Mario Azzi, Unsplash.
Mario Azzi, Unsplash.

7 Ways to Get Unstuck at Work

Burnout, exhaustion and stress has hit an all-time high. Here’s how to combat them.

Stuck is a word that’s becoming far more common when we talk about work these days. The general feeling of burnout and feeling stuck and unmotivated is pervasive in the post-COVID world. In fact, burnout has hit an all-time high, with three in five employees reporting negative impacts of workplace stress, including lack of interest, motivation or energy at work, according to a new report by the American Psychological Association. As many as 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and 44% reported physical fatigue. Consequently, more than 4.5 million people have quit their jobs during the Great Resignation.

So how do you get reenergized at work?

We talked to a few career experts, who offered these 7 tips on how to get unstuck at work.

1.     Celebrate what has worked.
Schedule time to do an honest review of last year, says Darcy Eikenberg, author of Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job. Consider what worked, why, and how you knew. Stop beating yourself up for what hasn’t happened and make a list of what has, she says. Your calendar and email history can serve as reminders of what you’ve done, problems you solved, relationships you built and new ideas you launched. Consider how to carry the momentum for these successes into the new year. You’ve probably done more than you realize, she says, and those wins are the foundation for your success ahead.

2.     Reframe, reframe, reframe.
This isn’t to advise just looking on the bright side. But rather, consider a new perspective that shows you what else is possible and helps you figure out what you really want, says Lia Garvin, a Google team operations leader and author of the upcoming book, Unstuck: Reframe Your Thinking to Free Yourself from the Patterns and People that Hold You Back. For example, instead of viewing feedback from your boss as simply negative or critical, showing you one more deficit that you need to address in your life and work, consider feedback as less about you and more about the person giving the feedback. “It’s about what they prefer and how they work, and that gives you insight into what is getting in the way of achieving your goals in this situation. This, instead of, I’m bad at my job or there’s something wrong with me,” says Garvin. She gives goal setting as another example. Rather than your goal being an endpoint, such as being promoted, consider whether a feeling could be a goal. “It could be a feeling of freedom, or feeling appreciated as a goal,” Garvin says.

Reframing your perspective can allow you to see the possibilities instead of just the limitations at work.
Mateus Campos Felipe, Unsplash.

3.     Take radical responsibility.
To avoid feeling like a victim or blaming others, approach each issue with curiosity rather than from the need to be right. If you think, I should get paid more. You should have done this, then consider whether the story is coming from a place of righteousness, says Diana Chapman, a partner at consulting firm, the Conscious Leadership Group, and author of the 15 Commitment of Conscious Leadership. “Ask yourself, ‘How could the opposite be true?’ ‘What can I learn rather than being right?’” she says. Question your truth. If you want to believe you are right,  then consider whether the opposite could be equally true. This allows you to avoid victimhood and enables you to become the creator of your own experience.

4.     Consider your own internal motivators and values.
Getting in touch with what motivates you can build purpose to your job. Whether it’s salary, title, being able to learn a new skill, or expressing your creativity, if it’s what is most important to you, it can allow you to better withstand struggles at work. “Find your personal why,” says Garvin.

5.     Find your boundaries.
Our lives are always-on, and business goes well beyond the traditional 9 to 5 workday. People are working longer hours, resulting in stress and burnout. The solution? Take back control and set your own boundaries, says Eikenberg. “Say no when you need to and adapt a mindset of progress, not perfection,” she says. Only you know how to maintain your personal well-being—no one else can figure it out for you. 

A 2021 Gallup poll showed that the average workweek for a full time U.S. employee was 47 hours—and as many as 39% of people working 50 to 60+ hours a week. Setting clear boundaries can help you avoid stress and burnout. Victoria Heath, Unsplash.

6.  Stop saying you’re stuck.
Eikenberg challenges you to ask yourself: “If I had a magic wand, what would I change to feel differently about my work?” She suggests taking a piece of paper and writing these things down. “The magic wand test can crystalize what you’d like to change–and help you see what’s not broken,” she says. In that vein, changing your words can be a powerful way to change your life. Joe Dispenza, author of Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, suggests that if people want to change some aspect of their reality, they must  think, feel, and act in new ways. “We have to ‘be’ different in terms of our responses to experiences,” writes Dispenza. 

7.     Invest in relationships.
After two years of working remotely, people increasingly feel disconnected. We’re Zoomed out. Yet it’s important to still stay connected and nurture relationships between colleagues, says Garvin. Otherwise, that short response to a question or a poorly-worded email can drive further disengagement from work. “This doesn’t have to take a lot of time—just a 10 minute conversation can help,” says Garvin. “You have to put an effort into keeping relationships alive, and build that community.”

As frustrations and unhappiness mounts at work and millions of people quit their job, there will be a reckoning across the workplace that people need to feel connected to work, says Garvin. Managers and leaders play a key role in facilitating that engagement at work. They can model vulnerability and encourage dissent and open communication. 

Chapman says organizations often pay a “drama tax” of time and energy wasted by not making and keeping clear agreements about what must be done and by withholding or controlling our own or other’s emotions. She recommends check-ins at the beginning and the end of a meeting about how everyone is feeling, whether it’s excited, scared or angry. “One of the reasons people are so tired right now, is we are not letting people grieve,” she says. There has been loss, and a change in the way we live since COVID. “People are suppressing that,” says Chapman. “Letting people talk about thoughts and feelings gives everyone more energy, helps them feel more connected and fosters creativity.”

Getting unstuck is possible, but it takes figuring out what your own intrinsic motivations are and changing your perspective—and a culture that fosters a healthy workplace.