work

6 Tips for When You’re Not in the Mood to Work

“Daydreamer” courtesy of Nelsonius

We all have times when we’re just not in the mood to get on with work. Perhaps we’re feeling tired or apathetic, or weeks of stress have finally caught up with us. Maybe we’re just having a hard time staying on task – Facebook, Twitter, webcomics and other distractions seem, well, more distracting than usual.

So how can you stay on-task and on-track when you don’t feel like working?

1.    Do Something Else!

Okay, it’s not always possible – but how about doing something else instead? If you’re trying to force yourself to work on your small biz at the weekend and you’re feeling fed up, then the best solution may well be to simply take a break.

You can end up wasting a lot of energy by pushing yourself on by sheer willpower … when, in fact, it may be the case that your brain and body really need a break.

Of course, this isn’t an option in your average job (no boss wants to hear “sorry, I wasn’t in the mood to work today”) but if you have flexible hours or work for yourself, pay attention to early signs of fatigue or burnout.

2.    Make a (Short) List of Tasks

A sense of overwhelm is often at the root of our work problems. If you’re struggling to work because you don’t know where to begin, sit down and write a short list of things which you want to get done today. Try to keep it to just three or four items.

Once you have a list in front of you, you may well find your resistance to work melts away. It’s easy to knock off the tasks on a list; it’s hard to cope with that sense of having far too much work and nowhere near enough time.

3.    Focus on How You’ll Feel Later

Often, we end up procrastinating because it’s easier to play a flash game rather than get on with work. The problem is, procrastination inevitably leads to feelings of frustration, guilt or irritation – we know we’ve wasted time.

Instead of thinking about how you feel right at this moment (bored or fed-up with work) think about how you’ll feel in a few hours time if you get that work done. You’ll probably be relieved, satisfied, proud of yourself. Focus on getting through your work so that you can end the day on a high note.

4.    Just Open the Document

Our resistance to work is a funny thing … it can feel huge, but it starts to vanish as soon as we take the tiniest action towards getting something done. One really simple tip is to open the document which relates to the work you’re putting off. Just open up that report, or that email.

Once it’s on the screen in front of you, you’re already getting yourself into the mood to work on it. If you’re still struggling, tell yourself that you’ll spend five minutes working. Set a timer if you have to. As soon as you get going, it’ll get easier.

5.    Do the Very Best You Can

When you don’t feel like working, it’s easy to tackle everything half-heartedly, doing the bare minimum to scrape by. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t do much for your motivation; you end up feeling vaguely dissatisfied with what you’ve done.

Instead, resolve to do the very best on the piece of work you’re tackling, however mundane or unimportant it seems. Even if no-one else ever notices, you will know that you gave it your best shot, and you’ll be proud of yourself for that.

6.    Promise Yourself a Reward

Finally, if nothing about your work itself can motivate you, then try a bribe! Promise yourself a treat if you get through those three tasks on your list, or if you finish this one piece of work which has been hanging over you.

You might decide to take the rest of the day off (which encourages you to work faster rather than procrastinate). You might go to your favorite restaurant for lunch. You could treat yourself to a new CD or book which you’ve been meaning to buy. Rewards can be hugely motivating – give it a go.

How do you manage to get on with work when you’re not in the mood? Do the above tips work for you, or do you have any others to share?

  • http://www.peopleskillsdecoded.com Eduard @ People Skills Decoded

    And, may I add, if you constantly find yourself lacking motivation to work, it might be a sign that you’re in a field which you don’t really like, and it’s not really for you. In this case, you might wanna consider a career transition.

  • http://www.soulfulbodymind.com/blog.html S. Ali Myers – Soulful Body & Mind

    Ali (great name BTW)

    Nice tips! I subscribe to #2 everyday of my life. People get so overwhelmed by the enormity of life itself. Break down these “mountainous” feats into manageable parts. You don’t eat pizza whole, you eat it piece by piece. Breaking down things and conquering them also gives you quicker gratification which could fuel you to further success.

    Take care!

    – Ali

  • http://www.privatedimension.at/enhance_your_mind_power.html Christa

    You have amazing ideas, really. I am often writing a list with what has to be done. When I can’t get myself do something, I let it sit for a while and then suddenly I sit down and do it and it seems to be done at ease. I guess that the reason for this is, that the mind finds a way to get it done.

  • Jennifer

    Wow, thank you so much. I’ll definitely keep your ideas as a reference. I struggle with not feeling like working all the time even though I love my job. I have health issues that cause fatigue and then I struggle to focus and get work done. I’m proud in the long run, but on those low energy days when concentration is an issue, I’ll definitely use your ideas. Thank you!

