Autopilot in life is necessary in so many ways. 

It saves us energy in routine and daily decision making, in thinking, in conscious choice, routine actions and routine behaviour. Without autopilot I think we’d all go a bit crazy and be out of energy by about 10am…

Whilst autopilot works for so much of life, we can also slip into autopilot at work. And yes this also may have its benefits when it comes to getting our jobs done day to day, being on autopilot can also lead us to feeling like robots at work. We can suddenly realise that we have been going back and forth to work every day without really feeling very much. 

Except now we might be experiencing feelings of dissatisfaction, of apathy and as if something is missing, all the while still having to turn up and do our jobs everyday.

Hand in hand with autopilot, we can become less present and less engaged. And overtime, being this way at work can mean we zone out for a significant while only to come to a sudden realisation that we’re not happy anymore without a clear way back.

Autopilot can also impact our openness and active attention to growth and change which is a big deal when our work and career are important to us, especially as without growth and change, we will just be adding fuel to our fire of dissatisfaction.

If you’ve found yourself on autopilot, here’s five ways to start getting off autopilot and reengaging with work and your career:


Remember why you took the job or picked the career

Getting back to why what you’re doing was once so important to you and remembering that can really help in bringing meaning to what you’re doing now. It can also help to remember what you wanted from the future, if that comes up for you. Remembering the love you had for the industry, or the desire you had to develop a skill set, or work for a brand, or make a difference to a project, make an impact on leadership, achieve C-suite. Whatever your driver or motivation was, if you can resurface that you can find meaning in what you’re doing now.


Start getting curious

Ask more questions at work, go a bit deeper into the things that come up in the day. The people, the projects, the behaviours, the opportunities, the challenges. Whatever is coming up, your autopilot would normally keep going on with the day without much attention to these nuances, so this is your chance to grab onto the nuances of the day and get curious about what’s behind them. Assert yourself into the things around you that your autopilot would blissfully ignore.


Step out of your comfort zone

Stretch yourself to find some discomfort. This will shake you up and this is where growth and challenge will come from – the things that autopilot robs you of. Take the lead on something that’s put in front of you, use your initiative to add value where it is not expected, ask what is your boss’s biggest challenge and offer to collaborate, set up a working group, have conversations that stretch and challenge you, whatever is available to you, do something that scares you a little but could give you a lot. 


Welcome disruption to your routine

Routine is what breeds autopilot, and when you’re on autopilot, any break in routine can become a much bigger nuisance than it really is, and can even cause stress and anxiety – not because of what it actually represents, but simply because it’s broken your routine and snapped you off autopilot. So be conscious in breaking your routine, change it up. Go to work a different way, have lunch at a different time, switch your exercise timings, whatever you usually do on a Friday night, do it another night. Break your routine, bust your autopilot.


Set goals 

Setting goals can really help keep you more present and engaged, as you work to achieve the goal which keeps you steered clear of autopilot. Whether it’s a daily goal, a weekly goal, an annual goal or perhaps a bigger career or life goal, set goals and consciously work towards them. This can be as simple as a new Tuesday goal of getting a task done that you haven’t managed to completed as yet, or a weekly goal of walking a new route every day for 30 minutes before you sit down to your laptop. Both will keep you present and disrupt your routine too.


Getting off autopilot can seem tricky but it’s not impossible in the slightest, and over time you can find yourself awakened and aware of your reality. And from there, you can work out what needs to be done to create more significant change, or perhaps change isn’t needed because you’ve done the work already. 


Photo by Franz Harvin Aceituna on Unsplash