Friday, May 22, 2009

Break Out Of The Rut

There's a life cycle to jobs:

For a while, and everything's new and exciting. You're totally lost, but darn it, you're having a blast!

Then you get your feet under you a bit, and your contribution goes from questions to code/tests/ideas/etc. It's still cool stuff, and life is good. Ideally, this goes on for months or years.

And then things start to drop a little bit. You've been around a while now. You know the product and the projects. You know the people. Let's face it, you're getting into a bit of a rut.

There are three choices from the rut. You can stay, you can go, or you can break out of the rut. Choosing to stay is fine, as long as you're not getting bitter and kind of rude about the boredom. Choosing to leave starts the cycle over again. Choosing to break out of the rut, though, that's an interesting option. How, after all, can you make your job different?

There are a lot of ways to address this, some of which will be available to you and some of which won't, depending on your work environment. But if you want to break out of a rut, consider other things you can do:
  • Write a tool that does something way outside your normal job. Maybe it's a custom meeting reminder that finds the email inviting you and shows the agenda. Maybe it's report using your SCM system that creates a "most lines of code checked in" leaderboard. Maybe it's something else. Make it random and fun.
  • Audit another team. Are you a dev? Try spending a couple hours sitting with support. Are you a tester? Try your hand at fixing a low priority bug (and get it well reviewed before you check in). Looking to stretch out farther? Do some research and write a fact sheet about a competitor for product management, including technology comparisons.
  • Start a semi-related side project. Take a couple days off and do something on the side. I test storage software, so for me it might be developing tests for a webapp. Distinguish it from a vacation by doing something that somewhat relates to your job skills; that way the things you do all day are still supporting you, just with a bit of a twist.
The trick is to use your skills to move just a bit beyond what you do all day. Just jump out of the ruts a bit; it's a lot of fun sometimes!

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! That "bitter and rude about the boredom" struck a nerve. As I've been looking to "stretch out farther" I've not always played nice. I'm working on that. As I am finally seeing a speck of light at the end of the tunnel, I offer this: stepping out of your comfort zone is good. Be determined, persistent, and prepared to manage you success when it happens.