I spent a lot of the morning today not wanting to work. I got distracted by YouTube and installing a video game emulator on my laptop and the day just seemed to be falling apart. Some days are just like this and it’s important to recognize that sometimes that’s okay. But when you really need to get working there’s a quick mindset you can get into that will help you through it.
Here are the two things you should think about doing when you don’t feel like working:
- Keep working with the knowledge that you’ll only feel better after you begin working.
- If you do start working and continue to struggle, take a break for ten minutes. If you’re feeling burnt out, take the day off.
I’ve been using these two principles when I’ve had a hard time getting to work and I never cease to be amazed at how well they turn my day around. It worked for me today, and this is the whole reason I’m even writing this right now!
Let’s get into the details of why they’re so effective and how to use them so you can know just what to do when you don’t feel like working.
1. Keep Working Anyway Knowing That You’ll Feel Better After You Start
This principle is best summed up by one of my favorite quotes:
“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of feeling than to feel yourself into a new way of acting.” — Harry Stack Sullivan
I’ve memorized this and repeat it to myself whenever I’m having a hard time getting going with anything. I imagine myself going through the actions of running, writing, or playing with my kids, and realize that I’m happiest when I do those things. And I’m unhappiest when I’m overthinking these goals and holding back from just doing them.
Whenever you don’t feel like working, take a moment to visualize what it’s like to be doing the work. Picture yourself slowly going through the motions of the parts you enjoy. And for the parts you don’t like as much, create a vivid mental image of how you’ll feel when you’re done.
Sometimes, though, this mental work can make you overthink even more, and get you more stuck in not wanting to work. When that happens, try the 5-second rule. Count down from 5 to 1 and when you hit 1 just begin without thinking.
To make this even easier, set a timer and tell yourself you’ll only work for 5 minutes then take a break. Chances are you’ll end up working longer than that anyway.
Keep repeating these mental practices to make them stick. Stop overthinking how easy or hard work is or how much you don’t want to do it. With practice, you’ll improve at just getting started. That feeling of not wanting to work will grow weaker, and you’ll become more productive.
2. Take a Break
Sometimes, no matter what you try, you just can’t get yourself to work. If you find that you’re having a really difficult time, step away from whatever you’re trying to do, whether it’s work, exercise, or any other goal. How long you need to be away depends on how hard you’ve been working recently.
There are two scenarios to consider here:
- You’ve been lazy for a while now and haven’t gotten much done. In this case, you need to take short breaks to reset your mind, then get back to work. These should be no longer than about ten minutes, but they can be frequent throughout the day. Don’t push yourself too hard at first though. If you can stay consistent then you’ll break the habit of laziness, and to get that consistency you need to do it one bit at a time.
- Most of the time you’re a hard worker but this day or week you just feel off. If this is how you’re feeling, it’s time for a day or even a week off. Examine how long it’s been since you’ve had a vacation. If it’s been a while, you’ll have the answer right away—it’s time to take a bigger break. And if you have kids or your last vacation was recent but wasn’t as relaxing as you had hoped, go ahead and take a day for just yourself.
If neither of these seems to be working then don’t give up hope yet. You may be trying to climb the wrong ladder.
So often we set goals that others want for us but that we’re not really motivated enough to actually finish. We get into the careers that our parents and everybody else tell us we should do. Or we try to exercise in the way that everybody else thinks is best.
This is easy to see when someone you don’t trust tells you something that they think you should do. A stranger on the internet might not change your mind about something. But it can be a lot harder to see through the flaws in a goal that a mentor or close friend thinks is best for you.
If you’re finding that your career, exercise routine, or any other goal just isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to quit. That feeling of not wanting to work might be trying to tell you that it’s time for a change. Listen to it, act accordingly, and you’ll find that you’re much happier and that it’s much easier to want to work.
“When things are not happening as planned just stop worrying and take an unplanned break to regain yourself.” ― Giridhar Alwar
Working on your goals can be fun, but sometimes it’s just tough to get going. We all feel like not working from time to time, but these two practices will help you get through it:
- Get started anyway knowing that you’ll feel better as you work.
- Take a break if you’re feeling burnt out, but only take one for as long as you need.