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Don’t Want to Work? 5 Ways to Get Things Done Anyway

I truly love my job, I really do. I love the
people I work with, I love the people I work for, I love that I get to a ton of different tasks every day. Regardless of all of that, some days, I just do not feel like working. But I’m an adult, and adults have to do things they don’t want to some times. Here’s what I do when I don’t want to work to get back in the groove and get things done.

1. Make a List

Don't want to work? Make a list!

Don’t want to work? Make a list!

I love making lists anyway, but sometimes the reasons I don’t want to work is that I am just too overwhelmed with all of the tasks I need to accomplish that day. Making  a list and prioritizing those tasks helps me focus that sense of being overwhelmed.

As far as prioritizing goes, there are a couple methods I use, depending on my mood. One is to “do the worst first,” or eat a live frog first for breakfast, to borrow an idea from Mark Twain:

Author Brian Tracy calls this “eating your frog,” quoting Mark Twain. Twain famously said that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you. Your frog is your worst task, and you should do it first thing in the morning.

I will do this when there are one or two tasks that I have already put off for a couple days. They go at the top of my list with a big “1” or “2” next to them, and I turn off my email and ignore as much else as I can while I work to get those things done. Afterwards, I feel so accomplished and the rest of the day is easy.

The other method is to stack 2-3 super easy tasks at the top of the list so that you can mark them off quickly and feel that sense of accomplishment fast. This can also rev your productivity, because once you feel like you’ve done something, it’s easier to keep doing!

2. Clean Off Your Desk

I tend to have that one pile of notes and envelopes that usually belong somewhere else, and clutter in my workspace constantly gnaws at me, distracting me by simply existing. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like working, I’ll take that pile and work through it right away. Everything that just needs to be filed gets filed. If a note is something I jotted down on a scrap piece of paper while I was on the phone or away from my desk, it gets put on my To Do list or in Remember the Milk. If it is information that I will need later, I will record that information where it belongs. The goal is to throw away or file every item in that pile so my desk is clean and I can think clearly again.

3. Turn on Some Music

Nothing has the power to affect my mood more than music. Sometimes I need jazz or classical or upbeat pop, but turning on the tunes I need helps soften my mood and gets me moving again. Sometimes, I’ll use a song as a timer, and try to get my task done before it’s over or before two songs have passed (however long I think I’ll need).

4. Take a Break

When my energy lags later in the day, sometimes it is because I need a mental break. I rarely step away from my desk for lunch, so occasionally I need to take a walk around the block or go sit in our conference room with a book or game on my phone for 15 minutes and just not think about work. Sometimes, I will close the door and lie on the floor and meditate or do deep breathing exercises. Or maybe I will get in my car and drive around and listen to music really loud with the windows down. Whatever I do, the goal is to get away from my desk and away from work to give my mind a break. I’ll return feeling refreshed and re-focused on the tasks of the day.

5. Reflect

Sometimes, there is a reason that I do not feel like working. Maybe something in my personal life is stressing me out. Maybe there is a project at work that I am nervous about or have a vague understanding about.

So I will stop and try to pinpoint why I am feeling the way I am, and then I will take a few minutes to deal with it. If my personal life is getting at me, writing helps me process. I will get out a pen and piece of paper and write it all down, get it out of my head, and maybe solve some of my problems in the process. If it’s work-related, I will gather the information I need to understand the project better or go talk to the person who can clarify for me (usually my boss).

The goal here is to identify the hold up and deal with it.


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