Every once in a while, I get stuck. Usually this happens right after the end of a project or an important phase of a project, when we've worked hard and completed our tasks and I take a short gasp before plunging into the next task or phase. Often in the between times I get stuck - no motivation, no clear definition as to what to do next.
I think it's like watching equestrians. If you've ever watched really advanced jumpers, you know that every once in a while a horse and rider get right up to a jump and the horse balks. Basically just says "I've had enough" or "I just don't have the stamina right now". Even though the horse and rider cleared several equally difficult jumps earlier in the event, the horse simply won't go on. Sometimes I feel like that too - at least mentally.
That's when it's time to get unstuck. But instead of taking a day off or playing hooky, I try to take on something completely new and different at work. For example, I started this blog one day when I was stuck as to what to do next. I had always wanted to "write" and "be published" but I did not find the time to just sit down and write. I think you can find some very interesting insights from switching gears very rapidly from one task to a very different task.
Another thing I do is read. But very specifically, I read about the future of the industry I'm in. Right now I am very interested in software - how it's developed, how it's deployed, and how people discover the software or solution that's right for them. There've been so many changes in the last decade in software development and distribution that we could simply read for weeks just to try to stay on top of what's going on. I prefer to try to find the odd, out of the way writers and thinkers. Some of the best of them are technologists who write from a business point of view, or business writers who "get" technology. If you'd like to see an example of the latter, read any issue of The Economist that focuses on software. The folks who write for and edit The Economist do a great job positioning technology from a business person's perspective. Rather than read the stuff you are supposed to read - you know developers writing for developers or business types writing for business types, switch roles and read the stuff written for the other guys, or find the most business oriented tech guy, or the most technology oriented business guy (Walter Mossberg at the WSJ is a good example here).
Finally, I talk to everyone in my office. For weeks prior I've been heads down, working to complete some task or milestone and have maybe grunted to others I don't work with every day. When I think I am getting "Stuck" I start talking to different people to get some different perspectives and learn more about what they are working on. For a couple of days I am a real nuisance I guess, in and out of most of the cubes and offices, but I get a fresh perspective and generally learn some new stuff.
No matter how productive you may become, you'll run into times where you simply don't have the motivation to continue to work with the same pace or on the same stuff. When that happens, and it will, don't get stuck in the rut. Find something that will re-energize and re-motivate you, or takes you in a different direction. Learn more about your roles and your responsibilities. Learn more about your industry or the direction your company is heading. Find out what the people around you are working on. Stop and think for a while. Determine to learn something new or work with a new team. These changes will create a new perspective and bring you back to your work with even more focus and with some new insights.