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Mike Figliuolo


How to Persevere When Facing a Work Grind

Six tips for getting out of the rut

Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2016 - 11:04

It’s called “work” for a reason. Most days we’re able to “work” through it and find enjoyment in what we do, but occasionally we’re faced with a grind that saps our strength and threatens to derail us. Fortunately, there are simple techniques for working through that grind.

I love writing the thoughtLEADERS blog—except when I hate writing it.

Most people think writing is easy. Sit down, make up an idea, type, and voilà! You’re done!

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. I’d wager that many of you have elements of your jobs that look simple from the outside, too. The thing is, too much of those “easy” things can turn into a massive grind.

That grind wears on you. It saps your energy. It can even lead you to hate the work you love to do. Honestly, right now I’m writing this in the middle of one such grind. I’ve written this blog since 2008. That’s a lot of blogging. I’ve been pretty religious in sticking to my posting schedule.

But lately it’s been a grind. There have been work and personal crises that have drained a lot of my spare energy. It’s gotten to the point where I almost dread Sundays because that’s when I traditionally write. I’ve found every excuse available to say, “Oh, I didn’t get to it this week, and that’s OK.”

Sure. It’s OK. A couple of times. But when it becomes a pattern, you’re in a grind.

We’ve all been there—wondering how to get unstuck and get out of that grind. Here are a few suggestions on how to break the cycle.

1. Recognize the grind. You can’t fix it unless you can identify it and admit you’re in the middle of one. This is hard because you have to look at your performance and acknowledge it’s not up to the standard you’d like. You have to stop blaming external circumstances, and realize the root of the grind is you and your behavior. You can only go about fixing it once you admit what the root problem is.

2. Remember why you love the work or why you find the task fulfilling. Reflect upon what made the work fun and satisfying when you started doing it. This will be the root of your motivation to fight through the grind. Let yourself feel those good feelings again. You’ve got to reverse the aversion you have to doing the work.

3. Diagnose why you’re in the grind. Has the work changed? Is it no longer satisfying? Are you simply drained by other commitments? If you still love the work, you can work through the grind. If your view of the work has fundamentally changed, it might be time to start looking for a new role or new set of tasks to perform.

4. Start small. Pick a task that’s manageable; pick the most enjoyable one. It’s OK to eat the cherry on top of the sundae first sometimes. This is one of those situations. Get that rhythm going again. Feel a small sense of accomplishment. Remind yourself that you can do this, and it feels good when you accomplish work you enjoy doing.

5. Maintain momentum. Go through this process every day for a few weeks. Retrain your mental muscles to get them to stop seeing it as a grind, and see it instead as a positive set of tasks that are as regular and as normal as breathing.

6. Change things up. The grind happened for a reason. Maybe the tasks you enjoyed became dull because they were repetitive, or you felt like you mastered them. This could be a good opportunity to stretch yourself. Step it up to a new level of challenge. Challenges can inspire you and generate new energy. Give yourself permission to get out of that same rut and challenge yourself.

Grinds suck. They’re draining in and of themselves. Don’t succumb to sacrificing something you love to do because you couldn’t reverse the grind. Do something about it before it’s too late. I just did... I wrote this post. Was it my best work ever? No. Did it remind me that I enjoy doing this, and that I can still do it pretty well? Absolutely. This is the beginning of the end for this particular grind of mine. What are you doing about yours?

First published Nov. 2, 2016, on the thoughtLEADERS blog.


About The Author

Mike Figliuolo’s picture

Mike Figliuolo

Mike Figliuolo is the author of The Elegant Pitch (Weiser, 2016) and One Piece of Paper (Jossey-Bass, 2011), and co-author of Lead Inside the Box (Weiser, 2015). He’s also the managing director of thoughtLEADERS LLC, a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.