When you started your job, you were probably so excited about the opportunity and all of the new things you’d get to do in your role. However, as we all know, the sparkly shine of a new job tends to dull over time as you settle more and more into your position. Sure, it would be nice if we were able to maintain that level of enthusiasm throughout our careers, but finding a place where you’re simply comfortable and content at work is still a wonderful thing — it’s when the shine has dulled so much that you feel unmotivated and uninspired that it becomes a problem.
Most of us have gone through something like this at some point (or multiple times) over the course of our careers. Even if you’re doing something you genuinely enjoy for a living, there can come a point where you’re not just not feeling it and your daily work starts to feel like a constant drain on your well-being. These phases can feel exhausting, discouraging, and the feelings can even start seeping into your personal life. Maybe you know what triggered this response, or maybe it’s just been a slow burn to get here, but whatever the cause, it’s important to address the situation, not just ignore it and hope it goes away on its own (because spoiler: it probably won’t).
As rough as these phases can be, the good news is that by giving yourself the attention you deserve, you can usually get yourself out of this kind of rut without drastic measures (unless you want to make a drastic change, of course). However, timing is important in this case, because the longer these feelings of dissatisfaction persist, the more they will intensify and the more difficult it will be to bounce back.
Is It Burnout?
Burnout is becoming more and more prevalent in the professional world, and moms are particularly at risk (moms of color are at the highest risk) of finding themselves in a state of total burnout. While lack of motivation and inspiration at work can be a symptom of burnout, there are usually a handful of other symptoms and behaviors present as well when someone is truly in a state of burnout. That being said, this intense dissatisfaction at work is often a warning sign and precursor to the larger issue of burnout, so it needs to be taken seriously.
Uninspired vs. Burned Out
When you’ve been feeling uninspired at work for an extended period of time, it can have a significant impact on your well-being. Some feelings and behaviors you may notice include:
A sense of dread when the alarm goes off in the morning, and possibly when you go to bed knowing you have to wake up and go to work the next morning
Serious procrastination to the point where you’re regularly barely making deadlines
A decline in your quality of work
Spending more and more time shopping online, browsing the internet, or scrolling through social media while you’re on the clock
No longer caring about the work you do
Feeling combative at work or showing no interest in social gatherings that you would otherwise enjoy
Zoning out during important meetings, resulting in you missing essential information
Taking more mental health days than normal and/or arrive late/leaving early when you do show up to work
New unhealthy coping behaviors outside of work (ex: suddenly needing a drink to unwind every night)
Bringing your negativity home with you and taking it out on family (losing patience easily, having no energy to engage with your kids, etc.)
All of these symptoms are incredibly difficult to live with every day for an extended period of time. However, since when you’re going through an uninspired phase these symptoms aren’t debilitating, it’s easy to just keep pushing the feelings down and ignoring them. When you do this, though, you’re setting yourself up to reach full burnout which is when you experience all of the above plus other symptoms such as:
A sense of failure
Dread every morning, often to the point where it’s difficult to get out of bed (sometimes so bad that you can’t get out of bed)
When you reach the point of total burnout, it takes a lot of work to get out of it (and it usually isn’t pretty). So, as bad as job dissatisfaction feels, it’s so important to address it because burnout somehow feels even worse.
The Importance of Taking a Break
The first and best thing you can do when you’re in a state of persistently feeling unmotivated at work is to step away from work for a few days to get a break from the monotony of it all and hopefully get yourself out of the negativity cycle. Ideally, you should take off enough time where the break truly feels like a break, like a whole week. However, depending on your work situation, that’s not always possible, so if that’s the case then take off as many consecutive days in a row that you’re able to.
Before you take your break, let your manager know why you’re taking time off. When they know one of their employees is teetering on the edge of burnout, a good manager will step in to help them avoid the fall. By sharing what you’re going through with your boss, you’re letting them know that you will not be available in any way while you’re out of the office, so they need to come up with a backup plan while you’re out (again, a good supervisor will be willing to put your well-being first and make accommodations as needed). You’re also setting yourself up for getting more support when you return after your break.
Oftentimes, with some much needed rest and a few days of truly unplugging from work you will return to the office feeling a little more refreshed and energized. However, if you’re at a point where a short break isn’t going to work, then it might be time to explore other options such as:
Looking into FMLA options (with the support of your treating healthcare professional)
Searching for a new job, then upon accepting an offer push your start date back so that you have a few weeks to rest and reset
Resigning without having another job lined up and taking a career pause to explore what it is that will make you feel inspired and excited again
Taking a break from work is essential during times like these, but there are also some additional things you can do to help you rediscover your motivation and excitement for your job (after all, there was a time when you were truly inspired by it, right?), including:
Look at the bigger picture, how does your work play a part in it and what effect might it have on a grand scale?
Establish new boundaries between work and home so that work stress doesn’t seep into your personal life and feel all-consuming
Set small goals at work so that you can feel a sense of accomplishment again and experience more wins
Meet with your manager and express interest in working on new projects or joining committees to switch up your day-to-day
Advocate for a work location change (in-office, hybrid, or remote); a change of scenery and routine might make a big difference
When you’re in the midst of an uninspired phase, it can be incredibly difficult to see the bright side of anything at work – but the only way to break the cycle is to find something to be positive about. Emphasizing this single bright part of your day (no matter how big or small it is) while also taking active steps to pull yourself out of your rut will do wonders for your mentality and well-being. Slowly but surely, you’ll start feeling more like yourself again, and once you’re in a better headspace then you’ll have the clarity to assess whether this reset is enough or if it’s time to look for inspiration somewhere else.
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