Lifestyle

7 Tips to Break Through a Work Slump

by Molly Pittman

Prefer to listen?

You can hear us chat about the 7 Tips to Break Through a Work Slump in Episode 29 of The Smart Marketer Podcast.

“If you’re feeling a bit of a slump or a loss of path in your business, how do you pick yourself back up again?”

A member of our audience wrote in with this great question.

When you’re in a work slump, instead of feeling like your creative and productive self, you feel uninspired, unable to focus, and you probably just want to crawl into a deep YouTube hole.

Well, if you’re feeling this way then know that you are not alone! It’s something I’ve experienced many times.

So here are 7 tips to help you when you’re in a slump or just having a bad day. The first two answers come from Ezra Firestone and John Grimshaw, then I’ll give you 5 tips of my own that I use on a regular basis.

Let’s dive in!

#1 Focus on the Most Important 10% (Ezra)

Ezra always says that one of his keys to success is his consistency: his ability to show up every day with a positive attitude and put in the work.

But even Ezra can hit the occasional rut. So what does he do when he’s feeling off his game?

“Take a look at why it is that you’re not feeling motivated. What is it that you don’t want to confront? Is it just all these open cycles? Just all this stuff that you feel like you have to do that you haven’t done?”

“Then make a list of everything. Everything that you think you have to do, list it out. Just that process will free up your energy.”

“And then cross out 90% of that — get rid of it. It’s not going to help you. Just do the most important things. You get most of your results from a little bit of what you do.

Most of the time when people are feeling a lack of inspiration, it’s because they have a bunch of open cycles that they feel like they have to do that are weighing on them. So list them all out, and then crumple them up and throw them away and start fresh. Focus on whatever is the most interesting to you at that time.”

#2 Switch to a “Recharging” Task (John)

The next tip comes from Smart Marketer CMO John Grimshaw.

John is a master of optimization in all areas of business, so it’s no surprise that he has a great tip for optimizing your work-life.

He suggests trying to pause your day-to-day tasks so you can spend some time doing what you love most about your job.

“Whenever I’m feeling a bit unenthused about the stuff I’m doing day to day, my quick remedy is to say ‘time out’ on all the higher-level job responsibilities I have and go back to what I love doing most, which is analyzing what’s going on on a random website.

I will literally just say, ‘Okay, all this CMO responsibility I have, I’m just going to put that aside for a day or so. And I’m instead going to dive in and figure out something cool about the website.’ And I just totally lose myself in it.

There are tasks that are draining and there are tasks that are recharging. For me, I recharge by tracing back to what I did when I first got started and had a lot of fun in this industry. Not that I’m not having fun with my job in general, but this lets me recharge and get me some more enthusiasm that I can bring to the quarterly and day-to-day stuff that I need to do to move the needle in other ways.”

(Ezra wrote a post a while back that I really enjoyed called The “More Fun” Challenge about intentionally working fun into your daily life. You can do this in your personal life, but I think we should all include fun cycles in our business lives as well!)

#3 Accept the Slump

Those were a couple of great tips from Ezra and John. Thanks guys!

Now I’m going to give you the 5 tips I use to get myself out of work slumps (which definitely happen more than I would like).

Something I realized a few years ago — and something I wish I’d understood earlier in my career — is that life is binary. You have to experience the bad to appreciate the good – it’s all part of the rollercoaster.

So the first thing to do when you find yourself in a slump is to accept it, because you waste a lot of energy fighting it. Personally, I know I sometimes judge myself for being in a slump in the first place. So not only am I in the slump, but then I’m also judging myself for being in the slump.

“Oh, Molly, you should be happy. Look at your life. You shouldn’t feel this way.”

And then I’m just exerting extra energy judging myself, which makes the slump worse. It’s a vicious cycle!

So for me, the first step is to just truly accept that there will always be slumps. It’s part of the journey, it’s part of life, it’s part of being human. And the more that you can just relax and accept it, the quicker it passes.

(For more on this topic, check out our post on value judgements and how they affect your actions.)

#4 Step Away (If You Need To)

On days when I’m feeling off or a little bit down, it can be really helpful to step away from what I’m doing and change my environment.

It can be as simple as that: I take a walk, listen to a meditation, go for a drive — anything to get away from what I’m doing so I can figure out why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling.

Ideally, you only use this tip occasionally. If you’re stepping away from work every day then it won’t be sustainable!

In that case, it’s obviously something you need to look into deeper.

#5 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

If the slump is caused by a specific person or project, can you communicate with the person or people involved to resolve the problem?

If you clear the air and find peace, it can free up a lot of mental and emotional space.

Even if the problem doesn’t revolve around a single person or project, just communicating can be incredibly helpful. John and I are always chatting and supporting each other, and it’s not always about business.

I can’t imagine doing this (or any) job without business partners and friends who I can turn to.

Everyone experiences work slumps. Talk to people about it. It will make you feel better, and they will likely have good advice.

(Communication is so important in every part of life — personal and professional — that we did a three-part podcast series called “Communication Is Key”. Go listen to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 now.)

#6 Separate Validation From Work Results

This next tip is something Ezra preaches a lot that I really resonate with. We need to be able to separate…

  • Who we are
  • How we see ourselves
  • And where we get fulfillment

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…from our work. This can be very hard when our jobs sometimes feel all-consuming.

I find this especially hard to do because I run a personality brand — everything about my work overlaps with who I am! So if a product launch doesn’t go well, for example, then I can easily turn that into negative thoughts about myself.

But this is also a challenge for people who aren’t involved in personality brands. Most business owners see themselves as people who are good at business, and this is where they get a lot of their self confidence from.

So if a sale doesn’t go well, not only do they start doubting their abilities as a marketer or business owner, they start doubting themselves in general. This can affect how someone feels about themself, the way they relate with their friends and family, etc.

But business is always going to fluctuate. You want to look for validation and happiness from a deeper source than any one thing, and especially not from a holiday sale!

(Ezra did a fun rant recently about looking for validation in the wrong things. You can listen to it here.)

#7 Find Fulfillment Outside of Work

My final tip is a companion to the last one.

Just as you want to look outside of work for validation, you also want to look outside of work for fulfillment. This is something I’ve been working on a lot over the last few years.

I’m working on a project right now where I just bought a farm and started an animal shelter as a non-profit. It’s in-person (most of my life is remote) and it involves something I’m really passionate about, which is animals.

And I can derive a different type of fulfillment out of this project than I can from anything I do in this awesome online world, which means I’m not relying on Smart Marketer for all of my happiness. Hurray!

For you, it can be something small (like a hobby) or something big (like an animal shelter). It’s up to you. But I know that the more I focus on these outside projects, the more whole and balanced I feel.


Do you have a question of your own that you want us to answer? Shoot us a message on Instagram @smartmarketerig.

Thanks for reading!