• Everybody needs a break from work—but it isn’t always easy to tell whether the real need is a vacation from your job or a new job altogether.
  • Fortunately, you can use several techniques to help you determine where your needs lie: such as the 3, 2, 1 Method.
  • The 3, 2, 1 Method helps you to organize and then analyze how you feel about your current job situation; you’ll notice any patterns in your negative emotions.
  • The Change Matrix is another strategy, one that will help you understand the pros and cons of staying at your current job as well as the pros and cons of finding a new one.
  • Finally, simply take that vacation; if you return to work with those same negative feelings after an extended time off, it’s probably time for a job change.
  • In either case—whether it’s time for a job change or you simply needed to get away—everything will be okay, as long as you prioritize your happiness and wellbeing.

Your phone sounds loudly on your bedside table, jolting you out of your peaceful dream and into your harsh reality: another work day. With a few sighs and more than a few grumbles, you climb out of bed and run through the motions… prepare yourself for another day on the job. As you do so, you can’t help but acknowledge your disinclination. You start to worry: “Do I need a new job?” And then consider: “Maybe I’m just past due for a vacation…”

Dr. Kara Fasone, PhD—co-founder and Chief Wellness Officer at Wise & Well Academy—knows a little bit about this conundrum, or rather solving this conundrum, as she devotes her life to helping others live happier, healthier, more productive lives. She offers several strategies that will help you determine whether you’re in need of a simple vacation or an entirely new job:

Strategy #1: The 3, 2, 1 Method

The 3, 2, 1 Method is a simple framework you can use to self-reflect on your emotional status as it relates to your job. You’ll ask yourself three questions:

  1. Are my feelings temporary (e.g., due to situational stress during a busy season, based on one flubbed project or presentation, etc.)?
  2. Have I taken two or more days off in the past month simply because I didn’t feel like going to work?
  3. Have I woken up three or more times this week contemplating calling in sick (or generally dreading going into work)?

These three questions will help you determine whether you’re feeling negatively about your job based on a point-in-time situation or whether there’s a pattern to your frustration. If you’re routinely dreading work or feeling over-stretched, you could be experiencing burnout (or you may not be in a job that aligns with your core values), in which case a vacation might not cut it.

Strategy #2: Use the Change Matrix

The Change Matrix helps you understand the pros and cons of a potential job change. The set-up is simple:

  • Grab a sheet of paper and draw two lines to divide the sheet into four boxes
  • Label the first box “Risks of Change” and list out all the cons related to searching for and securing a new job
  • Label the second box “Benefits of Change” and list out all the pros related to searching for and securing a new job
  • Label the third box “Benefits of NO Change” and list out the benefits related to remaining in your existing job
  • Finally, label the fourth box “Risks of NO Change” and list out the cons related to remaining in your existing job

Although many quickly and informally evaluate the risks and benefits of changes in their head, writing everything out allows you to further reflect on what’s most meaningful to you. Furthermore, not many people regularly weigh the risks of remaining the same (not changing), which facilitates settling, giving in to the status quo, and suppressing personal wants and needs.

Strategy #3: Take a Break

Sometime we just need a break, some time to rest and recharge. Before making any final decisions, I recommend taking some time off (especially if you’re the type to disregard your vacation days!). Time off is important for your mental and emotional wellbeing, so take advantage of it.

Start with one day off, and enjoy an extended weekend. If you’ve returned to work with familiar feelings of dread and tension, you may need to plan for an extended vacation. Plan a week away, unplug from your email (as much as you can), and do things that make you feel relaxed and happy. Still feeling bleh after the extended time off? Then you might be in the wrong job (or work environment).

Did these tricks help you determine where you’re at and how you want to move forward? Feeling unhappy or uncertain about your job can be stressful, but you shouldn’t let it get the best of you: instead, remind yourself that there’s a new opportunity around every corner. And if this job isn’t the right fit for you, that’s okay—you’ll find one that is.