Girl flying colorful kite in a grassy field

I’ve talked a lot here about self-motivation–the one thing I believe is key to success in a one-person communications shop (or any job, really). But everyone loses that drive every now and then. What do you do when that happens?

You could start looking for a new job. A decade or so ago, this was my preferred approach. I was green enough to believe the grass was more vividly verdant elsewhere. A stint in management has assured me that every organization has its challenges. Switching jobs means you’ll be exchanging a set of known issues–ones you’ve developed strategies for coping with–for unknown ones. In some cases it’s worth it, but you probably don’t need a new job to find your motivation again.

Here are some much less drastic approaches. Try one or more of these next time you need a little push.

Find some new reading material. I get my best ideas while running, but it’s usually because I’m thinking about something I’ve read. I don’t read a lot of blogs, books or magazines about PR; they all started to sound the same after about 10 years in the field. Try related topics like business, HR or content management. In college I often wondered at the coincidental connections between seemingly unrelated subjects. It wasn’t a coincidence. I make lots of connections now between non-PR reading material and work, and often think of ways these ideas can apply to my job. With a few tweaks, which brings me to…

Rewrite your job description. If I still followed the same job description I was given 9 years ago (when I started working for my current employer), I’d be doing the same job … and it would be increasingly irrelevant, since it was mostly creating print collateral back then. I’ve been promoted twice, and each of those was a result of looking at industry trends, and how we could apply new ideas or technologies to meet our business goals. I looked at the organization and noted what wasn’t happening (or happening consistently), and said, “I can do that.” Internal communications and market research are two examples. Take care to also examine what can go; you’ll probably need to reduce, delegate or eliminate other activities to make time for new priorities.

Talk to your boss, or even another department, about new projects. Chances are, you don’t have a complete view of the organization’s needs and priorities. Ask about them. If you’re having trouble determining how else you can help on your own, ask to hear more about the company’s long-term strategy and growth plans. During that conversation, you and your boss are both likely to have some a-ha moments about how you can help make the company’s top priorities happen. If these tasks are outside your usual job description, all the better–you’ll have the chance to learn, and grow not only yourself, but your company as well.

Get a support group. Everyone needs a sounding board. Find a few communications colleagues who aren’t your company’s competitors, and get together regularly. Share your latest ideas, and watch them take shape as your friends talk them out. Listening to others’ challenges and helping them work through solutions is not only very rewarding–it can help put you in a new mindset to approach an old problem in a new way. This group can also help you figure out if the grass really is greener, if you’ve tried all of the above and still need a new challenge.

And maybe–just maybe–ennui with work isn’t really the problem. When’s the last time you took a day off, or did something just for you? Regular breaks–when you do absolutely nothing work-related–are essential to creativity. Unplug for a day or two. Ride a bike, take a walk, fly a kite. Sometimes all it takes is a little time away.

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