Escape Groundhog Day

Remember the 1993 movie Groundhog Day? A weatherman, played by Bill Murray, relives the same day over and over again. If feelings of deja vu overwhelm you when you arrive at the office, it might be time to shake things up and look for new ways to challenge yourself professionally and personally.

InfoWorld’s Bob Lewis provided advice to a systems administrator named Stuck, who complained that he was becoming stale and dreaded facing the same old routine. Here’s a summary of his wisdom.

The first: Talk with your manager about the possibility of moving beyond the technology itself. Find a reason and a way to spend more time with business managers and the end-user community, talking about what they’d like to be able to do with information technology that they can’t right now, for one reason or another. The technology can get stale. Even when people aren’t an endless source of satisfaction or fulfillment, they can be a pretty good source of amusement.

Next: See if a local community college or other adult education institution could use you to teach a class in systems administration.

Or perhaps a local nonprofit could use some help keeping its computers up and running (or could use some help figuring out how it could make use of some computers in the first place). You could get paid for the teaching. You could get endless satisfaction from volunteering. And once you’re involved with a nonprofit, you might consider helping out with its nontechnical work. Helping people face-to-face is a terrific way to break out of a rut.

Another: Stop thinking vocationally. Is there a subject you’ve always been interested in but haven’t had a chance to pursue? Now’s the time. Take a night class. Join a book club. Sign up for one of those vacations where you help researchers in the field. Contact one of the agencies that organizes walking tours in countries you’ve always daydreamed about visiting.

Take up tennis or raquetball and sign up for a "ladder" – a great way to meet people you’d never have encountered otherwise. Ask them about themselves – more interesting than talking about yourself for both of you.

You didn’t indicate your marital status. If you’re married (or in a steady relationship), take ballroom dancing lessons together, or take up birdwatching together or what-have-you. My guess is that you’ve wrapped up too much of yourself in your career. It might be time for you to explore some other avenues for your satisfaction.

I once heard what I was told was an old Irish saying: "Life’s a banquet, and you’re invited. If it isn’t, it should be."

Break out of a rut by changing your routine and looking for new sources of excitement right in your own backyard. What works for you when you feel stuck?

–Leslie Stevens-Huffman

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