There will be times in your career in which your work won’t push you into that magical state of flow. The work that you are doing will not hit that balance of challenging without stressing you. You may be working on a project that doesn’t challenge you enough. You may be comfortably project managing a simple initiative. You may be executing on a plan instead of brainstorming a grand idea. Alternatively, you may be stressed because your company asks you to do work that’s not exactly fitting to your strengths. Your contribution feels forced, uncomfortable, and stifling. Your instincts will want you to run away from such a situation. To switch roles, change companies, or ask for more work. Anything to get back to that feeling of productivity and contribution that you may have felt before. Yet, first take the time to step back and reflect on what is happening.
Do you need to do this work? If the work that you’re doing doesn’t necessarily fit your skills or experience level, it may be wise to postpone or delegate the effort. Don’t assume that because you were asked to do this you must do it now. Clarify the relative priority of the project or task. Explore options to defer or delegate the work and do other work instead.
Is this work necessary for your growth? Maybe you are new to the company. Or maybe you are moving to a more senior level of contribution. These two situations can feel similar. You may feel that you are not contributing as much as you are expected to. However, you first need to learn the ropes before you can contribute at a higher level. After that initial ramp up period your contribution will be drastically improved. Discuss the situation with your manager to ensure that her perspective is the same as yours. Also, be patient.
Is this a temporary situation? Consider whether this is a temporary situation due to an uncommon business situation or transition period. There may have been a slow growth quarter in the company or a change in priorities causing you to be ‘stuck’ with this work. While you wait for work that’s a better fit for your skills, consider working on an ‘extracurricular’. You can volunteer your underutilized skills to help on other projects. Often having another project that plays to your strengths can give you the boost that will get you through not-so-good phases in other projects.
The bottom line is to not confuse a temporary situation that doesn’t allow you to be at your peak with a situation that you must escape. You may be able to defer or delegate the work, push through the situation to develop new skills, or find temporary relief in other work that plays to your strengths.