8 Ways to Make Yourself Work Hard

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You know the days when you just don’t want to work?

This is one of those days.

But I’m writing this, aren’t I?


To prove that yes, you can overcome writer’s block. And to prove that you can motivate yourself to work no matter what your deceptive brain says— even if it’s Friday and all you want to do is go out (or watch Netflix).

Honestly though, I don’t always possess the mental fortitude to convince myself to work. Hence, am writing this article to find the solution to this problem.

Just imagine the possibilities. You can work effortlessly without nagging yourself to start. How much stress (and guilt) can we remove from our daily lives, if we did what we’re supposed to do?? If that were the case, we’d all be happy and productive people.

1. Getting Started When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Whatever You’re Supposed to be Doing

Nike has solved this for us ages ago: Just Do It. In times like this, just ignore your feelings and do the work, be it exercising, writing your novel, or waking up early.

People think they need to feel motivated before they act, but the truth is motivation comes from doing. For instance, once you do 1 push-up, you’ll feel motivated to do more.

2. You’re Not Working Because You’re Overwhelmed… And Afraid Of Failing

How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To
This is common when you’re doing something new, exciting and big. The tendency to feel overwhelmed is high when so much hinges on your success.

There’s an easy way to snap out of this overwhelming feeling: don’t get hung up on the results! You don’t know what’s going to happen anyway. Dr. Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests that it’s better to focus your time and effort on things you can control, those within your circle of influence, instead of things you can’t affect.

For your work, your circle of influence is limited to your hard work and attention to details. The results, whether your boss likes what you do or not, is out of your control so don’t dwell on it.

3. The Task Is Boring, Repetitive, Tedious, Or You Just Don’t Enjoy Doing It At All

How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To

Your brain is wired to avoid pain and seek rewards at all costs, so you can’t convince yourself to do things by thinking, “Next time, I’ll wake up early so I’ll have time to do X.” If you actually had the willpower to do it, you wouldn’t wait ‘til tomorrow in the first place!

In my case, I always put off washing the dishes. If there are no more spoons, I’d use chopsticks. No more plates? I’ll use paper plates. See, my brain is an expert in convincing me to delay these chores. Your problem task might be different but your brain works the same way in helping you find creative loopholes and lopsided rationalizations.

Charles Duhigg, author of Power of Habit, says it’s easier to build a habit if you reward yourself for doing it. So I use a modified if-then plan with a reward to get these pesky tasks done. Here’s my if-then plan for dishwashing:

If it’s Monday 11PM, I’ll wash the dishes and pans I used to cook the previous night then I’ll reward myself by watching 1 episode of Naruto Shippuden.

This method works because the decision has already been made in advance. So when the time comes to do it, there’s no deliberation or second guessing. It also minimizes the demands on your limited willpower.

But if that doesn’t work…

4. Do It With Friends

Remember your study groups back in college? You probably didn’t want to study for that calculus test, but hanging out with your friends made it a tad less miserable. It’s the same reason why gym buddies and diet groups work.

Whatever you’re trying to do, see if there’s a way you can do it with friends. If you’re working on a tough presentation due tomorrow, see if you can find colleagues planning on doing OT as well. So while you might be working on different things, at least you’re not alone in the office and you’ll have someone to commiserate with during coffee breaks.

5. If Step 1-4 Doesn’t Work

Put on a show. Public bets, or the prospect of getting humiliated in front of your friends is a powerful motivator. Just look at Ramit Sethi, who kept his goal and built some serious muscle thanks to a bet he made with his friends.

Make a commitment, come up with a consequence for failure, and then tag your friends on Facebook. Let’s see if you have the guts to slack off after that.

6. Stop Waiting Until You Have “Enough” Information

This is just a delaying tactic! How many times have said, “I know it’s time to start X, but I don’t have enough research yet,” even if you already have tons of information on hand?

Honestly, it’s impossible to collect every single bit of information on any subject. And chances are you have enough to get started—not everything, but enough to start and just correct-course along the way.

If you’re still hesitant to start, remember that Sir Richard Branson didn’t know crap about aviation when he built Virgin Airlines.

7. Take The First Step

You’re procrastinating for no reason. We all have those days, right? In this scenario, you can convince yourself to work if you do the first and tiniest step that will move you in the right direction.

If you have to work on a project, just open the document and type one sentence. Then give yourself permission to take a break. Seriously!

Congratulating yourself for starting will encourage you to keep going, and minimize that guilt you feel. Besides, the first step is always the hardest, so making it easy to overcome that hurdle will make the succeeding steps much easier.

8. Bribe Yourself

Money talks, people! A 2009 study by behavioral economist Dr. Gary Charness found that you can double a person’s gym attendance by paying them $100.

Don’t have $100 to spare? Try Pact, an app that pools money from other users, and then pays (or penalizes) based on their progress. Cheating doesn’t work by the way, because the app uses GPS and pictures to verify your activity.

For work related projects, you can use 21Habit, where you pledge $21 for a 21-day commitment challenge. Every successful day earns you $1 back, while every unproductive day forfeits $1 to one of their chosen charities. This app is perfect for random tasks and critical projects you keep putting off, like starting your own blog, reaching out to a potential mentor, or automating your finances.

Lastly, don’t beat yourself up if you really can’t force yourself to work. It won’t help because the guilt you’re inflicting on yourself just adds up to your mental image of being a non-performer.

Just breathe and try these suggestions one by one, until you get the ball rolling. Don’t pay much attention to your progress. Follow Dory’s mantra, just keep swimming.

I believe in you.

Photo Credits: Vase Petrovski, StreetGiraffe, Virgin.com, HalfKoreanGirl

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Charley Mendoza

Charley Mendoza is a freelance writer covering business, personal development, and careers.