I’ve had a number of conversations in recent weeks with folks who are in a rut. This is completely understandable with all that is happening in the world. So how do we stop the feeling that we’re on a treadmill and losing the joy in our work?

I’ve seen first-hand the strategies that can help folks move out of this space. But first, we have to acknowledge that ruts are completely normal. Really! They’re normal in normal times, and they’re particularly common now, when so many of us are navigating or recovering from the emotional and practical challenges of our world recently. What matters is being able to recognize when we are falling in to one, and then taking the steps to get out of it. Being able to say “I am in a rut” takes courage. But it is also the first step in continuing to thrive.

In my years in the industry, I have found those who face the rut head on tend to be the highest performers. They recognize, adapt, and create tools to strengthen their work for their organization — and often come out of the rut feeling even more committed and energized about our work and our organizations.

If you think you may be “losing steam” in your role, consider how these strategies may help:

  • Ask a colleague for a 5-minute pep talk and be prepared to return the favor for them. Fundraising is a team sport, and having a colleague who can re-energize is a gift.
  • Review your calendar and see where you have been spending time. Most often, burn out happens when we get stuck in the mundane, less-important tasks. Be honest with yourself, and then clear time on your calendar to focus on your most important, impactful work. Make sure you focus every day on building authentic relationships that that inspire generosity.
  • Who inspires you? A faculty member? An organizational leader? A program director? A student or program beneficiary? Find a way to connect, whether it is reading their blog, watching a video, or participating in a class/lecture/program. Reconnecting to the values that drive our work is a great way to remind ourselves why we do what we do.
  • And my favorite strategy: Set up a video call or a meeting with a donor whose strategy is ready for the next step. I found that my ruts came when I was not meeting with donors and had been in too many internal meetings. Sit with a donor, hear their passion, and feel the accomplishment of enriching a relationship while moving a strategy forward.

Recognizing early when you’re in a rut, and taking proactive steps to address it, is critical to longevity in our roles. Otherwise, rather than staying at an institution long enough to truly build skills and sustained success, we look for a new opportunity and begin the cycle again on a new team.

We owe ourselves, and our causes, our best and most engaged selves. What tips or tricks do you use to re-motivate and refocus?

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