One thing I often hear from new clients is that their work and their life feels like Groundhog Day. Sometimes the language is slightly different, it feels like rinse and repeat or it's blah, but the message is the same. Every day feels the same. They’re bored, stuck and feeling a bit trapped.
You likely know the origin of the Groundhog Day phrase, the early 90’s movie where the character, played by Bill Murray is a newsman temporarily staying in Punxsutawney, PA to film the annual Groundhog Day celebration. Somehow he gets trapped in a time loop. Every day he wakes up to Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe playing on the alarm clock and the radio announcer saying it’s Groundhog Day. Day after day after day. (Side note, if you haven’t seen the movie I'd highly recommend it).
I think it’s sort of sad that this phrase has become so widespread in our culture. It’s something nearly everyone understands. Perhaps no surprise when recent Gallup Research show that 51% of full-time US workers are disengaged at work, and another 16% are actively disengaged and feeling negative and resentful. Apparently many of us are on auto pilot, unwilling or unable to shake things up in our life so that we can get excited about it again.
Having lived my own version of Groundhog Day in my professional life for more years than I’d like to admit, I can attest to how painful it can be. Soul-sucking pretty much sums it up. It took my getting downsized to finally get me moving towards work I love. From that experience and in my work since, I’ve learned that there are other alternatives. If you’re living in your own version of Groundhog Day you have a few choices:
Get a new job
Suck it up
If the timing is bad for getting a new job and you don’t want to just suck it up, here are 5 ways to change things up and move away from that Groundhog Day feeling:
Get a Life. Take the pressure off your work to provide all of your development and focus your time outside of work for growth, learning and fun. Is there something that you used to love to do that you’re no longer doing? Do that. Or perhaps there’s something you always wanted to try, but you’ve been reluctant to do so. Now's the time. So play the drums, go dancing, volunteer or join the kick-ball league, whatever you’re drawn to. No matter what you do you’ll feel better.
Learn Something New. If your work is stagnant and repetitive, no wonder it feels like Groundhog Day. Perhaps your employer will pay for classes outside of work, or has an internal training program of some sort you can be part of? Explore what’s available. Or if you’re self-employed or your employer doesn’t have these kinds of benefits or none that interest you, see what you can find on your own. Universities and community colleges have plenty of choices. Additionally, the online learning organizations such as Creative Live, Master Class, Udemy, and MIT to name just a few, offer classes you can take from anywhere.
Take a Sabbatical. If you work for one of the few employers who offer sabbaticals and have been there long enough to qualify, consider yourself extremely lucky. According to The Society for Human Resource Management's 2016 Employment Benefits report only 4% of US employers offered a paid sabbatical program in 2016, while 12% had an unpaid program. If like most of us you don’t work for a company that offers a sabbatical, considering getting creative and cobbling all of your vacation time together in one chunk to craft a mini-sabbatical of your own. A former colleague of mine did this and took an annual month-long trip to France every summer for years. Another couple I know of horded vacation time and money for several years in order to take a 6-month sabbatical to Europe that included home-schooling their children. If like most American's you don’t have any meaningful vacation time, explore using the vacation time you do have and adding on some additional time as unpaid leave.
Find a new job at your current employer. If the timing is bad to find a new job at a new company, considering finding a new role at your current employer. While you're at it, be sure to send the strong signal to your employer that you’re committed to staying at the company so that they don’t question your commitment.
Have fun at work. This one can be hard, especially if you’re getting stuff done so you can leave work and go home. And if you’re anything like me you hate the idea of “mandatory fun” activities. I’m not suggesting that. Instead, look around your workplace. Is there anyone there you actually enjoy spending time with? (If not, you really need to find a new job). If so, schedule in a weekly lunch, walk or coffee/tea/green juice/cocktail break outside of the office with that person. Trying to be healthier? Schedule a midday yoga class or workout a couple of times a week. Wanting to get out of the office? Perhaps there’s a field trip you can organize. If your boss is bad about planning these sorts of things or not particularly creative, offer to help.
Daily Self-Reflection. So you’ve started to take action to bring new things into your work and life. Hooray! One way to reinforce this new behavior is to do a self-reflection at the end of each day. Write down the answer to the following: One way I took action today to move away from it feeling like Groundhog Day was____________. Here at The Awesome Institute we’ve found that self-reflection is one of the best ways to make new behaviors habits.
One thing that's true, Groundhog Day is a temporary state. Either you’ll make something happen or the environment will change things for you. Why not take the lead in your own life?