How to Motivate Yourself to 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? Why? 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, I don’t always possess the mental fortitude to convince myself to work. Hence, I 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 do what we’re supposed to do? If that were the case, we’d all be happy and productive people. I don’t want to work anymore! Let’s see if we can help you figure out why.

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

Nike 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 one push-up, you’ll feel motivated to do more.

Have a big task that feels overwhelming? Try breaking that big task into small tasks so it doesn’t seem as daunting.

2. You’re Not Working Because You’re 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, the 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 detail. Whether your boss likes what you do or not, the results are out of your control, so don’t dwell on it.

3. The Task Is Boring, Tedious, or Unenjoyable

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. 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, the 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 accomplish these pesky tasks. Here’s my if-then plan for dishwashing:

If it’s Monday 6 PM, I’ll wash the dishes and pans I used to cook the previous night, then I’ll reward myself by watching 1 episode of a show I like.

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. Raise the Stakes

If steps 1-4 don;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 you 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?

Honestly, collecting every bit of information on any subject is impossible. 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 knew nothing about aviation when he built Virgin Airlines. He entered one of the most prohibitive industries out there, however, and made a success of it.

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 permit yourself to take a break. Seriously!

Congratulating yourself for starting will encourage you to keep going and minimize the 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.

If you’re still having trouble, read our 5 Ways to Overcome Procrastination and get started now.

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.

What To Do When You Don’t Want To Work

If you don’t want to work anymore, but it isn’t an option to stop working because you need the income, then it is time to make a concrete plan on what to do. It is important to shift your mindset and find more satisfaction with what you do.

Here is what to do when you don’t want to work but want to find the motivation to work hard and succeed in all aspects of your life.

Conduct A Mental Check

Working can sometimes make people feel overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, and exhausted. Things you used to love, including your dream job, may now seem like a daunting task. But why is that?

Take some time out for a mental health check and some self-care. Talk with a trusted friend or family member and find support within your community.

Discover Your Ideal Life

What do you do in your free time when you aren’t working? Do you dream of traveling? Maybe you have come to the end of the road in your current job, and it is time for a change.

If you don’t want to work anymore, consider the job position. Find a job with more flexible hours or find a new job that aligns with your new passions and core values.

Take Frequent Breaks

If you are overworked and overwhelmed, taking time out for a break is okay. The right work life balance is important for maintaining your motivation. Frequent breaks help us recharge. So, don’t be afraid to take 30 minutes out of your day here and there to enjoy a meal or some physical activity to help avoid burnout.

Time for a Career Switch

If you lack motivation in your current career, it may be time to look elsewhere and explore other career options. Consider your skills and experience and see how your qualifications can transfer to a new job.

  • Start a Small Business: Maybe it’s time for you to branch out and start your own small business. Find something you are passionate about, and this will motivate and inspire you to succeed. As a business owner, you make your own hours and see the results of your hard work.
  • Make Extra Money: In the meantime, as you search for your dream job, there are ways you can make extra money on the side. There are plenty of options like Uber, DoorDash, and more. You could also consider affiliate marketing programs for some passive income as you search for a new job. However, this can take some time to take off.
  • Look for Job Openings: If you are unhappy with your current job because you only make minimum wage and see no opportunity for wage growth, then start looking for job openings in the labor market near you. Find something you can visualize yourself doing long term while also being able to balance your personal life with your career.

How to Stay Motivated

Once you figure out the answer to why you don’t want to work anymore, you can start exploring how to motivate yourself to do better and work harder.

Adopt a Growth Mindset

People with a growth mindset believe that even when they struggle with their skills, their abilities aren’t set in stone or limited. With hard work, those skills can begin improving over time. It is this kind of mindset one needs to work harder and become a more successful person.

Also see our 10 Secrets of a Millionaire Mindset to learn how to expand your vision and generate new ideas.

Understand Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

If you are doing something that is personally rewarding to you, this is considered intrinsic motivation. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is when someone does something not because they enjoy it but because there will be a reward or they are trying to avoid punishment.

People are motivated to do things for different reasons, and the main difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation is the source of the motivation. Working hard because you enjoy doing so is intrinsic motivation, while working hard just to earn a bonus is extrinsic motivation.

Setting Goals That Are Realistic

Consider what you want to achieve and then set realistic goals. An example of goal setting for a successful person may be having a vision for the future. Keep in mind that your most effective goals will be time-sensitive, so breaking a specific goal down into smaller goals or smaller tasks can keep you motivated as you work hard toward the big picture.

Practice Positive Thinking

Hate your current job? Even if you are unhappy, you need to practice positive thinking. Start thinking about your next job. Have you heard of the Great Resignation?

Also known as the Big Quit and the Great Reshuffle, the Great Resignation is a current economic trend where employees voluntarily resign from their current job. It is a mass exit from the workforce, making worker shortages more apparent. It is an upended relationship between the labor market and workers.

Burnout is one of the biggest reasons for this, alongside people reconsidering their career path and personal life. This kind of shift in perspective motivated people to quit their jobs and look elsewhere for fulfillment.

Some involved in the Great Resignation found the motivation to walk away from a job they no longer love to find better options offering better pay, an improved work life balance, and more flexibility and options for growth. However, to succeed, you need to practice positive thinking, tell yourself that you made the right decision, and have the motivation to succeed elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

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. We believe in you!

Photo of author

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10 thoughts on “How to Motivate Yourself to Work Hard”

  1. I have been battling with procrastination for quite a long time now and I really needed to get to work.
    Thanks for the article.

    Reply
  2. I LOVED this – especially the part about “write one sentence and then give yourself permission to take a break.”

    I love mini habits, but I haven’t been able to convince myself “You just have to write 50 words” because I actually have to write 4,000 words – it’s my job! But saying “I can write a paragraph and then take a break” actually makes it work as a mini habit. I love it!

    Reply
  3. This was helpful. It made me feel like I can win over procrastination. I can do all the things that I am capable of. But..

    … despite all this, the unfortunate thing is that I still will not start working on the paper that I need to finish before tomorrow morning. 🙁

    Reply
  4. Charley,

    your “I believe in you” ending the article motivated more than the entire article did.

    Thank you !

    Much love
    (gonna start that essay due for 7 hours from now… wouh…. Bouh… 🙁 )

    Reply
  5. A well researched article. In the end there are 2 types of tactics: Those who try to make you feel like doing the task, and those who just make you do the task. I say: Don’t wait for motivation.

    Reply
  6. Dear Charley, your article helped a lot. I just feel like such a loser right now because I don’t feel like doing anything or accomplishing anything. Thanks for the helpful words.

    Reply
  7. I am an extremely procrastinative person, and I have been struggling to make myself do things instead of procrastinating things all the time.
    And I think this blog post is an awesome one. I have found dozens of similar posts on the web, but this convinces me most.
    Thanks! I have already started working..!!

    Reply

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