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4 Ways to Get Back to Work When You (Really) Don’t Want to

Updated on June 2, 2022Professionals

You know you need to work, but you really don’t want to. Millions of distractions—some worthier than others—compete for your time and attention. How do you drown out the voice of procrastination?

Here are four ways that will get you working again, even when you’d rather be doing anything else.

1 Reward Yourself

In Key of Knowledge, prolific author Nora Roberts writes: “There’s no reward without work, no victory without effort, no battle won without risk.” The converse is also true. Why work without a reward? Why put forth effort without a purpose? Likely, your job has some intrinsic value. Of Nora Robert’s 200 published novels, most of them fall into the suspense or romance genres. Thousands of people use her stories to escape from reality, to relax, or to entertain themselves. How does your job help the world? How does it benefit you personally? When you are typing a document at work, do you think about how the task will ultimately fund your child’s college education, for example? With a little thought, you can likely find that your job adds value to your life in various ways.

According to, you may do your job because of “the desire to control [your] financial destiny, the need for autonomy, or perhaps the belief that [your] service or product will potentially enhance the current marketplace.” Why stop there? The same website encourages you to create your own rewards for a job well done. You’ll be motivated to work harder if you know something good will come at the end of it.

2 Make It Fun

Do you enjoy things more when you are alone or with friends? If you like solitude, why not get to the office early on your first days back? The office will be quiet, and you will have time to get yourself organized before your day starts. Tidy up your desk and make a list of what you want to accomplish. Then, you can either work in silence or listen to some tunes before your coworkers start stopping by.

If you’re a social butterfly, invite your colleagues to join you. You can work together in a shared space or flex your collective imaginations in a brainstorming session. Be honest, though, about whether your friends will disrupt your productivity. If you think they will, schedule a group lunch or go out for drinks after work.

3 Ease Yourself In

In video games, the lowest level is usually the easiest one. As you advance, you gain experience and the challenges increase. When you return from a break, you can’t always expect to pick up exactly where you left off. Instead, look at your to-do list. Are there a few important tasks that you can quickly or easily get out of the way? Clearing away these tasks can free your mind from worry so you can concentrate on the difficult work. Besides, marking even short, simple tasks as “complete” will make you feel a sense of accomplishment.

Do all your assignments seem equally overwhelming? Find out why. Are you afraid of failure? Do you feel incompetent? Do you have all the knowledge necessary to be successful? MindBodyGreen suggests addressing the source of your resistance, and “leaning in” like a surfer: “Just like surfing a big wave — once you’re in it, there are only two choices — either lean in, make the drop, and do your best to surf the wave, or wipe out miserably. You might wipe out either way — but . . . “Let’s do this!” . . . feels more empowering than “Oh no!””

4 Make It Doable

If you focus on everything you have to do, you might start to feel stressed. Instead, break large projects into small chunks. You can organize your time into chunks. For example, you might set a timer and commit to working for fifteen minutes. When the alarm sounds, briefly turn your attention to something less demanding, such as answering an email or filing documents. After a few minutes, restart the timer and do it all again. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in fifteen-minute intervals.

Not all tasks lend to chunking by time. Instead, try the step-by-step method. Consider whether you have to complete the steps of the task in order. Would it be more efficient to juggle the sections around and compile everything at the end? For a writing project, for instance, perhaps you want to print out a copy before you proofread. Some writers claim to catch more errors on paper than on a computer screen.

Regardless of how you organize your tasks, don’t forget to include brief breaks from intense activity. Using this method, you will find yourself on the last step before you know it.

Every task presents unique challenges, so it might help to do a little research about how you can get over a slump in your particular profession. To illustrate, writers can research how to overcome writer’s block and build some of the methods learned into their to-do list.

Do you have work to do right now? If you were reading this article as a form of procrastination, it’s time to put it away and put your nose to the grindstone. If you think of a reward and a way to make the task fun, break tasks down into small chunks, and start easy, it won’t even seem so bad. You can do it!

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