Work when you don’t feel like it?
To work when you don’t feel like it is hard. For example, right now I really do not want to write this blog.
That is exactly why I am writing it. I have had this problem for a long time where I just delay a task because I didn’t really want to put in the work at that time.
There have been days where I have just given up on work. I just cannot seem to get myself to work and so I say to myself-
“Let it be. We will just bounce back tomorrow.”
Now, I am pretty good and bouncing back, and, I am able to do cover-up for that work in time. However, that still leaves a basic question.
How can we bring ourselves to work when we don’t feel like it?
The most important characteristic for success
“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.”― Thomas Henry Huxley
This is by far the most important characteristic, that is common in all successful people. They force themselves to be productive even when they do not feel like it.
Their moods and emotions take a backseat and their character ethic comes front and center as they grind out results.
Barriers to working
You can read our blog on procrastination to know the psychology behind stalling important work. Here, I am just going over some of the things that inhibit you from working.
On some occasions, you might be impatient or restless when it comes to a task and you want a lot of work done as soon as you can.
This can make doing the small thing you have to do now really irritating.
Other times you might feel less confident because of the critical inner talk.
This is more visible in people that work in creative fields that do not have a monetary reward waiting for them after the work they just put in.
Internal criticism over time can chip away on your momentum and give rise to self-doubt.
You might begin to feel like you are wasting your time doing this, even when you are putting in productive work consistently.
To be successful you have to be willing to take all the necessary steps. You can’t take some of them and leave the others.
Most importantly, you can’t leave the task of taking those steps only on good days.
The mind-set behind
We will get to the techniques and methods later on but first let us focus on the thought process going-on when ‘you do not feel like working’.
You say to yourself
“I have to do _____________ but I don’t really feel like working.”
Now let us pause for a moment and think about this.
The statement in front of you is making it look like the reason you can’t do the work is because you aren’t feeling like it.
This isn’t true, is it? The feeling is not preventing you from working. You are just giving in to the resistance and passivity.
You have to ‘study for the test’, now you may not feel like studying but you can still sit on your chair, open your book, and read the first topic.
Therefore, here is an exercise I want you to do. Turn that sentence on its head.
Whenever you have that thought in your mind, notice it and pause. Instead of falling in that vicious circle think-
“I don’t really feel like working but I have to do__________”
You can already see the power in this, can’t you?
The moment you inverse the thought you see the stimulus ‘Don’t feel like working’ and the circumstance ‘I have to do ______’ however, now you are thinking more clearly.
Now, you have to decide your response. Feelings and emotions can be an influence on you but you have the ability to choose.
That is the ‘freedom of choice’ you have within you. Therefore, the last thought you have to think to yourself is-
“I don’t really feel like working but I have to do _________ and I will”
The moment you choose your response, your feelings lose their power over you.
Steps to do your work when you don’t feel like it
Do each of the following steps in the order mentioned. Each step given here builds upon the previous one and sets up for the following step.
The step at which you feel immersed in your work, you can exit this 10-step process.
- Goal setting
- Make goals intrinsically motivating
- If-then method
- Start small(Parkinson’s law, mid slumps)
- Start now(Pomodoro technique)
- Slow down
- Create junk
- Focus on elements you enjoy
- Be more mindful
1. Goal setting
Abstract thoughts cannot lead to definitive action. The first thing you need is to define hard goals for you to achieve.
Studies show that when the sales team is given targets they are more likely to close deals.
An abstract thought such as “I need to study more” will not help you study more.
Recently a friend gifted me a smart band that tracks the no of steps I take throughout the day.
I had always thought about getting back in the habit of running but never did it consistently.
Ever since I got that band, I know exactly how many steps I take each day.
Thus, a goal of 4000 steps or more each day is more concrete than an abstract thought of ‘I should run more’.
2. Make goals intrinsically motivating
Motivation comes in two forms, Intrinsic and extrinsic.
