Your Three-Step Plan for Getting Out of a Slump

My softball team won our first playoff game last night. It went to extra innings, and we just barely managed to eek out a win against a very strong team. Everyone was excited that we won, but I was a little more thankful than the rest of us…

You see, I’m in a slump.

My hitting has been sub-par the last few weeks. I’ve gone from hitting doubles every at-bat, to struggling just to make it to first base. Yesterday’s game was especially bad. When the team was rocking a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh, I hit a soft ground ball back to the pitcher to end the inning — killing our momentum, and stranding runners on base.

I feel like I’m letting my team down. I know I’m not playing badly, but I can do better. I’m not my awesome, clutch-hitting self. And that hurts when it starts impacting our score.

Do you ever feel like you’re not as stellar as usual? Do you miss it too? It’s time we dig ourselves out of this. Here’s the plan:

Step 1: Stop psyching yourself out.

Your mental state in a slump is a toxic environment. You start counting your failures, and worrying about everything you might be doing wrong. You sweat the small stuff, and this throws you further off balance.

It’s one part vicious cycle, one part self-fulfilling prophecy.

We have to turn that thinking around. Let’s stop focusing on the negatives. Instead of beating ourselves up, let’s put on a happy face. Celebrate the little victories. Start building some momentum.

The first step towards getting out of a slump is to acknowledge that you’re under-performing, and to look for the positives anyway. Don’t let your nagging voice get in your way; fight back and show that voice who’s boss!

Step 2: Get back on track by tweaking your workflow.

When you’re in a slump, you’re there because something went wrong. Maybe your environment changed, maybe you got a little over-confident, maybe you were trying something wonky with your swing (guilty).

Whatever happened, it’s probably not possible to undo at this point. So it’s time to move on.

Remember that we’re not alone in this. Let’s ask for advice, and genuinely listen to what we get back. It can be a humbling experience, and it will give us a few new tricks to try out.

The second step towards getting out of a slump is to experiment. To gain some insight, and implement any necessary changes. Slowly, little-by-little, you’ll start moving in the right direction — back to your killer former self.

Step 3: Back and better than ever.

I know it probably seems like this is far away right now. It’s not. Despite what your mind might be telling you, you’re closer to your goal-crushing, homerun-hitting prior self than you think.

And you know what will get you that last bit of the way there? Hard work.

We’ve got to keep our heads down, and power through this slump. Sure, we’re not as productive as usual, but that’s the nature of the game; nobody’s a hero on every single play.

The third and final step towards getting out a of a slump is to just keep at it. Don’t let ordinary output slow you down. Instead, generate as much of it as you can! You won’t even notice when the switch happens. One moment you’re mediocre, then all of a sudden you’re kicking ass again — and we can forget this whole slump thing ever happened.

Falling into a slump is totally normal, and an expected part of any long-term endeavour. It’s not the end of the world. The way to beat a slump is to stop making it worse, start making it better, and keep at it until you’re back to your usual, entirely awesome self.

P.S. This applies as well to web development as it does to softball.

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2 Responses to “Your Three-Step Plan for Getting Out of a Slump”

  1. Simon MacDonald Says:

    My slump buster was to go back to the basics. Don’t worry about the situation (2 outs with men on) or trying to break out in grand style by hitting a home run. Just concentrate on making good contact and run your ass off to first base.

    Same thing at work. Don’t stress about the deadlines just produce good code and work hard at it.

  2. Frank Kuschnereit Says:

    Since you are talking about slumps, I thought it would be worthwhile to mention Depression. It effects about 9% of the population. Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, or problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions; and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains. Mild depression is cyclical so a person may recover on their own but severe depression may require hospitalization. The causes of depression are varied and there are also a variety of physical diseases that mimic the symptoms of depression. For example, mononucleosis often results in symptoms that mimic a depressive psychiatric disorder; and depression is often one of the early symptoms of hypothyroidism (reduced activity of the thyroid gland). Disturbed Circadian rhythm may also contribute to depression. All this to say that if you notice your own or a co-workers performance decrease significantly, it may be something more serious than just being in a “slump” and it might be best to see a doctor.

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