How to Get Out of a Rut – I’ve Done It a Few Times

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

You know the feeling. Life feels boring, like you’re living the same week over and over. You’re not making progress. Just treading water. Many people live this way, week in and week out, and that can be fine, but if you suddenly lose your job or have relationship trouble, life can spiral down quickly. If you’re reading this, it isn’t fine for you, so let’s get you out of that rut!

A rut is different from depression, if you think you may be depressed, get some professional help as soon as possible.

There are only four steps you need to take to quickly get out of a rut and move toward the person and life you want.

  1. Decide What You Want
  2. Identify the Problem
  3. Make a Quick Plan
  4. Take Action

1. Decide What You Want

This is the easy bit.

You know what you want: more money, more time off with family, a more fulfilling job, your own business, etc.

But be a little more specific if you ever intend to actually achieve the goals you set. If lack of a goal isn’t what’s got you into this rut, don’t worry! We’ll identify the problem next. You can just write your goal down and move on.

If you don’t have a goal, however, or not a specific one. It’s worth your time, even if it takes days, to come up with one that will not only pull you out of this rut temporarily but lead you toward a more fulfilling life that you’re eager to wake up and live.

Here’s how to figure out what you want:

Your Life in Five Years

I used to say this to clients almost every day.

“Imagine it’s five years from now and everything is going great. You wake up and make yourself a cup of coffee to get your day started. Where are you? Then, after getting ready, you open the door to leave for the day, where are you going? Who will you meet that day? Work colleagues? A husband/wife? A group of freinds? What else do you see yourself doing in this perfect life?”

As you do this exercise imagining your perfect future, keep a pen and paper by your side and write down anything that comes to you. Don’t worry about what you write down yet. Just jot them down so you have some options to choose from.

Imagining a perfect future isn’t going to make it happen (sorry, “The Secret”), but it can tell you what you actually want in life. Maybe you imagine yourself in an apartment in a busy Asian city or perhaps a big country house among rolling hills. You might imagine that you’re going to a highrise office building in a suit, running your own business, or just living off passive income after becoming a digital nomad.

Now, look through the ideas you noted down. These things make up a perfect life for you; which will you work on first?

Which of the things on your list, if it became a reality, would instantly get you out of this rut? That’s the one you should choose

Of course, you can have multiple goals at the same time. You might have a goal to live in Japan and learn Japanese, but also a goal to get married and settle down. Ask yourself if your goals conflict with each other. If they do, you will only be able to work on one at a time.

2. Identify the Problem

Before making any changes, you must understand what is holding you back. Making goals is easy. Deciding that you want a better life, a fancy job, or to earn lots of money is the easy part. And all those things are achievable. But something is holding you back, a problem you have that has put you into this rut.

What is it?

You may know it already. You’re thinking about it right now. But if you don’t, spend some time sitting and working it out. Here are some common issues that cause people to get into a rut

How does your problem hold you back from achieving the goal you outlined previously?

  • Does waking up late leave you with no time to work on your side hustle?
  • Does Feeling tired all the time ruin your motivation?
  • Does drinking too much leave you hungover on the weekends and unable to practice your Japanese?
  • Does binge-watching Netflix just waste too much time?
  • Does your spending habit mean you daren’t quit your job?

Now, you might have more than one issue holding you back (most of us do), but trying to fix all your problems at once is a recipe for disaster. Your problems are there because you can’t help but fall into them, so don’t expect the solution to be quick or easy. But even small amounts of progress here can pay dividends.

Once you get some momentum, it will get easier.

3. Make a Quick Plan

If you have a personality like me, it can be tempting to want to make a detailed, elaborate plan about every possibility and aspect of getting out of this rut. But spending all that time planning isn’t helping you make any progress. Your plan will change once you start executing it anyway, so just plan enough to get started.

  1. What could you do to make massive progress on your goal?
  2. What could you do to make massive progress in resolving your problem?
  3. What action could you take today?

That’s all you need for a plan.

4. Take Action

So now you should have a task in front of you that you can do today. Go do it!

Don’t overload yourself with tasks. Just take it slow to start with. If you can write down three things on a piece of paper in the morning and, by evening, have them all checked off, it’s a successful day.

Good Luck!