ASK JASON ANYTHING: How to get out of a rut.

It’s a writer’s job to know a little bit about everything, and to thoroughly research anything he doesn’t know. ASK JASON ANYTHING is your opportunity to challenge Jason with a question of any kind, whether it’s scientific or religious, financial or social, political, historical. It can be something you already know, or something you’re genuinely curious to learn. You can ask trivia or knowledge or advice, and every Thursday, Jason will do his best to answer.


How do you get out of a rut when you know you are in a rut? Essentially, you know you need to be doing more when you get home from work, but all you do is eat, watch TV or play online games and then go to bed. Or you can’t enjoy TV because you are constantly thinking you need to be doing something… you are on twitter, facebook, etc…

The answer to this is contained within the analogy. How would you get out of a literal rut?

With an extra push.

Sometimes this is something you can do yourself. More often, you’ll need outside help. It really depends how deep a rut you’re in.

But before I go into further detail advising how to get out of a rut, first I want to make a major disclaimer.

There’s nothing wrong with entertaining yourself.

This is very hard for workaholics to admit. Whether it’s the way we were raised, personal principles, a book we once read, workaholics tend to believe there is something inherently wrong with not working.

This simply isn’t the case.

I will never advocate irresponsibility. You shouldn’t be on Facebook when your day’s labors are not complete, whether you’re a farmer or a programmer or a writer.

But the point of working is to make a living. And work is all there is to life, I’ll quit both right now.

If you’ve ever played The Sims, you’ve discovered that one of your Sims’ needs is entertainment. If you force your Sim to work 24/7, he’ll get burnt out and refuse to do anything. This is true to life. It’s true of your friends, and it’s true of yourself.

So in a sense, there isn’t a thing wrong with watching television. You’ll never hear me criticize online gaming, because it’s more interactive and goal-oriented and social than most sports for Thor’s sake. (It won’t exercise the body, though.) Even Face-palm-book and I’m-a-Twit-er have their place if they keep you entertained. You need a break from work once in awhile.

But I’m Still Not Doing Enough With My Life!

Yes, I understand only all too well. If you really want to be accomplished, watching Prime Time won’t get you there. No matter how many hours you’ve already worked.

Entertain Yourself and Still Accomplish Something

There are a lot of hobbies you can consider which are a bit less wasteful, and a bit more productive, than standard tv and internet. One way to shake up the daily routine is to take up a harder hobby than “couch potato”.

One of my personal favorites is music. It’s very time consuming (or at least can be, properly approached), gives a thrilling sense of accomplishment, earns respect among a lot of people, and can be a lot of fun. Best of all, no matter how much you know about your instrument, there is always more to learn. The most famous composers were never completely satisfied.

Other creative hobbies can fill the same role, such as writing or painting. Even crafting hobbies will chew up the hours, give a sense of achievement, and might even make you a buck in the long run.

Goal-seeking as a Push

I said earlier that the way to break free of a rut is to get a push. One of the best pushes you can give yourself are goals. If the goal is meaningful to you, and watching television is going to interfere with your ability to meet that goal, you’ll find yourself turning off the television more frequently.

Set SMART Goals.

If you set general, unfocused goals, you won’t ever achieve them. In fact, that’s what most New Year’s “resolutions” are, and they don’t last any longer than St. Valentine’s Day. Don’t set a dumb goal, set a SMART goal.

“SMART” is an acronym that stands for:


For example, “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal. You won’t lose weight. You weren’t specific, it isn’t measurable, and there’s no time-table. You have no milestones and you don’t know when you’re done.

The “War on Drugs” is not a SMART goal. We have no milestones for that and we’re never going to be done.

“I want to make more money” is not a SMART goal.

How much weight do you want to lose? In what time frame? What do you require to get there?

If your goal isn’t mappable with objectives and milestones, you might as well be saying your goal is to have a Unicorn. That can’t be measured either.

“Winning the Lottery” is both an unattainable goal (there’s nothing you can do to make it happen) and an unrealistic one.

There’s a sixth criteria you should add to the SMART goal:

Your goal should be personal. It should be your goal. Don’t lose weight because your partner says you should. Don’t become a doctor because that’s what your mother said you should do. These might even be good things to aim for, but unless you care about them, you won’t attain them.

“I will to lose 30 pounds in 120 days” is a SMART goal. Now it’s measurable. You have four months, and about 16 weeks. You need to lose a little over two pounds per week. You will know within ONE WEEK’S TIME if you are on track, ahead of schedule, or behind schedule.

“I will finish FRAGILE GODS eventually” was not a SMART goal for me to have. “I will finish Draft 1 of FRAGILE GODS by June” might work. Suddenly I’ve written an additional 20% in just two weeks.

Making Your Goals UNIGNORABLE

There’s a trick I discovered this year to making SURE you can’t ignore your goals. Even when you’re tired. Even if you’re sick of thinking about them.

If you have goals, and you’re serious about them, I can offer you one simple solution to make sure they’re on your mind daily:


Print out a log sheet of whatever it takes to reach your goal. Tape it up wherever you will see it DAILY. And for the days before you started keeping the log, put a big fat ZERO so you know which day you actually started working towards your goal.

In front of my bathroom scale is a weight log. It has a list of dates and a field for me to put my weight. I have to look at it every morning when I get ready for work. If I gorge myself on Doritos over the weekend, guess what? I have to write a higher number on Monday. And I have to LOOK AT it all week.

Next to my exercise bike is another log for calories burned. This is at the opposite end of the apartment.

But every day, I see it and have to record either a zero or a number.

I don’t know about you, but I hate getting zeros.

Drastic Solutions

There is one more way to break out of a rut we haven’t covered yet. The Bible says that if your left hand causes you to sin, you should cut it off. I’m not here today to tell you what’s sinful and what’s not — you have to decide that for yourself.

But if YOU are sick and tired of seeing yourself watch tv for hours on end, night after night, year after year, cancel your cable. Sell your tv.

If you’re sick of online games, cancel your accounts. Better yet, sell them or get them banned. Uninstall the game and destroy the discs.

Is the internet wasting your time? Cancel your service. I had one friend who physically cut his Ethernet cords so that even if he called to have service resumed, his computer could not log onto the Internet.

These are drastic solutions. But rest assured…they will produce drastic results.

They are a powerful push to get you out of a rut.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

–Anthony Robbins

Have a question you think will stump Jason? Send it to and check next Thursday to see if your question was answered to your satisfaction.

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