Getting Stuff Done When You Don’t Feel Like Working



We all have those days… you know, the days when you’d rather be doing anything… anything at all… other than working. Those of us who are entrepreneurs and small business owners, though, know that for the most part, we’re not making money if we aren’t being productive.

There are mornings when, frankly, I’m more interested in what’s in the fridge than I am in tackling my task list for the day. And then there are all of the other convenient distractions, like YouTube, the cat, that strange hum coming from the clothes dryer, and those travel emails with wonderfully airbrushed images of tropical beach resorts. If you work from home, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

Fortunately, over the years, I have found several strategies that help me keep my rear end in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard, even when my mind is on the verge of an early checkout:

1) Tackle the simplest task first.

Ordinarily, I recommend getting the hard stuff out of the way at the beginning of the day so that you can work on easier tasks as your energy begins to wane. On those days when you’d rather watch NCIS reruns (or, in my case, The Big Bang Theory), though, completing an easy task can motivate you to keep going. “Oh, look, I checked this project off my list. I’m good. Let’s knock another one out.”

2) Opt for a change of scenery.

Routine is boring, and it can quickly diminish motivation. If you can’t change your work schedule or rearrange priorities, you can at least take your work to a different location. Looking at a different set of walls (or, if you’re fortunate enough to have nice weather, no walls at all) can give you the spark you need to get moving with your day. I happen to have favorite chairs at Tim Horton’s, Caribou Coffee, Starbucks, and Panera… and woe to anyone who might happen to be sitting in any of them when I arrive. :-)

3) Stipulate a reward.

What if you showed up for an office job and your boss told you, “As soon as you get these five tasks done, you can leave for the day. I don’t care if it takes you one hour or 10. And by the way, you get paid the same no matter how long it takes.”? Would that motivate you to get cracking so that you could leave and go enjoy the rest of your day?

Well, you’re the boss, and you can do just that. Stipulate a reward for yourself that you get to enjoy if, and only if, you make a certain amount of progress toward completing your work for the day. One of my personal favorites is a trip to the local Indian restaurant. (This is a great reward for me because 1) I love Indian food; and 2) the restaurant closes at 3PM for lunch. So there’s a real time restriction there to add to my motivation level.)

4) Remember why you’re an entrepreneur.

If all else fails, take a minute or two to think about what life would be like if you were stuck working for someone else. Even with all of the deadlines, headaches, and stress of entrepreneurship, most of us would rather scoop our own eyeballs out than work a traditional job.

When I absolutely can’t seem to get motivated, I close my eyes and remember all the three-hour meetings I had to attend as a corporate employee… trying to keep from dozing off while execs with high salaries and bad wardrobes locked metaphorical horns over minutae that never got resolved. I visualize my old boss heading out for a three-martini lunch in his just-detailed Mercedes S600 while I gnawed on leftover meatloaf at my desk. And I think about putting out five-alarm corporate fires while vice presidents turned off their cell phones as they ordered another round of cocktails poolside at the Bellagio.

Grr… argh… ok, wrapping up this web design project doesn’t seem so bad now.

I’m not saying you’ll win the motivation game every time. It’s a good idea to build in a time cushion so you can call a mulligan on your day once in a while. But when the work absolutely can’t wait, you can fall back on these strategies to give yourself the motivation to get stuff done.


Photo Credits: davecobb, _dennis_

Categories : Motivation

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