By March 11, 2020

Getting out of a Rut at Work

Regardless of what industry you work in, there will inevitably be time periods when work just doesn’t go as expected. Maybe you cannot focus, or you make too many small mistakes or feel really tired.

However it may seem, low times at work happen to everyone. For me, this took the shape of a writer’s block. I could not get started on articles, or once I started I could not keep working. I was also not particularly happy with the results I was getting at the end of the day, either.

And the problem with that is that sometimes this time period can stretch over weeks, making it significantly more difficult to meet your targets and fulfill your duties at work.

With the high demand that comes with the IT industry, you can rarely afford to be off your game for long. I know how it feels, based on my experience as a part of a custom software development company. And, more importantly, I know that there are certain things that can help you get past those struggles. With the advice I’ll share with you, getting over this annoying phase will become much easier.

The Right Music To Get in the Groove

As I do a lot of writing, piano or music with a very distinct tempo keeps me going once I start. It needs to be subtle so it is not too distracting. During those periods, I find that lyrical music occupies too much of my attention.

Music has always been a great motivator for me. If it is the same for you, then I encourage you to see if you can find something that helps guide you through the process smoothly. Or if you prefer quiet, then find a good environment for you to work in that is not stressful for you.

Easily one of the best ways to get work done is when you manage to get into a working groove. All that means is that there are ways to get into it and that different things motivate different people to be productive.

Pomodoro or Cycle-Based Time Management

There are so many developers who recommend coding in big time blocks. And do not get me wrong, it is absolutely for productivity. However, that is when your mind is cooperating and letting you do good quality work while you are at it.

However, one of my biggest struggles has been focusing for extended periods of time. I find myself easily distracted, irritable, and overall tired. So I started implementing the Pomodoro method. It is based on cycles of work and rest. This makes it as easy as focusing for 25 minutes at a time with small breaks between cycles.

This helped me get some work done even if it wasn’t as smooth as usual. I was also getting the rest that my body seemed to need. I was also able to refresh myself with water, coffee, and snacks on occasion.

There are different ways to implement the Pomodoro. I have done it on a 45:15 ratio—45 minutes of work, followed by 15 minutes of rest, but with the slump I hit and my short attention span, this was not working anymore.

Task Planning: Weekly and Monthly

I can be messy, and I can be extremely organized. I can usually keep things together in my head when it comes to the way that I keep track of what I need to do. But when my thought process seems rambled, I put my plans on paper. And this makes all the difference in the world. And, of course, there are different ways to do your planning, so you need to make sure to find one that fits you and your work.

I always have daily to-dos for work. What I also do is add a long list of all weekly tasks before my week’s dailies to help me keep track of everything. At the beginning of the day, I pull the amount of work I think I can get done from the weekly pile and get to it one item at a time.

This also allows me to see what tasks I will be able to take care of the most efficiently in my current state—giving me room to be a little bit more flexible when I need it.

Just Start

Believe it or not, writing this article was a huge part of getting out of a rut for me. I needed something comfortable and familiar to write about so I could kick into gear. Although it’s a good idea to plan what you are going to get done,  in some instances, there is a better fit for your current state of mind.

Therefore, getting started with a part of work that is more familiar can help you start the day in a way that is productive and can help you check off work even if you haven’t planned for it to go this way.

Of course in the software development industry, there is not always room to pick what you work on, but even in the times where assignments are set in stone, you can at least choose where to start. Working on something easy for a while allows you to transition smoothly to the more challenging work.

It Is OK To Have Low-Productivity Times

Aside from being employees, we are also human beings. And as such, we need rest and care. Sometimes, we have tough times that are hard to get through. And this is natural. If it happens, it is a matter of taking care of yourself while maintaining acceptable performance.

To begin with , being over-demanding of yourself to excel when you are having a hard time is not only unrealistic but damaging. Having low productivity and a lack of motivation to work might be a symptom that you are starting to burn out, which can easily stop you from being able to work for a very long time in addition to having nasty side effects on your physical and mental health.

To get past it, you need to find what helps you limit the distractions. When you are having a hard time focusing, the best thing for you is to keep working a little bit at a time and be patient with yourself. You are not doing yourself any favors if you stress out unnecessarily over an approach that is not working out.

I hope this is helpful to you! If it is, feel free to add to the discussion what it is you do when you hit a rut in your work!

About the author

Danila Petrova

Danila Petrova is a Marketing Assistant Manager at Dreamix, a custom software development company, focusing on strategy building and audience engagement. With a background in mathematics, informatics, she has extensive knowledge in web design, business communication and a deep understanding of the IT industry. She is involved in numerous graphic design projects and is passionate about the advancement of software development.