How anonymous got his groove back
September 1, 2011 10:51 PM   Subscribe

I have lost all of my motivation to do even a modicum of a half-decent job at work. Has anyone dealt with this? How do I get back into the groove of things?

I'm currently working something of a dream job, have been for the past year, and up until a few months ago have been very pro-active "let's-get-this-shit-done" about it. But lately my appetite for excelling at work has almost completely dried out and I find myself putting off work, letting projects pile up, and just browsing the net all day. Whenever someone asks me for anything or tells me they need me in a meeting, I get REALLY frustrated deep inside and find myself thinking "ugh, SO not in the mood right now". I'm constantly tired and have just been avoiding doing work at all costs. So far no one has said anything, but I fear someone will soon.

I may be able to attribute this to the fact that I've started dating around heavily this past 3 months for the first time in my life (Male, 25), and while it's been fun and exciting it has been completely emotionally draining. It's been years since I've been interested in someone/had someone interested in me, so all the limerance and torment and waiting for the call back and anticipation is very exhausting. I don't know if that is connected to my exhaustion/depression(?) but it's really the only major life change I've experienced so I thought I'd mention it. That would be disappointing because I sort of thought opening myself up to the dating world would make me into a more well-rounded person, and help me work even harder.

I feel like I'm always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. I'll start a project and after 5 minutes feel like I've been working for 5 straight hours.

Maybe I can't separate work-brain and date-brain? Or maybe this is just something that happens to people when they start to get burned out from their job? Is it time to find a new one? Is it just good old-fashion depression? Is there any way to get my groove back?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
How long since you've had a vacation? How long until you can get one? You basically sound like you need a recharge.
I know the therapy card gets tossed out on the green a lot, but you might also benefit from that. It's possible that you're simply depressed.
posted by Gilbert at 10:56 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's just your work you're feeling this way about, then dream job or not, you are sick of your work. Take a vacation.
posted by tumid dahlia at 11:02 PM on September 1, 2011

it sounds like you're burning out. i don't think it's that you can't separate work-brain and date-brain, but more that you are going full-force on two big things and it's taking a toll on you. i would try taking a week or two off. do some relaxing things and do some interesting/active things, and see how you feel when you get back to work.
posted by gursky at 11:14 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

take some time off. at least a week if you can. and don't check email or check in or anything else. you're burning out. even if you like your job sometimes you can hate it. and if you're staying out late with the new person or whatever and not getting enough sleep, being tired all day at work certainly adds to the grumpies.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:23 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

(i should add that even if you like your job and even if you like dating, doing both can still feel like a drag simply because you're pushing yourself so hard. i love my job and i just started seeing someone new, and i'm currently feeling a tiny bit of a lag at work. i know i need to figure out how to balance being a workaholic with having time for dating, otherwise i will get tired and grumpy soon.)
posted by gursky at 11:29 PM on September 1, 2011

If you think you're down now, imagine how you'll feel when you get sacked for browsing the internet all day instead of working. Turn it off, do the most important project you've got first and get it done. You'll feel a lot better about yourself. In the end you do a job to put food on the table and your motivation is the money. If you're about to throw away a 'dream job' because you can't be bothered to do it, think about what your alternatives are. You won't get much chance to browse stacking shelves at the local supermarket. It's great that you're dating, but that should be giving you energy, rather than sapping it away. In the end you have to get your job done first. The dates are going to dry up if you end up unemployed.
posted by joannemullen at 11:36 PM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think the first step is a bit of a vacation if you can manage it. Get yourself a good recharge and see if that helps. If it presists - make sure there isn't anything physical happening - at your age, it turned out I had sleep apnea - and the lack a real rest really wore on me.

After that - I think it may be worth it to really look into yourself and make sure are not genuinely depressed about something. Losing interest in something you used to love, feeling tired all the time, general bad moodiness are not good signs.

I am not saying to over analyze this - but it's always worth it to do some introspection and give your psyche a real health check.
posted by helmutdog at 11:51 PM on September 1, 2011

We work too much in the US (I default to thinking you are in the US unless I'm told otherwise). Most people don't have the energy for much else. I would suggest you find a way to work less if at all possible. Part-time? Work-share? job based on results rather than hours with butt in chair? I've now found that way, though I killed myself at full-time+ jobs plus commutes for years. Even a dream job is less dreamy when you have to do it 40+ hours a week while you are trying to also have a personal or creative life.
posted by parrot_person at 11:54 PM on September 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

Early dating can definitely be distracting, but some people are more stressful to date than others. I'm thinking of someone who was always being difficult about making plans so I'd spend hours wondering if he'd be busy, asking him repeatedly if he'd attend something I needed tickets for...even if he wanted to do something he was hard to pin down. He was a bit prickly, too, so there were minor interpersonal fires to put out via long email chains on a regular basis. Great guy, but a pain in the ass to date.

