if she was happy to stay with the company, he would do all he could to help her move up the ladder as quickly as possible. Within 12 months, she was co-ordinating her own projects.

Think Like An Entrepreneur



As you’re performing your daily tasks at work, you’ll likely see a huge number of procedures and systems that could be done so much more efficiently. Start to see yourself as a consultant (rather than a ‘mere’ employee). As an ‘intrepreneur’, if you will. A person who takes it upon themselves to improve the organisation they’re a part of, rather than just accepting the position of being a replaceable cog in the machine.

By consistently providing value to your managers and colleagues, you become far more irreplaceable and valuable, thereby making your role in the company a lot more satisfying.

Develop Stronger Relationships With Colleagues

If you’re part of a company that employs hundreds or even thousands of people, yet you hardly even know three of them, put some effort into building a circle of friends at work. By making your on-the-job time more sociable, and thus more fun, you’re less likely to feel so depressed at the simple thought of heading into work each day, and you’ll hopefully be given a fresh bout of energy to help you further your career.

Take A Birdseye View

Your job is not your career. A career is a much larger, long-term vision which you need to keep a close eye on to ensure you’re on the right path.

Is your current position going to help you get to where you want to go? If yes, how can you speed up that process? If no, how can you change your current position so you are on the right path. To help you get this under control, why not consider using the GTD productivity approach?

It’s all too easy to stay in a position simply because it’s convenient, pays well, or is considered by others as a ‘good job’, but if it’s not helping to get you where you want to go, is there really much point? Is spending five years in this well paying, dull, lifeless job a better decision than spending those five years working toward your larger goals and ambitions? Only you can make that decision.

Get Networking!

You don’t always need to change jobs right away if your current position isn’t taking you down the right path. Instead, you should put some time and effort into building your network during the evenings and weekends. Attend meetups, talks, events, networking events, or start a mastermind group. How A Mastermind Group Can Help You Achieve More Goals The term 'mastermind group' is being thrown around a lot in the personal development sphere these days, but what exactly are they, do they work, and how could you set up your own group? Read More

Be strategic with your networking. Keep in mind where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Connect with people who’ll either excite and motivate you, help you, or who could put you in contact with people who could help.

Knowing you have this strong network of influential and motivating people behind you removes that feeling you may have that if you lose your job, you may just lose everything. For many with a large, close network, losing or leaving a job can be the best thing that happens to them, as their network pulls together to set them up with something even better.

Gain Recognition And Appreciation

If your colleagues and managers rarely show you recognition, respect and appreciation, this can be a strong fuel for discontentment in the workplace. Understandably, this can make you feel as though your work isn’t good enough, that you’re not upto the game, or that you’re stuck in an organisation that doesn’t really want or need you there.

Rather than sit and stew in your frustration, bring this problem up in a meeting. Ask your manager explicitly what they thought of your work. Demand feedback. Better still, going one step further than ‘simply’ creating a gratitude journal on your iPhone The 5 Best Gratitude Journal Apps for iPhone Users Keeping a gratitude journal can have many benefits! Here are the best gratitude journal apps for iPhone and iPad. Read More , start a culture of appreciation in your organisation by openly thanking and congratulating your colleagues. When everyone knows what they’re doing well, and what can be improved, a feeling of gratitude and forward momentum will be clear.

Become A Leader

You’re likely very good at your job. Performing those tasks and responsibilities repeatedly may have even made you one of the best in the world at those few tasks. So, rather than sit there and selfishly and keep all that knowledge to yourself, why not share it?

Become a mentor, and help your colleagues to make the most of your unique insight. If your skills are valuable enough, start a blog, start to network with people on Twitter, stand up for something, talk at Ignite or PechaKucha, and have a voice in your industry. Become a thought leader. To help you get on the right track to leadership, here are some techy tips 5 Time Management Tips That Can Make You A Leader At Life & Work Whether you realize it or not, you are a leader. Even if that means being a leader of your own life. These tips will help you become an even better one. Read More .contribute-leadership-teamwork
Most, if not all of us, have been in positions that we’ve resented, or felt trapped in. After a while we can start to feel like we’re stuck in a rut, and it becomes increasingly difficulty to escape. But, by trying out a few of the methods above, I hope you’ll be able to bring some passion and focus back to your career.

What other strategies would you recommend to reboot your work focus?

Image Credits: Bored at work Via Shutterstock

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  1. Sam Winters
    May 7, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Probably, some people just don't really like their jobs and they don't have and idea where to find another one that fits their lifestyle. Just spend some time listing job offers on or other job search websites and maybe you'll find what you need.

    • Rob
      May 12, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      I think you're right in terms of people not really having the time or energy to try and improve their situation... a large problem with our overworked populations!

  2. Rob
    October 21, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Thanks for the comment, Monu! Good luck with the career progression :) You have to think hard before leaving your job, but I'm sure you'll know if leaving is the right decision for you. :)

  3. Monu
    October 19, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Hey Rob! This article is really helpful to me. I am in the verge of leaving my boring day job. I like your idea of not leaving it suddenly. Instead I should take time out to think constructively. Let me apply your valuable tips to make my day job interesting. And at the same time, make myself ready to leave this job to reach the place of my choice. Thanks Rob.

  4. Rob
    October 15, 2014 at 2:34 am

    Thanks Tiffani! Good luck finding that awesome job! :)

  5. Tiffani Poyser
    October 14, 2014 at 12:11 am

    This is very helpful for a shy girl like me, I will try these tricks to bag down a good job.

  6. Rob
    October 13, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Thanks Matt! I think even someone who truly enjoys their career can find themselves in a rut... if things are not going well outside of work (i.e. an unwell family member, maybe they've been run down after an illness and are finding it hard to get back into the swing of things, maybe they've just had a kid, so their routine is all our ow whack). Sometimes they may mistakenly think this is because the job isn't right for them, and go to find something else, when in reality, it was external conditions that were causing this feeling, not the job itself- why not put this assumption to the test first, before jumping ship prematurely?

  7. Matthew Hughes
    October 9, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Another week, another excellent article Rob.

    Although, one wonders if someone truly happy with their career could find themselves in a rut. Sometimes, people get in ruts for a reason. It signals that it might be time to move on. ;)

    Just my 2 cents!