When you are fresh out of ideas, feeling burned out, or perhaps operating out of fear of losing your job, your first instinct is to try to work harder. Your second instinct may be to work smarter. Both may be simply be a proxy for working longer hours?
Maybe you think working these long hours is your only option. After all, it has worked in the past when you've been under the gun. The danger in working longer hours, however, is that it can become a habit and drive you deeper into a pit from which it's difficult to dig yourself out. The longer you do something, regardless as to whether or not it is working for you, the more likely you are to keep doing it. Welcome to the human race!
When the work-life balance is out of whack, working longer hours is seldom the solution. You find yourself wearing down and becoming less efficient, thereby taking longer to get the same amount of work completed. Worse still, the smart, creative insights become harder and harder to come by.
Breaking this cycle can be really tough. From personal experience over the past thirty years, I've often found myself in the "working harder" versus "working smarter" camp. Ever get mired in a fog when you're struggling to come up with breakthrough ideas? If so, then you probably are also a member of the "working harder" camp.
So what are you to do? Obtaining a fresh perspective is needed in order to assess what is working and what is not. The best (and only?) way to do this is to get away for at least a couple of days to a week, finding someplace completely different from your workplace and home. Then take some time to reflect on your work-life balance and how you got to where you are, before evaluating your options. After you've had time to reflect, check in with someone whose perspective you value. Explain your circumstances, your insights gained from reflection, and trial run your roadmap for getting to a healthier place.
Integrate physical exercise of some sort into your life. Yes, you've heard this from others, but somehow haven't been able to get around to fitting it into your busy life. Well, you'll soon find that if you exercise even just two times a week for twenty or thirty minutes, you will get your blood flowing and your mind working, and make up in spades for the time taken from work in terms of creativity and productivity. You will also sleep better as well, resulting in a loss of the sluggish, drone-like feelings.
Another suggestion is to find inspiration through reading or watching something that will recharge your battery. Gaining a better understanding of who you are and how you got into your present fix is time well spent.
A number of ways exist to help you in acquiring self knowledge. The author has encountered many individuals over the years while networking with people between jobs. Taking them through the methodology from the book, Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius, aided them in gaining a deeper awareness about the obstacles and barriers they are facing in life before considering what direction to take with the remainder of their lives. Most found this process to be very helpful in gaining a better perspective and obtaining answers about the next steps to take.
You do not have to settle for a life that is only about working harder. It's time to lose your drone-like existence and unlock more of your talents and, yes, your inner genius.