On the other hand, I've dated people who were easy to get along with, easy to plan with, gave a definite yes or no, and were consistently easy to get in touch with. Much less stress and interference with the rest of my life.

So, take a hard look at who you're dating and whether or not it's draining to the point of hurting your performance at work.

I also agree that it might be vacation time.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:11 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I started to feel this way about my job a couple of months ago. However, I was able to get back on track, for the most part. Here's what helped me:

1. I took a couple of vacations. They were both short vacations, long weekends, in fact. However, they were to destinations I loved (San Francisco and Portland, OR), and I did things that I loved down there (took in a soccer match, ate at some neato restaurants, etc.). Both times, I came back refreshed and recharged.

2. Every day, I take a break from work and walk outside. At least for 15 minutes or so. If it's sunny out, it's a bonus. But even if it's cloudy, just the exercise will invigorate you. Exceptions for when the weather is horrid, of course. But even then, you can walk up and down flights of stairs for exercise.

3. Also, every day, I try to take it easy in other aspects in my life when work is just sucking. Right now, I'm in a Software Death March. So, instead of the regular power bar and weak tea that I usually have for breakfast, I've been having a fluffy waffle and an Americano from my favorite waffle place every morning. Waffles are love, and treating myself that little bit helps me start the day on a good note - which helps me approach my work on a good note.

4. Assuming you're in the US, Labor Day weekend is coming up - take that chance to do something fun and neato where you live. Sort of like a mini-vacation.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:13 AM on September 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

(Oh yeah - on my vacations, I didn't check my work email at all. This is key.)
posted by spinifex23 at 12:15 AM on September 2, 2011

You have a sweet job and you've got a new girlfriend: you're just slacking off. It's a luxury, and apparently one you do have time for now, so perhaps this is your subconscious telling you to shape up a bit and not let it get out of control. Of course you'd rather be elsewhere. Go on a vacation. Go on a vacation with the gal. I'm not saying get the newness out of your system, but y''s good to get to a point of equilibrium where it's not ruining your life. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by rhizome at 12:38 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

While it could be a case of burnout, you also have many symptoms of hypothyroidism or hormonal issues. It would be a good idea to talk to your doctor a bit, and get some simple blood tests to rule out physical causes.
posted by barnone at 1:05 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the best thing you can do is get your brain out of the work mode during your breaks in the work day. Take a book and go to a park or just some quiet spot and zone out. Or go to the gym. Or take a walk. It'll bring you back to work refreshed.
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:06 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're bored and in a rut. In my experience this is a vicious cycle. The more bored you are, the less motivated you become, the more you slack off and therefore you become more bored etc etc etc.

I've been here many times in jobs and usually it's related to a lack of ability to make any significant difference, a feeling of irrelevance, lack of faith in the work I'm doing etc.

Can you take on a new challenge in any way? Is there a way of advancing in your job? Even if it is your dream job, maybe you should be looking to move? Can you discuss taking on more responsibility with a manager?
posted by Summer at 2:33 AM on September 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

You call it a dream job, but is it your dream job? Is the organisation in the sector you want to work for? Is the job utilising your best skills?

To illustrate: say you work as a fundraiser for a charity that deals with a cause close to your heart. Great! But, no matter how passionate you are, you might find it really difficult to ring people up and ask them for money all day every day. Maybe you would be better suited to office admin, or education, or research, or volunteer management etc.

It's hard to tell without probing into the details of your job and workload, but perhaps you need a different job. If everyday tasks have become an uphill struggle your energy reserves will dry up.

If you honestly believe that it's a dream job for you then take a vacation, book some therapy, get more sleep and eat healthier... Basically, build your energy back up. If it's not your dream job, then keep at it while searching for something better.

