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How to bust out of your rut

(MoneyWatch) There comes a time in many people's lives when it feels like you're spinning your wheels. There are projects you could be starting...but you're not. There are big goals you'd like to make progress toward, but you feel paralyzed. Worst case scenario, you're sitting on your parents' couch eating frozen yogurt out of the carton and still in your pajamas at 3 p.m.

What can you do?

The first step is to figure out what kind of rut you're in. If it's just a short term one -- you felt energetic this morning and now you're drifting -- there's a simple cure. Change the setting. Go for a quick walk in a nearby park. Ask a coworker to join you for coffee, ideally somewhere other than the company cafeteria. In an urban area? Pop into some fascinating location nearby: an art gallery or an architecturally interesting church. Even a cemetery will do in a pinch. Don't bring your phone. Your email will still be there in 25 minutes, but you'll likely have a different outlook when you sit back down at your desk.

Don't let email ruin your life

If it's a longer term rut, you're battling a different beast. Such ruts can develop when you've finished a big project and nothing good has appeared on the horizon. Maybe you're in a job you're tired of, or you're out of a job and don't see any good prospects. Maybe you like your work in theory, but your malaise has lasted for weeks. Provided you're not actually depressed (go visit a doctor if you might be) what can you do?

A few ideas. First, make a point of putting joy in your life. If you love photography but never made time to study it, now's the time to take a class. Re-read your favorite book. Plan elaborate dates with your spouse or get-togethers with friends (or both). Practice good self-care: sleeping enough, exercising regularly, eating nutritious food.

Score easy wins if you like. If you're busy, there's no point decluttering the junk drawer or organizing your emails. But if you're flailing, why not?

Finally -- and this is the biggie -- start doing something. I won't call this taking baby steps because that implies that you know what direction you're headed. The big problem with ruts is that you generally don't. So better to think of this as throwing a lot of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. Call 10 people in your network to chat about life. Go to a networking function you'd normally skip. Write an article for a professional publication and ask a lot of people for feedback on your draft. Most of these splatters against the wall will lead to nothing, but you don't need everything to lead to something. You need one thing to lead to something that you find fascinating and important to do with your time. Nailing that is just a numbers game.

Have you ever busted out of a rut?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user PhillipC.
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