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What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Working

Acceptance, one step at a time, a reset break and more - strategies to take you from flagging to flourishing.

We all have times where we hit the wall and being productive is the last thing we feel like doing.

For me, it’s really important to honour where our energy is at, not just blindly pushing on.

However, there’s no getting away from the fact that as career women, we need to deliver. It’s not exactly a good look when you’re in the office to just go take a nap somewhere or start watching YouTube videos or do some yoga stretches or whatever it is you would do to honour your energy if you were at home.

Instead, we need different strategies to fight the funk and get us focused.

Accept Where You’re At

Accept that you’re not doing anyone, especially yourself, any favours trying to force yourself to do deep work when you don’t have the energy or the inclination.

Inevitably it will take you twice as long and you’ll make mistakes that you’ll have to go back and fix. Not only are you being ineffective but you’re likely to end up frustrated with yourself as well. Not fun.

Recently, I was making edits to spreadsheet templates at work. I wasn’t feeling in a work groove but slowly plodded my way through two out of four templates (see my next point). Feeling pretty pleased with myself for getting solid work done when I didn’t feel like it, I suddenly realised I’d completely forgotten to factor in some of the new logic and needed to go back and make all of my edits again! This is exactly why forcing work when the brain capacity isn’t there is a recipe for minor to major disaster.

So be kind to yourself. Acknowledge where you’re at. Trust that there is a time for everything.

Plod Your Way Through

Make a cup of coffee. Put on some white noise like a trashy TV show or some music and just work. Don’t worry about how fast you’re going or whether it’s the most important task or anything that creates more pressure. Simply get something done.

There are two things that make this approach work. One is setting up your environment. Take the time to make yourself cosy and settle in. Remember we’re plodding here, so no high octane dance music or crazy energy drinks. Think long duration, sustainable energy levels. We’re the tortoise in this situation, not the hare.

Second is having the right mindset. This is simply about finding a way to keep going and get things accomplished along the way. All you should be concerned with focusing on any one task. Putting any pressure on yourself to move faster is only going to create more resistance and make you feel even less like getting any work done. Sometimes just getting anything done at all is a big enough win.

Take a Break

This is not just any break. This is a break designed to get you working again. Before you take your break, decide what you’re going to work on when you get back to your desk. Get it all set up, open the documents you need, track down any equipment that’s required. Equally importantly remove any distractions. Close down your email, take your dishes to the kitchen, file excess paperwork.

Now that you’re all ready to get started, take yourself on a walk around the block. Get outside, get fresh air. Even if it’s raining, take an umbrella. It will help you clear your mind and get your brain working on the task you just set up.

When you get back, go straight into doing the task you set up. Don’t allow for distractions or indecision to creep in. Just get on with it and find yourself in the work flow again.

Schedule Your Deep Work

If your not feeling like diving into work but you know you’ve got some meaty projects on your to do list, it can be hard to make a decision to let it wait. The pressure’s on, surely you’ve got to devote every working second to this deliverable?

But as I’ve already pointed out, if your head’s not in it, your only creating more work and stress for yourself. You need to focus on what you can do.

So the way you give yourself the space and permission to do the things you have mental to capacity for, is to figure out when you’ll get to the deep work. This will help you let go of needing to do it right now. You know it’s getting taken care of. You know you can still hit your deadlines.

This gives you space to work on something that feels more manageable at this point in time.

Do Some Work

This is really what it comes down to, what feels manageable right now? With where I’m at, what can I feasibly get on with right now?

Often once I get into it, get into the flow of work again, the malaise starts to lift. I start ticking things off my to-do list. The motivation starts to return and momentum builds.

We hit walls, we do. And there are definitely times where we really need to step back, take a rejuvenating break, re-evaluate what’s going on.

And other times, it’s Thursday afternoon of a long week and we’re just temporarily out of steam. When those moments hit, we use these tips to keep going. To make good use of your time at work so you don’t end up spending even more time there.

What it comes down to is picking the right tasks at the right time to best utilise the natural ebbs and flows of your energy so you can maximise your time at work and spend more time on the things that mean the most to you.

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