How to Work When You Don't Want To

By Stephen Godfrey - Reading Time: 8 minutes

a sleepy cat on a bed

Today was a rough day for me. I woke up and didn’t want to work. And when I got to my desk I was just wasting my time.

Do you ever feel like that?

I bet you do.

But you can beat that feeling. And I’ve learned a few lessons on how to do it. So here are five strategies I use when I simply don’t want to work.

1 - Take a Step Back

When you don’t want to work the first thing you should do is step back for a moment. Stop going through the motions and think about why you don’t want to work. Maybe it’s because you are tired, or scared, or your feelings are hurt. Maybe you hate your job or your boss (or both). But look inside yourself and find out why you feel that way. Then, when you learn what the real problem is you’ll be able to prescribe the right fix for it.

For instance, say your car won’t start. You turn the key again, and again, and again, but that doesn’t work. And you could keep turning the key and getting the same results, but that is a waste of time. It’s better to stop turning the key, and to think about what is going on. So, does the engine turn over when you turn the key? No? Good, then you probably have a dead starter or a dead battery? So check if the battery has a charge. Does it have a charge? No? Then you may have left a light on. Are any lights set to the on position? Yep. Did your kids play in the car when you brought in the groceries? Yes. And now you know what the problem is. The solution? Don’t let your kids play in the car, turn off that light, charge your battery, and your car should start.

Yet too often we keep trying the same thing the same way and getting the same results. We keep “turning the key” and hoping that it will just work. When ironically, the best way to find the solution is to stop trying. It’s better to walk away, and really think about what is going on. Only then will you find the right solution to your problem.

So take a step back. Why don’t you want to work? How are you feeling today? Think about what the root of the problem is.

And once you find the root of the problem, only then will you be able find the right solution.

2 - Get up and walk around.

You aren’t a tree.

And you aren’t meant to stay in the same position all day doing the same thing. So if you find that you are stuck at your desk doing nothing then get up. Stand up, walk around, and get moving.

As you move your body you’ll become energized. You’ll blood will flow faster, and you’ll have the means to think about your problems.

And when I don’t want to work it’s usually because I’ve lost sight of the vision have for my life. So when I am stuck I get up and walk around. And as I walk around I’ll review the affirmations I’ve written to help me renew my purpose. And by reviewing my affirmations I’m more able to refocus on why I need to work. And this will renew my purpose and my determination. Finally, I’ll choose the next task that I will work on This way when I sit down I’ll be able to start working on a task right away. This protects me from aimlessness, and helps me stay focused.

3 - Go Outside

Most of us live inside a box. We might work in a small box (a cubicle), or a bigger box (an office). Or we might work at a box (a desk), or drive around in a box (a car). And when we come home we escape into a box (the tv or computer).

That’s way too many boxes in a day.

So escape from the box and go outside.

I love to walk outside and feel the openness of the wide outdoors. I love to feel the sunshine, breathe in the fresh air, and feel the healing balm of nature.

And the great outdoors remind us that the world is huge, and that our problems are small. It reminds us of how large we are, and what potential we have.

walt whitman's quote

And this really works. Today I didn’t want to work, so I went outside into my backyard.

stephen's backyard [part of my awesome backyard.]

I mapped out a new area for some raised garden beds. I moved around while I mapped out the new spot and I got some fresh air. And as a result, I came back inside with renewed purpose, more drive, and better focus.

In fact, I only wrote this blog post after I went outside, walked away from my problem, and got some fresh air.

So go outside. It will do your soul good.

4 - Focus on the Step Ahead

On July 20th, 2003 Chad Hymas rolled into Las Vegas, Nevada. At first glance this doesn’t seem like much, but it was. Why? Because Chad just broke the world record for traveling in a wheelchair, and he had traveled all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah.

copy of chad's article in the newspaper

You see, Chad became a quadriplegic in a farm accident. He then gained the use of his arms, but that was it. Still, he wanted to do something spectacular so he decided to do long distance wheelchair trip. But partway through he wanted to give up.

He talks about how the trip was too hard and so he kept focusing on an hour at a time, and then that was too hard. So he focused on the mile markers, but those became too hard. And then he focused on the the yellow lines on the road. And even those got too hard. And he wanted to quit, but he decided to push just a little more. Still he wanted to quit, but he focused on getting to the top of the next hill. He knew when he got to the top that he couldn’t make it any farther. But then he saw something. He saw that the rest of the distance to Las Vegas (18 miles away) was all downhill.

So, if your day gets tough, then focus on the next task. And if that is too tough, start to focus on the hour, or the minute, or the second. Just say “I can make it one more minute”, and then when that minute ends, say the phrase again and keep on going. And you’ll be surprised at how far you’ll be able to go.

5 - And when you don’t want to work, then don’t.

Having to work is a good thing. It means that you have a chance to grow, to produce, to build, to fix, to make this world better.

But what if you just don’t want to work?

Well, I can’t tell you what to do in every situation. But there are times when the right thing to do is to not work.

That’s right. There are times to stop working. And not to get too biblical on you, but that famous line from Ecclesiastes comes to mind:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven… A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;”

So let’s focus on the “a time to heal” part.

Too often we treat our mind and emotions differently. When our body gets hurt, we know by instinct to take it easy, and to let that part of the body rest. But do we do the same for our minds and our hearts?

Most times no.

But we still need to take care of them.

So, some days, when you feel burnt out, dejected, and you just don’t want to work, then don’t. Don’t work. Instead you should:

Take a break. Take the afternoon off. Go on that vacation you’ve always wanted to do. Spend the morning in the woods. Read a good book. Do something that invigorates you. Take a nap. And rest your soul.

We aren’t meant to work all the time. Long hours at the office is not a badge of honor.

So take care of yourself.

Let your body heal as well as your mind and your heart.

Not only will you feel better, but you’ll have new strength. And with that strength you’ll be able to conquer the coming day.

Closing Thoughts

Working when you don’t want to is hard. But, the steps above can help. Sometimes you need to take a step back and look at the problem from a different point of view. Sometimes you need to leave your desk, and other times you need to get outside. Then, when you get back to your desk you’ll be able to focus on the next task ahead, and take it a step at a time. At last, there are times when you shouldn’t work. We aren’t meant to work every moment, and maybe, you just need to take a day off and try again tomorrow.

So if you feel stuck, frustrated, and you just don’t want to work, then try one of the steps listed above. They work wonders, and will help you to regroup, refocus, and tackle your problems with a fresh perspective.

-Stephen Godfrey

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See you on the inside.

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