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The First Quarter Slump

A new year looks to bring new beginnings, with the possibility of meeting goals and accounting for resolutions , both professionally and personally.

Then about a week into the calendar, the drudgery of routine sets in. No holiday promos. No celebrations. Perhaps even more boring and un-exciting during a pandemic. It’s the first quarter slump.

Motivation feels a long way off. Inspiration searched for. Efforts futile. You just can’t get it together, and you face the mental toll of knowing that you need to -- and soon. You start putting pressure on yourself to produce and put forth the same productivity as before, but the pressure doesn’t help as it only adds to the vicious cycle of standing in your own way.

When does it end? How does it end? What causes it in the first place? How can you prevent it in the future?

It’s caused, in part, by the dead of winter.

In the sales world, the first quarter slump, in which sales figures and overall GDP both fall, comes after the busy season of the holidays. According to a 2015 study from the American Institute for Economic Research, “since the 1990s, first-quarter GDP has been far behind the performance of the other quarters of the year.” While sales figures and GDP are not necessarily the only topic of discussion here, they are a model for the drudgery of the winter in all professional environs -- retail or not. Another possible cause of the first quarter slump? Going through the motions due to seasonal affective disorder. According to 2020 statistics from MedlinePlus, seasonal affective disorder occurs in 0.5 to 3 percent of individuals in the general population, and symptoms are present during 40 percent of the calendar year.

It ends with you.

While that answer might sound obvious, the only person who is capable of taking you out of the first quarter slump is… you! That fact does not discount your support system, and it’s okay to ask for help; however, you have the power to move forward. While a little healthy pressure on yourself can serve as motivation, be careful not to take that line of thinking too far. An out of town vacation might not be possible in the pandemic, but if you’re able to take vacation time to recharge at home, take it. You might find yourself reinspired after a break. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, you’ve probably already heard about light therapy -- but what’s most important is to seek help in whatever form works best for you.

It ends when you create your own excitement about your job.

Changing your mindset from negative to positive surrounding your job can work wonders. Of course, that task is easier said than done -- but excitement can be found even in simplicity. Find something each day to look forward to in your workday, whether it’s your favorite lunch, a midday walk, or talking to a cherished coworker.

Don’t assume it will happen next time.

While the logical solution here might be prevention, emotions cannot always be planned for -- and the first quarter slump, in the context of professionals, is largely an emotional, human issue. Should you assume that you’ll fall into the first quarter slump again, the chances that you’ll talk yourself into it are greater. You can help prevent it by refusing to buy into the narrative that it will happen in the first place.

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As a speaker and author, my focus is to train emerging and seasoned leaders to align strategy with equity, change and communication.

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