On Tuesday, we talked a bit about how there will be numerous times in a person’s life that you realize that you are, perhaps, a bit off track from where you would like to be. Maybe you wake up one day and realize you own nothing beyond dowdy suits, Mom jeans, and pajamas — a wardrobe revamp is in order. Other times you wake up and realize it’s your attitude that needs an adjustment. There are different varieties of this. The two big ones that I’ve seen involve a realization that perhaps you’ve been phoning it in for far too long, either because you were dealing with a personal issue (planning a wedding, having a baby, dealing with a sick parent, etc, etc) or because you just aren’t engaged in your job anymore. Other times, you realize that it’s your job that makes you unhappy; you may suddenly feel that you’ve been beaten down for so long that you don’t even remember the last time you felt calm, fulfilled, and at peace with the world. This is a type of burnout that can happen with any job, but I’ve seen it especially with those professions — BigLaw, I’m looking at you — that consume most or all of your waking hours for years at a time. Sometimes the right answer might be to just suck it up, deal with it, recognize the commitments you’ve made and the value of what you’ve got. Other times, a vacation can help — but you can’t solve every problem by a week or two in a tropical locale. (Pictured: fiji birthday drink, originally uploaded to Flickr by mjecker.)
For my $.02, the first situation is the better of the two — you still intrinsically like what you do and where you are, but you just need to reengage with the job. Some ideas for that:
- Revamp your routine. If the first thing you do every day at the office is surf the web for two hours, stop that — don’t even turn on your computer if possible. I recently read about someone who “turned the mouse off” during work time to cut down on distracted browsing; you can also just put your mouse out of reach, turn it on its back, or unplug it.
- Restyle your office (or move offices, if possible). It’ll make you feel like you’re at a new job again.
- Reengage with your profession again. Attend a thinky seminar or conference, and really listen — take notes as if your life depended on it. Take some time to apply what you’ve learned to your current job (and, perhaps, to your boss’s job). Set up a meeting or write a memo if you come up with tangible ideas as a result.
The other main kind of “attitude revamp” I’ve seen people need is when your job makes you miserable — perhaps even your profession — and you can’t easily get a new job (or a new profession). The only thing, in my experience, that I’ve seen work for this is to reconnect with some older, core version of yourself from the time before The Job. For example, maybe you were on the swim team in your youth — and you can just rejoin an adult swim club that does drills and the like. For me, I found myself in this situation a few years ago, right after I’d missed my best friend’s wedding to do a doc review — and the only thing I could think to do to reconnect with ME again was to take a humor writing class, which I hadn’t done since I was 17. I signed up at Gotham (with the very excellent teacher Sara Barron) and realized in pretty short order that a) I could write something other than a law brief, and b) I was kind of good at writing, as well as giving other people in my class useful feedback on how their own stories could be better. As soon as I reconnected with the “me” I’d been when I was 17 — full of hope and ambition and sarcasm — weirdly enough, good things started to happen. I met my future husband later that month. I got on a much better project at the job, working closely with a lawyer I truly admired, about two months later. I decided to start this blog about four months later. None of those things had anything to do with my rediscovered humor writing skills — but so much to do with my rediscovery of me, the person I’d been before I’d spent nearly 15 years throwing myself into school and work.
Readers, what are your tips for getting your groove back? What other major attitude revamps have you been through?