Are you coasting in your job? Here's how to get out of a work rut

Are you quiet quitting?

For some, the act of pulling back at work, making less of an effort, and just coasting along, is a reaction to a toxic workplace, or it’s used as a way to claw back some more ‘life’ in the work/life balance.

But in many cases, a period of losing interest in your work and doing the bare minimum is just that – a temporary moment, triggered simply by falling into a rut.

Sometimes, these lulls aren’t a sign that there’s something majorly wrong or that you need to exit swiftly. Instead, they’re just a natural fluctuation in your motivation levels.

But it can be tricky to tell the difference – and trickier still to know what to do about being in a state of watching the clock.

If you’re in a rut and aren’t sure how to get out of it, don’t panic or make any rash moves. We chatted with work expert Elliot Wise to get his step-by-step guide to feeling back on track.

Have a think about why you’re in a rut

First off, we need to figure out if this is just a normal dip, or a symptom of something bigger. That’ll affect how you should proceed.

‘In my experience, coasting normally happens when you’re bored,’ Elliot tells Metro.co.uk. ‘And boredom leads to laziness (which coasting is just a nice word for when you think about it).

‘But people aren’t inherently lazy if they’re actively engaged in what they’re doing.

‘So, if you’re coasting at work, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions…
Are you in the right job? Do you enjoy your job? Are there progression opportunities? Do you find it rewarding? Could you ever find it rewarding? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Is it money? Helping people? The desire to build something and leave a legacy?’

It might help to carve out some time to write out answers to these questions. Have a real, proper think about why you’re not feeling it at your job, so you can start to tackle your rut at its roots.

Reverse engineer your motivation

Elliot says: ‘Once you’ve answered these questions, you can reverse engineer your motivation.

‘Starting with an end goal and working backwards is often a far easier way to figure out an actionable, step-by-step plan.’

‘For example, let’s say you’ve spent some time introspecting and realised that you’re coasting because you don’t like the idea that all your hard work and effort is making someone else a tonne of money while you get a fraction of the reward. You wouldn’t be alone in thinking this, trust me.

‘So, a realistic end goal to begin reverse engineering would be to run your own business and become your own boss.

‘Step one may be to start this business as a side hustle outside of work. This might not solve your “at work” rut, but if you’re motivated to grow your own business outside of your day job, you can start to set clear targets to reach before ultimately handing in your notice.’

Make some concrete changes

Sure, your rut might resolve itself if you just keep doing what you’re doing… but it might not.

A better approach is making some actual changes to reboot your motivation.

‘If you’re happy being employed but still feel you’re in a rut, you can still reverse engineer your way out of it,’ Elliot notes. ‘Again, you need to ask yourself why you’re coasting to find the spark that will motivate you.

‘For example, speak to your boss about a role change if it’s a lack of progression or opportunity rut. Where a role change isn’t possible immediately, ask to shoulder extra responsibilities that will help you develop the skills needed to change roles in the future.’

If your rut reason is down to boredom, it’s time to take on a new challenge. If you’re frustrated with a lack of flexibility, talk to your manager about how to shift things around to get some more of the lifestyle you want. If you feel like what you do doesn’t matter, find something that feels like it does and add more of that to your day.

Work with your employer

Look, we wouldn’t advise walking into your boss’s office and telling them you’re wasting away the day until it’s finally home time. That might not go down well.

But what you can do is explain that your motivation is taking a dip – as long as you outline concrete reasons why, and offer up some solutions.

‘If you can work with your employer in a way that benefits both of you, everyone wins,’ Elliot tells us. ‘Employers know that motivated staff work harder and get better results.

‘Also, finding new staff is hard work (and expensive) for an employer.

‘So, there are very few situations where they would turn down the opportunity for a staff member to become more motivated, upskill and perform better.’

It’s well worth making the case for something that you think will get you out of your rut and back to performing at your best, whether that’s the ability to work from home, a change-up of your responsibilities, or reassigning a task that numbs your brain with absolute boredom.

Just make sure you angle it as a positive thing – you want to improve, you want to deliver, and these tweaks to your role will help you do that.

‘Driven people who want to upskill and actively progress through their careers are incredibly rare,’ Elliot explains. ‘And, as an employer, I do everything in my power to hold onto these people when they appear.

‘So, use that to your advantage too. If you can justify it (by actioning the advice above), you can push for faster progression, push for a pay rise, and push to make sure you’re rewarded for your hard work.’

To recap, getting yourself out of a rut isn’t too tough, according to Elliot.

He suggests ‘Find what motivates you, set an end goal and reverse engineer actionable steps to help you reach that goal. If it seems simple, it’s because it is…’

Elliot Wise is a self-made serial entrepreneur, business growth expert and mentor. He is the founder of Limitless Mentoring – an entrepreneurial skills programme for aspiring business leaders.

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