An intrinsic goal is seen as its own end. Intrinsic motivation comes when the task in itself feels personally rewarding.
Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from something external compelling you to do the task.
The task is not seen as its own end but rather serving an ulterior motive.
Are you exercising to relieve stress? It is intrinsically motivating. If however, you were exercising to lose weight, it would be an extrinsic motivator.
If you study because you enjoy studying a particular subject, you are intrinsically motivated to study that subject.
You are studying it for the joy of learning. If you were only studying because of a test coming up then you are doing it to avoid scoring less or failing. That is an extrinsic motivator.
When you are doing a task for some ulterior motive, it is easy to feel like you can stall on it.
‘You don’t have to complete the presentation for the boss because
it is due on Monday and you have the entire weekend.’
Since it can be done later, why do it now? Right now, you do not feel like doing it. Thus, whenever possible make your goals intrinsically motivating.
3. If-then method
Do you like being rewarded? Everyone does, right? However, being rewarded without putting in the work might make you unappreciative of them.
How many of you got bored binging shows on Netflix when the lockdown started and you had nothing else to do?
The rewards only feel pleasurable when they are earned. A party after the exams are over feels much more rewarding than just another weekend party.
So how do we use what we just learned? By applying it to our work in a planned way of course.
“If I write 2000 words by evening 5 pm I’ll reward myself with an hour of playing a game on the switch later at night.”
Since you have already made the decision in advance when it is time for action, there is no hesitation.
Moreover, you do not have to exercise as much will power as you did before.
Be careful however of a few traps. If the task demands quality and you rush through it to reach a quantity, it might turn out bad in the long term.
Using lofty claims to secure a few deals will not be good if you want to work with your clients again.
Another trap might be one that cancels your progress. Having junk food after you come from the gym is a good example of that.
4. Isolate yourself, to work when you don’t feel like it
This is not news to you. You already lack the motivation to work and any distraction no matter how small can result in a vicious cycle.
Since you do not have a lot of will power, it is easy to fall victim to cell phone notifications that turn into a YouTube video that turns into the latest tweet of Donald Trump.
When you are about to begin working create an environment where you are isolated.
If you get distracted easily, maybe it is a good idea to put your phone on airplane mode and keep it far away from you.
If you need the internet for the work you do, can you download the research papers that you will need?
Is there a way you can block the apps that cause distractions, or at least block their notifications for the time you work.
Be creative and disconnect from the world. If you have a hard time studying at home, maybe go to a library or a coffee shop nearby.
5. Start small, to work when you don’t feel like it
The task you set out to do, divide it in small chunks. Trying to attempt a massive task outright can feel daunting and downright overwhelming.
Dividing the same task in small chunks makes it much easier to approach.
There are two key reasons why breaking down a task is a much more effective way to work consistently.
Parkinson’s Law states that the work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.
So if you take a big goal and set a 5-hour timeline for it, you will barely complete it in 5 hours.
However, if you know it can be done in 3 hours and you break it into small chunks checking each portion off the list, your task will be complete in 3 hours.
Middle slumps, on the other hand, is the tendency of people to lose their motivation in the middle.
Everyone starts with high morale in the beginning.
They make quite a bit of progress in a short amount of time but then lose their motivation in the middle.
The middle of the task is where they stall out the most time.
Once they reach close to the ending, they pick up speed and finish up the task. By breaking a big task into smaller ones, you cut back on those middle slumps.
6. Start now
Motivation comes from doing. Once you start working, it is easier to go on.
Now by breaking down the task in small chunks you have already made it easier for you to start working.
Another step you can do to make it easier to start working is to use the Pomodoro technique.
The technique is simple. You work in time slots of 25 minutes (Pomodoro). Once you have worked for 25 minutes you can take a break of 5 minutes.
After a break of 5 minutes you sit back to work for the next 25 minutes.
These 25 minutes you do not let any distractions interrupt you and if you finish your task earlier than the 25 minutes you assigned for it, you can review what you did.
