How to overcome the 'I can't be bothered' work slump

Every summer, when warmer weather sets in, it’s common to find ourselves having a dip in productivity.

Holiday season means our thoughts are usually elsewhere and – when the sun does decide to rear its head – social plans are made left, right and centre. Work is very much on the back-burner.

But this professional slump feels particularly bad at the moment. Effort in the workplace is dwindling.

As well as it being that certain time of year, career coach Annelise Pesa says there’s another huge reason for this collective feeling right now.

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘We are carrying the weight of the past 18 months that, for the majority of people, have been exhausting.

‘We are also looking at an uncertain future with ever changing regulations, news which spreads panic, worries about the virus and the sheer realisation that life is not going to go back to what it used to be – especially in relation to our personal freedom.’

Life and business coach Roo Davies agrees that we are mentally and physically exhausted from the past year, and these feelings are making their way into our working routines. 

She says: ‘The experiences of the last 18 months have left our body’s resources running low. Mental stress often translates to exhaustion which can lead to low energy levels (even if you haven’t been physically active) and a general lack of purpose and drive. In essence, you’re running on empty and everything seems like an effort.

‘Being demotivated is arguably one of the worst feelings and although that’s not a nice place to be, you feel no urgency or drive to make the effort to change your situation. When you’re feeling this way in your work life it can feel all-consuming as we spend so much of our day at work.’

The good news is that this slump is reversible and motivation can always be created – experts have shared a few ways to pull yourself out of it.

Have a to-do list that’s achievable

‘There is nothing worse than sitting down at your desk and seeing those same old tasks staring up at you and feeling like you are getting nothing done,’ says career coach Natalie Trice.

The best solution for this is to scale it back to make a smaller list of priorities – as this will make things feel less overwhelming.

Natalie adds: ‘Have a list that is manageable and actionable and if you can try to tick off at least three things each day, you will start to see progress and a sense of achievement.’

Get an accountability buddy 

Natalie also suggests finding someone in your workplace, or a friend outside it, that you can regularly check in with.

She says: ‘It’s one thing saying you haven’t done your work to yourself, but having to let someone else know isn’t much. Find someone in the office, or a friend in a similar role and be accountable to each other. 

‘A quick WhatsApp in the morning to say what you plan to do, and one at the end of the day to check in and say what you did do, can be a great motivator, and keep you on track.’

Hydration is key

We all know how important water is for our bodies – but it helps with our focus, too. And if we are more focussed, by default, we often feel more motivated.

So be sure to keep a big bottle by your desk and drink it throughout the day.

Natalie says: ‘Being dehydrated won’t help you to feel more motivated, instead it can add to a foggy feeling that won’t allow you to break through the noise and perform better.’

Make the most of days off and holiday

Holidays and breaks leave us feeling incredibly refreshed and have the ability to bring us out of our productivity funks.

However, this doesn’t have to be annual leave itself.

Making the most of evenings and weekends is another way to feel more energised and motivated.

Natalie says: ‘You might not be able to get off to Ibiza for two weeks of rest and recuperation, but it is still important to take some time out this summer. As well as clocking off each day at a decent time (and not checking emails at 11pm), try to do something for you after work – be that going for a run, doing a yoga class or cooking a really tasty dinner. 

‘If you can’t go on holiday, plan fun things at the weekends, and if you have holiday time to take, book it and take that time to recover from what has been a hell of an 18 months. 

‘Work can wait, your health and wellbeing can’t, so do this for you. When you get back to your desk, decide if this is what is really going to make you happy and, if not, maybe it’s time for a plan B.’

Use learnings from last 18 months

The pandemic has made us incredibly resilient creatures. We’ve been thrown all kinds of new obstacles and have tackled them head-on. 

Tess Leigh-Phillips, counsellor at The Mind Map, says we can apply these new skills to any work slump.

She adds: ‘The last 18 months have demanded flexibility and adaptability. Our lives have been shaken up, and we’ve adjusted as best we can. 

‘So, why not apply this flexibility and adaptability to yourself? If you feel tired, schedule some time to rest, guilt-free. If you are feeling demotivated, the absolute worst thing you can do is beat yourself up for it. It’s just a feeling, and feelings pass.’

Find purpose

‘Without purpose, you’ll switch into autopilot and go through the motions without a sense of direction,’ adds Roo Davies.

Rather than just grumbling about all the work you have to do, it’s a good idea to try and think of some things you want to achieve.

Roo adds: ‘This works because purpose is best friends with passion. When you’re engaged and interested you naturally become energised. Essentially, you are refuelling your energy resource – refilling your tank.’

She recommends having a think about where your strengths lie and if there’s a new project that you can take on. Creating these specific and achievable goals will help get your interest back.

Mix it up

Monotony and lethargy come hand in hand. 

Roo says: ‘If your work day is feeling like Groundhog Day, mix things up. 

‘While routine and structure are super valuable for getting things done, they can also feel restrictive and boring. So don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. If you always save the jobs you hate the most for the afternoon, try doing them in the morning.’

A new routine will make things more interesting and less repetitive.

If you can’t change your work routine, alter the things you do before and after work instead.

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