It seems as if nearly everyone I know is in some sort of forced transition at the moment. Whether it be job loss, furlough, indefinite work from home, or a business closing, we are all facing unchartered and often unchosen territory. It can feel overwhelming, uncertain and for some people, freeing.
As businesses start to reopen and we return to some semblance of normalcy I’ve been hearing a recurring message. My friend described it best when she said, “I don’t think I want to go back to the way things were! Having this time off to reflect, I’ve realized how unhappy I was. I knew I didn’t love what I was doing but I just kept going, consumed by the job. Now that I’ve been forced to take a step back, I can see how miserable I was. I don’t want to go back to it but I’m not sure what’s next. I feel really lost, but also kind of excited”.
She’s not alone. I’ve been hearing these types of murmurings from friends, family, and even clients. Much like this global pause has allowed nature to refresh and renew, so has it affected humans. And, while not everyone has the luxury of reinventing our lives, many of us can make some small adjustments.
But what do you do when you know you don’t want to go back to “business as usual” but are unsure of what the “new normal” means for you personally? Here are three ideas to get you started:
Get some clarity. Ask yourself what you love about your work, what you tolerate, and what you dread. There are tasks that we are good at but don’t inspire us. There are tasks that completely and consistently drain our energy. Finally, there are tasks that are effortless, bolster our energy and time passes quickly when we are doing them. Spend some time evaluating what motivates you. Look beyond the task itself to the nature of the work. Are there patterns that you hadn’t noticed before? For example, are you drawn to any task that involves the organization of data? Or perhaps, you like complex problem-solving. Is working with a team what gets you excited, or do you prefer solo work? These are clues as to what type of work you find fulfilling and meaningful.
Consider small tweaks. When we feel overwhelmed or burned out, we become desperate for a change which can lead to overcorrecting. It can feel like you need a massive overhaul but in reality, all that might be required is some small tweaks such as restructuring your workday or perhaps shifting some tasks to someone else. Before making any drastic decisions try implementing some small modifications first.
Make a plan. If after getting clarity and considering small adjustments, you still feel unmotivated and unfulfilled, it might be time for a bigger change. Perhaps you love the work you do but not the environment in which you are doing it. Then a change to a new employer might in order. Or the opposite could be true, you love your employer but the job itself feels like a mismatch. Then you may want to explore other opportunities at the same organization. Nonetheless, a major change requires a plan. Before jumping into something new be thoughtful about possible next steps and timeline. Establish some guidelines about what you are seeking - what is non-negotiable and what is nice to have. Thoroughly consider your options and any opportunities that come your way. The last thing you want to do is leave a bad situation for an even worse one by rushing into a change.
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Please know, if you are feeling that this forced pause has got you questioning your way forward, you are not alone. However, instead of charging ahead with full-blown reinvention, take some time to consider what you really want, contemplate small changes that might work, and if not, take some time to create a well thought out plan.