What I like to do, and am currently doing, is use this technique to get in the groove.
Once I am done with 2 slots ( 2 Pomodoros) I usually feel it is much easier to continue the task without taking a break.
Everyone is different so start using it and if you feel that changing something results in outcomes that are more beneficial, then do that.
7. Slow down
Just simply slowing down can help you work when you don’t feel like it. If you ever feel that you are struggling to work on the pace you are used to, try slowing down.
It is okay if you can’t study fast each day, read slowly. This is what marathon runners do.
They don’t stop running, instead, when they feel tired they just slow down their pace.
Working slower will help you get back in the groove, sometimes it will make you even more immersed than you usually are.
Everything you do will be more methodical. You will feel calmer and there will be an intentionality behind each small act.
Do it now, try reading these sentences slowly, enjoy the task of reading.
8. Create junk, to work when you don’t feel like it
Perfectionism can cripple even the brightest of minds. You can read about it much more in depth on our blog on overcoming perfectionism.
Here, however, I will just give you a challenge. Try doing the worst work you can. No literally, try it.
If you are a painter, try to create the worst painting in the world. If you are a writer, try writing the worst article you can.
When you try to do that, literally, you will find that it is very difficult to create bad stuff. No matter what you do, it isn’t as bad you think it is most times.
Every time you work, give yourself permission to be sub-optimal.
Do now and review later. The best way to hit a target when you are shooting a gun or an arrow is to do it.
After you see the result, readjust and try again.
9. Focus on elements you enjoy
All the steps above will work for you to varying degrees. However, the cumulative effect of them will definitely bring you closer to getting in the flow of the work you do.
If you still can’t get yourself to work after all the above steps and need just a bit more oomph, you should do this.
The work you do might be mundane and repetitive. Alternatively, maybe you just hate a particular subject.
What you should do is try to figure out what you like about the task.
This might feel like some witchcraft and voodoo advice but still, try it out. Once you start using the power of gratitude things just seem to fall in place.
If the task is repetitive, you do not have to think too much. If the task is difficult, you have an exciting challenge in front of you.
Looking at the bright side just takes away the feeling of ‘I don’t feel like working’. Moreover, you can make the experience of working more comfortable.
Try listening to ambient music in the background while you work or have a delicious cup of coffee or tea nearby that you can sip every now and then as you work.
10. Be more mindful
Keep a small notebook near you and write the things that pop up into your mind throughout the day. Here is why I tell you to do that.
Do you remember the last dream that you had? If you are like most people, you forgot the dream seconds after you woke up.
See that is not just how you dream, it is how our subconscious mind thinks too.
I bet you don’t remember your thoughts from 10 minutes ago.
When you get to work you will have these urgent tasks in your head that need to be done.
Just write them down in the notebook close to you so you can dismiss them safely without forgetting about them.
Once you are done with the work, you can get back to them.
Another thing you will notice when you do this is, you will become more mindful of what and how you think.
The notebook will become more and more vivid with time. There are so many creative ideas that come to you unexpectedly while working.
After weeks of doing this you will realize what times work for you, when do you feel motivated, things that bug you every time you try to work.
Try to open the first few pages and see the difference, there will be more structure and depth in the stuff you write.
You can just use a notes app in your phone or pc if a notebook is too much.
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”― Steven Pressfield
This week follow the above 10 steps whenever you don’t feel like working.
If you have this problem often and still cannot seem to resolve it, then check out our blog on procrastination.
Also, try reading the book, The War of Art. It is a powerful book and one of my favorites.
Sometimes all the techniques in the world cannot help you and you have to tackle the mindset that is keeping you stuck.
I hope one of those helps you work when you don’t feel like it.
If these steps do work for you, congratulations. The next step should be to find out what you love to do and get to work.
We provide a free eBook called The perfect beginning that might help you in finding those callings.
Well, that’s all for this post. Have a good day and a good life.