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3 Creative Ways to Get Out of a Workday Rut

Amy McDonnell, CareerBuilder writer

With the daily stresses, responsibilities and expectations of our personal and professional lives, we all need to press the “reset” button from time to time. Sometimes, though, the usual ways of getting ourselves out of a rut or jump-starting our creativity just don’t do the trick. Sometimes, we don’t just need to pull a rabbit out of a hat – we need full-on magic to give us a fresh perspective and get back on track.

Here are three unusual – but effective – ways some companies have helped their employees increase productivity, business leaders have learned to start their days with a fresh mindset, and forward-thinking individuals have gotten out of their daily (and often dull) routines. Read on and get inspired to dream up your own happiness hack.

1. Get out of the email (in)box.

What would happen if you temporarily swore off email? Gabel, a home textile company in Italy, wanted to find out. After surveying their employees about what stressed them the most (spoiler alert: Their top answer was the daily influx of emails), they decided to cut off email for one week for internal communications. The goal? To get employees to actually talk to each other more (and no, talking to someone’s avatar doesn’t count.)

Gabel’s employees aren’t alone in getting the sweats from email overload: Studies have shown the mere possibility of getting a work email during non-work hours can shoot stress levels through the roof. And a University of California-Irvine study found that even five short days off email, similar to what Gabel tried, leads to more natural heart rates and potentially more engaged and productive employees. What company wouldn’t want that?

The result of Gabel’s week of email-less freedom? The company’s president said employees spent the week meeting and talking to co-workers face-to-face, rather than chained to their inboxes. As the company’s president, Michele Montrasio, said of the experiment, “Even if… we all go back to using email, these days of experimentation are very worthwhile, to understand and rethink the pace of working.”

While you may not have the ability to convince your boss to try this extreme of a method, you can take a cue from Gabel’s experiment.

Some ideas:

  • Consider making rules and boundaries for yourself when it comes to checking, writing and sending emails during the workday (and even on your own time). Sticking to designated times for emails may take your stress levels down a few notches – as well as grant you the space to do great work without constant interruptions.
  • Be proactive and make more of an effort to walk over to someone’s cubicle or office when you need to talk. It’s often quicker, and you can see body language and hear someone’s tone (and vice versa) rather than risk something getting misread over email.
  • Rather than send a long email, invite a co-worker to grab a coffee with you, and talk shop on the way. A change of scenery can often make people more relaxed, creative and open to new ideas.
  • Challenge yourself and do something new each week to make more in-person connections; you may be pleasantly surprised by the results (and make some new friends in the process).

2. Maintain a rage journal.

A journal like this is really for more than “rage” – it’s for any worries, concerns or stresses you need to get out of your system. Sometimes you just need to get out of your own head. According to Karen Lord, owner of Karen Lord Pilates Movement, keeping this type of journal has helped ensure she looks at each morning as a fresh start. She views it as a brain dump at the end of each day. “All my fears/worries/stresses/rage/hurt goes into the book.”

There is one a essential rule to this, though, Karen says: “No one ever reads the rage journal. Ever.” Not her, and not anyone else – because the point isn’t to dwell on these feelings; it’s to get it all out and then let it go. 

Whether you start a rage journal or just start making a habit of getting your thoughts out on paper, or a private blog, or – if an audience is more your thing – by talking to your significant other or a trusted friend when you need to vent, remember that the point is to acknowledge the bad things that happened that day, and then to let them go. By not letting negativity consume you and seep into your workday, you’ll likely feel much more at peace – and much more ready to face whatever comes at you in both your personal and professional life.

 3. Shake up the 9-to-5 routine.

Swedish-based music company Spotify recently announced a new six-month family leave policy, and the new six-hour workday some firms in Sweden are trialing challenges the notion that work equates to traditional work hours. Most of Europe isn’t a stranger to strong work-life balance, but the idea of a shorter workday is still largely a concept many companies aren’t quite ready to wrap their head around. Studies have shown, however, that most workers use anywhere from 1-3 hours a day on personal emails, chats with colleagues, checking social media, and more – which means we really only work for six hours a day anyway.

While a shorter workday may not be possible at your workplace, making the most of the time you’re at work will help you get out of work at a decent hour and enjoy more quality time in your personal life. Try blocking out unscheduled time in your day for proactive tasks. Rather than bulk up your day with more activities, scheduling blocks of time can actually boost your productivity and make you less likely to whittle the minutes away with minutia. You’re also less likely to be interrupted by a colleague when you’re in the middle of a complex project or a deep-thinking moment, and chances are you’ll get more done in less time.

So if you’re feeling stifled, consider getting out of your regular routine, even temporarily, to recharge, reset, and gain a fresh perspective. You may just find that a temporary fix becomes a positive and permanent fixture in your workday.

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