There's Only One Person To Blame When You're Unproductive

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Unproductive: frustrated man at workBy Robert Half International

Most likely you were drawn to your profession because it enables you to use your skills, knowledge and talents to their maximum potential. But if lately you feel as though you're standing still or stuck in a rut, it may be time to step back and evaluate your situation.

This type of objective, frank assessment can be challenging because, when it comes to professional dissatisfaction, there may not be any external factors you can point to as the source.

We can sometimes be our own worst enemies when it comes to job satisfaction and career advancement. We set unreasonable expectations, get caught in negative thought patterns or lose sight of our long-term goals and aspirations. Internal factors such as these can stifle motivation, hamper professional growth and curtail our progress.

Here are some of the most common ways professionals can self-sabotage. If any of these seem familiar to you, use the tips below to readjust your thinking and get out of your own way.

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Setting goals without a plan for achieving them. It's important to set short- and long-term goals, but that's not enough. If you merely list your professional objectives and stop there, your aspirations will likely be pushed to the back burner by day-to-day demands and deadlines. Years may pass, and your goals will remain unrealized.

To avoid this unhappy situation, anchor your goals to a specific plan of action. Your plan should include interim objectives and deadlines. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you maintain steady progress.

Aiming too high (or too low). If you feel stuck or trapped, it could be because you're over- or undershooting your target. When you set goals that are not realistic, it's easy to become discouraged and give up. On the flip side, setting goals that are too easily achieved can leave you with the sense that there's nothing left to do.

To remedy this situation, reassess your professional objectives in light of your current situation. It may be time to envision the next five or seven years and develop a fresh set of goals. Or you may decide to scale back to better reflect real-life developments (such as a period of unexpected employment or a change in job responsibilities).

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Getting trapped in limiting thoughts. How often do you think to yourself, "I would do .., but I can't" or "If only I were ... I could ..." Such thoughts are draining and self-defeating. They can cause you to dwell on your flaws and shortcomings.

Instead, focus on your strengths and abilities, concentrating on what you can change. Reflect on what it took for you to reach this point in your career and think about how you can direct your current skills toward further growth. For example, if you have strong communication skills, you could volunteer to lead project teams or give presentations to prospective clients.

Staying in your comfort zone. Sometimes it's fear of failure or of making a mistake that holds people back. They stick with the familiar, the tried-and-true. This strategy is safe but boring. It zaps energy and initiative.

Try pushing yourself to take reasonable risks. For example, you may decide to pursue a promotion. It will mean taking on additional responsibilities, becoming more visible at the office and getting involved in challenging assignments, but the payoff will be well worth it.

Undervaluing your skills. It's good to be humble, but it's easy to take this attitude too far and sell yourself short. You may think you're not good enough to ask for a salary increase or a more prominent position.

Avoid this debilitating tendency by knowing exactly what your skills and expertise are worth. Resources such as the 2013 Salary Guide from Robert Half and the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics will help you objectively benchmark your talents and level of experience.

The tendency to set up barriers to your own progress can be a difficult habit to break, but once you experience some success with new ways of thinking and behaving, you'll be inspired to continue. Instead of getting in your own way, you'll blaze a bold new path toward professional fulfillment.


Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit RobertHalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series or follow us on Twitter.
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