From time to time we all fall into a bit of a business rut. For some reason nothing seems to be working, if there can be a problem there will be a problem, we have issues with staff, customers, suppliers, politicians, global warming--everything and everyone. It all gets to be too much.

The key of course is to work out how to pull ourselves out of a rut as quickly as possible. Here are ten strategies that I've used in the past:

1. Try to figure out exactly why are you in a rut?

When we are clear about the "why" it becomes much easier to get back on track. We need to put words around it--something like "I don't feel like I have any challenges in my business" or "it always seems like a financial struggle and I don't feel like I am getting any closer". Often this moment of clarity is enough to get things back on track.

2. What's your big reason "why" for working so hard?

This is important--we need to have a big enough reason to justify why we are doing what we are doing. This applies to motivation overall. If there is not a big enough reason to do something, generally we won't. It might be time to re-evaluate exactly what your big reason why is.

3. Remember where you came from.

I think that one of the biggest reasons people fall into a rut is that they don't feel like they are making any progress. I always try to tell my clients that they need to take lots of photos, keep old brochures, keep printouts of old advertisements, logos, websites, uniforms etc., as a way to measure just how far they have come. When we do this we have a sense of progress.

4. Move things or change things simply for the sake of it.

This might be as simple as moving the furniture around in your office, to moving an entire workshop around. One thing I tend to do if I feel I am in a business rut is to change my logo and corporate branding. Luckily I don't get into a rut every month, that would be expensive for me and confusing for my clients. But a new look for your business does go a long way to reigniting your enthusiasm and passion. I recommend this a lot to tired and worn out businesses.

5. Introduce 'NEW.'

From my experience most business owners love the concept of new ideas, new projects, new products, new clients and new money, more than they love the idea of actually doing the work. What "NEW" things can you introduce into your business to get that energy flowing and the enthusiasm back?

6. Have a holiday.

Let's be honest, there is never a good time to have a holiday, especially when you own your own business. We are always too busy, there is never enough money, and it is the wrong time and so on. I suggest to people that the longer the list of reasons why now is not a good time to have a break, the more important it is they have one. Even a mini break, a day off, a weekend away, anything to help get the mind and the body feeling good. And most importantly of all, do it without GUILT.

7. Goof off.

Being in a rut means that everything is just a little bit harder. You tend to spend a lot more time sitting and staring at a computer screen, getting started on projects is hard (normally fear of a looming deadline does it in the end) and your overall productivity is about half of what it normally is. Now these are the times that I think it is OK to goof off for a while. Do something you really love to do, maybe go to a movie, go for a walk or catch up with a friend for a coffee and a chat.

8. Find a confidante (not a misery buddy).

At times like this it is great to have a good confidante who you can share your feelings and frustrations with. Now this is not a misery buddy, we don't want someone who is going to reinforce the fact that you are in a rut and enthusiastically keep you there. This is someone who will listen to you, let you get whatever your issues are off your chest, but they will also be wise enough to help you pinpoint what the real issues may be.

9. Get rid of what drives you nuts.

Every business has certain things that drive the business owner nuts. This might be a certain customer, a certain piece of equipment, a dumb system that doesn't work anymore or a cupboard full of junk. Now is the time to get rid of at least one thing that drives you nuts. It might just be that one customer who you can never please, who despite everything you do is never happy and who takes up so much of your time that other better customers get neglected. Whatever your one thing is, address it today.

10. Complete your 'incompletes.'

Whenever I am in funky zone (AKA a business rut), I find my pile of big, irritating, complicated stuff that I call my "incompletes" and I shut the door, turn off the phone, close my email and methodically work my way through all of those things that for whatever reason, I have been putting off. There is nothing better than seeing an empty "in" tray with no "incompletes" in it. It feels like the slate has been wiped clean and you can think clearly again.

Now, interestingly enough, all of the above will certainly help to lift you out of a rut, even if there doesn't seem a logical reason behind it. How on earth can moving your furniture around help you to get your mojo back? I don't really know, but it does. So if you are in a rut, please try these ten ideas, they have worked for me and many others.

 

Published on: Jun 2, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.