  • http://blog.sephone.com ladyotrout

    I just read this and it is Sunday and I am feeling UNDERWHELMED by working on this project! Thanks the list is helping!! I am sharing this right away.

  • http://www.2knowmyself.com Farouk

    yes i agree that sometimes doing something else is the best soloution, when i am really not in the mood i i just take the day off :)

  • http://communityofchange.blogspot.com/ Nancy Christie

    One trick I use when faced with a task that I either don’t want to do or feel is overwhelming is to set a time limit. I’ll tell myself: “You only have to work on it for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, you can quit.” Usually, that’s enough to get me to start the action, and then, once I get involved, I usually continue past the half-hour point. We can’t WAIT for the energy to motivate us–often, the energy surge comes AFTER we start moving!

  • http://www.coloradoprinting.com Barb

    I find that getting into a conversation with someone else about my work, tends to get me uplifted about my job. Of course, I am in sales, and this may not work for everyone.

  • http://enlightr.com Craig Thomas

    Excellent tips! I often end up getting the to the point where I need to bribe myself -.- even for small tasks lol sometimes my motivation completely lacks.

  • http://www.myrelationshipguy.com/trainingreno Guy Farmer

    Great ideas Ali. It seems like motivating oneself to do anything does come down to simply doing it. Nothing ever gets done unless we actually take that first little action. I’ve found that people actually love it when they’ve accomplished that thing they’ve been putting off. It’s all the stuff that comes before they take action that keeps them from succeeding at an entirely different level.

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  • Akmal

    Jan 2011 is a stress month to me.I am a account executive and a part time student.It is stress a lot to me.I really hope this tips gonna work on me. I just lost an interest to work and I didn’t give a full attention of my job.I lost my sense of prioritize of my job.I miss a lot of dateline.If there any way that can increase my mood and joyness to work everyday?

  • http://www.happytodos.com Neta

    You are so right!

    I had reached the same conclusion and decided to build a simple work management application to help me focus on few important tasks and get a clear head to help me work and avoid procrastination.

    Try it: http://www.happytodos.com – it’s a web based project management software that will surely make your working life easier. It did for me :-)

    Neta

  • Brian

    They all make sense and should work just fine…

    However I don’t think any of them apply to my work situation which is demotivating sometimes, but I’ve learned to get around that much until I reach the point where I struggle to work for even a minute and just can’t stand to look at it..Its the height of unwillingness and apathy.

    I guess the only thing would be to take a small vacation,,, bare with it,, or learn to motivate myself like I’ve done before…

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  • Sally

    I just feel comforted reading this – and the replies from others. It’s just nice to know others feel the same too: when I can’t get on with my work diligently , the worst feeling is the guilt and the sense of inadequacy that I can’t be a perfect work shark (and I can’t – I am quite inconsistent) . I think I must be the only sham out there taking money off employers when I haven’t been productive fully in the day. But it seems like we are all a bit the same (or those of us who found our way here anyway!) Thanks for the tips which are reasonable and practical. I am now going to take a short break, write a list – and have already opened up the document I’d been avoiding……:-)

  • Sally

    I just feel comforted reading this – and the replies from others. It’s just nice to know others feel the same too: when I can’t get on with my work diligently , the worst feeling is the guilt and the sense of inadequacy that I can’t be a perfect work shark (and I can’t – I am quite inconsistent) . I think I must be the only sham out there taking money off employers when I haven’t been productive fully in the day. But it seems like we are all a bit the same (or those of us who found our way here anyway!) Thanks for the tips which are reasonable and practical. I am now going to take a short break, write a list – and have already opened up the document I’d been avoiding……:-)

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  • Nova F.

    these tips are good, i have used them for two years, and i am in the stage of depression now and have loss interest to my job .. i think before using these tips, one should really figure out why you are not in mood to work, diagnose the reasons and take actions about it, other wise it will be a waste of time 

  • Shahbaz Ahmed

    At this moment in time at university I really can’t be bothered doing my assignments! I just feel sick and tired of formatting documents and making them look neat…. Argh I need a break!

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  • Brian

    Thanks for the blog you posted,for I am attached to this website called pteridactle popcorn
    I haven’t been able to eat,sleep,drink,get dressed,ect. and I’ve been chewing on my headphones since i haven’t been eating.I’ve been through 54 pairs almost 55 and was desperate to get in the working mood.I haven’t even been to my job in 5 days!My boss said if i don’t come to work tomorrow,I’m fired! Thanks for the blog,again.

  • Yuvi

    None of this works…. Its just a boring job…