Also, tell your coworkers that you have a hard time concentrating. Obviously, don't talk your way out of your job, but you will have a far easier time rectifying your bad habits if you're not trying to hide them. They know you're capable of good work, so they will want to help you reach your previous form.
posted by dumdidumdum at 2:56 AM on September 2, 2011

I got a prescription for Adderall and it helped enormously with this. Lawyer's little helper.
posted by moammargaret at 4:05 AM on September 2, 2011

It sounds like you're depressed. The classic Metafilter response is to suggest that you seek therapy, but I'll suggest that you start regularly exercising if you don't already. If nothing else, join a running group; they tend to be friendly and not unpleasantly competitive in my experience.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:23 AM on September 2, 2011

I have dealt with this. I've been at the same place for over 10 years and for 7 of those years I was really great at my job, like ridiculously efficient. Then we found out that our office was going to close down in a few years and I think that's when I started to slack off. I gave a bare minimum amount of effort, not going over the top in getting things done. I surfed the net, played games, read books at my desk, etc. I dragged my feet to meetings, drank lots of coffee, pretended that I was working. That went on for over a year, almost two, and I felt really bad through it. I was waiting to get called on it and be reprimanded but nothing came.

The last year has been better and is getting better still. Mostly because I've been given more responsiblity (not because I excelled at anything but as a result of people leaving) and the scope of my work has changed. It's more interesting now, despite it being our sunset period, and I'm happier and busier at work.

In the rough times what helped me was to make a list of tasks that needed to be done, even the really small ones, and I made a point to trying to mark them off. In the morning I'd tell myself to try to get X number of things done and, if I hadn't reached that goal by the end of the day, not to give up and try again the next day. I knew that if I could get more than just the minimum amount of work done I'd feel better and be happier.

There could be any number of things that are contributing to your attitude towards work. Acknowledge the fact that you are having a hard time and give yourself small goals to achieve. Over time you'll feel better - you were great once and you'll be great again. You just need some time.
posted by KathyK at 6:42 AM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don Draper can help.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:39 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless you have actual, diagnosed ADHD by a doctor, and not the internet, I would caution you against using stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin, etc.

1. The reputation these drugs have as a 'yuppies little helper' and the abuse that goes with it, means that those of us who genuinely have ADHD, and need these medications, have to jump through harder and harder hoops to get them. I shouldn't have to feel that I'm under scrutiny because I'm getting a drug that was prescribed for me, and that I actually needed.

2. Yes, Adderall will help you focus, However, it may not help you focus on your work. If you already spend all day surfing the web, it's not going to turn you into a magical worker bee, it's going to give you more focus while surfing the web. I've spent many a day frittering the hours away being really focused on, say, soccer. So, instead of checking soccer news for 5 monutes or so and then going back to work, I'd spend 2 hours reading articles on Diego Forlan, the Barcelona Team, etc. Not a good use of my time at work.

3. These drugs have potentially serious side effects. Ritalin makes me wheeze, Adderall made me depressed, Vyvanse made me depressed AND wheeze, and Dexedrine, the drug that worked the best, I had to stop because of intense heartburn and stomach pain. So now I'm not taking anything, and I'm subsisting on the sun, exercise, and Americanos.

4. If you're not buying Adderall from a known may not be Adderall. Buyer beware.

Now, if you already have ADHD, disregard this, but get checked out by a doctor before embarking on a drug regimen. If you think you have ADHD, I encourage you to investigate that, and get checked out by a doctor who specializes in ADHD in adults. If you have ADHD and can get properly medicated, it's life changing. But I wouldn't try any stimulants as a fix-it before talking to a doctor first.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:55 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it possible you're being too hard on yourself? No one has said anything at work, so you probably aren't doing as terribly as you think. My experience with (office) work is that I cycled between kicking butt and having a maintenance period where I was less motivated and surfed the web/cleaned out my files/etc. I consider it necessary processing time and usually had a useful insight come out of the experience. I find the only way out of a slump is to take excellent care of myself for a while. Relax, take a vacation if you haven't had one lately, and enjoy being twitterpated.

Also, dating is very unlikely to make you work harder. It will probably remind you that there are important things that aren't money or a career.
posted by momus_window at 1:24 PM on September 2, 2011

If you're really tired all the time - like exhausted - this could be a medical problem. You say you've been dating a lot; this could have exposed you to mono, or, if you aren't being careful (and the dates are going anywhere), an STD. Or you could be sleeping but never getting to a level of deep sleep. I saw my doctor because of this - it went along with very vivid dreams - and he prescribed Melatonin, which was miraculous. Don't attribute this to a mental cause if it might be physical, because a physical cause could be very easy to fix.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:29 PM on September 2, 2011

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