What To Do When You Feel Disengaged and Disinterested in Your Work

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We did it! My daughter, husband and I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. If you’re just joining us on this adventure, be sure to start here to get caught up on the journey and the lessons learned. As it turns out, the toughest lesson of the adventure was waiting for me when we got home. But back to the story…

It took 2 days to get down the mountain. We felt exhausted, exhilarated, proud and antsy to get to the bottom. We were excited about the next part of our trip—looking forward to seeing family in Kenya and not doing the “Kili shuffle” anymore.

All Good Vacations Come to an End

Unfortunately, all good vacations come to an end…it was eventually time to say goodbye to family and fly 24 hours back home.

Our first reaction upon returning to the Washington, DC area was noticing how dark it was. What a shock! Our daughter went straight to school and her sports that week; jet lag didn’t seem to bother her.

The Biggest Challenge Yet

Getting back to my schedule wasn’t so easy; in fact, it was much more challenging than climbing the tallest freestanding mountain on the planet. It was difficult going from big, bright blue skies to steely grey days; from shorts and T-shirts to layers of clothes; from being outside all day, every day, to ‘C’mon, let’s go outside’; from being physically active each day to sitting in front of a computer and from chatting as a family all day to quick snatches of conversation over a meal, in between scheduled events and meetings.

Suddenly, I’m Questioning Everything

I went from feeling connected to something (literally) bigger than me to feeling disconnected to what I was doing. Suddenly, I was questioning everything: Does my work matter? Do we want to live in D.C.? Do I make enough of a difference in people’s lives? How can I connect more to others?

I Had To Pull Myself Out

What To Do When You Feel Disengaged

After moping around for weeks and eating way too much ice cream, I knew I had to pull myself out of feeling disengaged and disinterested in my work. I learned that sometimes it takes something way outside of work to get you re-engaged with work. So we decided as a family to create community dinners, where we invited friends for dinner every other week. We found that cooking as a family for 10-12 people every other week kept us connected. And seeing friends on a more regular basis was just the remedy I needed to feel re-connected to myself and to my community.

In addition, I re-committed to my fitness routine to keep me feeling fit and strong. In fact, since I never learned to swim more than a modified breaststroke, I decided to take swimming lessons, to keep me physically challenged. Those lessons are harder than climbing Kilimanjaro!

Finally, I decided it was time to re-structure my work, with less time flying to cities to do quick keynotes and more time forming deeper working relationships with my clients.

Three Quick Ways to Come Out of a Disengagement Slump

I’m happy to say my slump is officially over. The actions I took truly helped. So what can you do if you find yourself buried in a disengagement slump? Try these three things:

  1. Focus on Connection

What To Do When You Feel Disengaged

According to a Gallup study , close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%. Plus, people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. So carve out some time to connect with others in person, whether it’s taking a walk, meeting for coffee, enjoying a happy hour, sharing a lunch break, or just sitting outside to chat. This focus on connection doesn’t need to end when you leave work for the day. Maybe hosting community dinners isn’t your cup of tea, but make a real effort to share time and space with those in your family and community.

  1. Move Your Body

What To Do When You Feel Disengaged

We all know that exercise is good for us. Who knew that the benefits of exercise extend to the workplace as well? John Hamilton, head of health, safety and wellbeing at Leeds Beckett University, said, “Our evidence shows that if [employees] are active, it’s not just their physical wellbeing that benefits, but their mental wellbeing, their productivity and their happiness.”

So get up and move your body. Play a sport you love, learn something new, walk instead of drive when you can, hit the gym, and take the stairs. If you’re the type of person who has never worked out or simply doesn’t enjoy exercise, remember that anything is better than nothing. Physical training doesn’t require a gym membership. There’s even the “The 7 Minute Workout” for those who don’t like to go to the gym and/or don’t have or want to devote a lot of time to exercise. Read here to learn about how to fully engage in leadership by managing physical energy.

  1. Switch Up Your Routine

What To Do When You Feel Disengaged

Breathe life back into your work by shaking up your routine. Try turning your to-do list upside down. This is particularly helpful for those who tend to put themselves last—not prioritizing things that they love to do. For example, if signing up for cooking class is last on your to-do list, you may never get to it. If your list is flipped though, you’ll be signed up by the time you finish your first coffee!

Breaking routine in the workplace might seem impossible but it’s not. Sign up for a volunteer committee, invite a coworker you don’t know well to take a walk over the lunch break, take advantage of opportunities to learn a new skill, and look for projects you can contribute to that are outside of your typical workflow.

The good news is that the changes I made to pull myself out of disengagement slump continue to benefit my life. When you pull yourself out of a slump, you just might end up more engaged than when you started.

Thank you for coming along on this journey with me—from the joy of planning and preparing for the adventure, to appreciating the value of unplugging, to the 17K foot climb up! Where should we go for out next adventure? I’d love to hear your recommendations. Tell me in the comment section below, via email, or find me on Twitter.

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