Don’t get stuck in a rut at work.
Everyone’s got a comfort zone; it’s that place where familiarity and routine provide you with a sense of safety and predictability. At work, it might be the position you’ve been in long enough to know and anticipate just about every aspect of your job — the people, the everyday challenges and how to solve them. Unfortunately, staying in your comfort zone can put you in a work rut where you miss out on new challenges and the ability to grow. Research suggests that you can greatly increase your productivity, creativity, and ability to cope with change by stepping out of your comfort zone and doing things that give you a healthy amount of anxiety. If you think you may have fallen into a rut, here are some ideas to help you break free from your comfort zone at work.
1. Ask for something new
One of the quickest ways to change up your work life is to take on a new responsibility. The goal is not to pack more work into your already busy schedule, but to allow a new challenge to break your routine just enough that you’re stretched to think and act differently than before. When you participate in a new company initiative, take on a new team project, or offer to train your co-workers on a new process, you’re not helping just the company and your colleagues, but also yourself. Few companies have a shortage of work to go around, so it’s likely that if you raise your hand to take on a new project or deliverable, it’ll be yours. Not only will an additional set of responsibilities challenge you to find new ways to be productive, but it will also provide new opportunities to work with different people, processes, or technology.
2. Address your fears
Sometimes people remain in their comfort zone because it prevents them from having to engage in activities they find scary or intimidating. If you’ve shied away from new job opportunities or role changes because you have a certain set of fears, such as public speaking or flying on planes, perhaps now is the time to face those fears. If you feel uncomfortable speaking in front of a room full of people, it may be helpful to take a public speaking course. If looking at a report with lots of charts and graphs makes your head spin, look for an online course on quantitative analysis or ask someone in the office to help you understand how to approach the latest company sales report. Once you’ve taken the first steps to address your fears, it will be that much easier to overcome them eventually.
3. Learn new technology
In this digital age, technology affects just about every aspect of work life. Video, chat, and collaboration platforms continue to evolve and change the way people work. You can get out of your comfort zone by learning new technology that upgrades your skills, makes you more productive, and helps you communicate with your co-workers in new ways. For example, a time-management app that syncs with your work calendar might help you avoid overbooking your day, or learning how to create macros in Excel could improve your analytical proficiency. No matter your role, there is likely a range of technological tools that can help you do your job differently and more efficiently.
4. Get a new job
Moving into a new job may be the ultimate approach to leaving your work comfort zone behind. It may seem like an obvious option, but changing jobs or moving into a new industry is no small undertaking. Many people stay in a job (and subsequently, their comfort zone) for a variety of reasons: They fear losing job security, they may be wary of leaving behind their colleagues, or they’re simply anxious about the unknown. However, most people leave their job at some point. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics tenure report, the average employee tenure is 4.2 years; people are changing jobs all the time. If you want to get out of your comfort zone, getting a new job may be just the jolt you need to revitalize your career and start a new journey.
It’s not easy to make the leap into areas that are new and unfamiliar. However, having experiences that challenge your mindset and approach to your work will have a positive impact on your performance and ability to “step up” during times of change and uncertainty. Whether you make changes in your current role or revamp your career with a new job, you can still get out of the comfort zone and revitalize your career.
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