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3 Tips to Make It Happen When You're Not Motivated at Work

By Daniel B. Kline – Aug 16, 2019 at 5:15AM

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No matter how much you love your job, sometimes you just don't want to be there.

Some days you wake up and your get-up-and-go has got up and went. You may love your job, but the tasks you have lined up may be ones you've been putting off, or maybe you just need a break.

If you can take a personal day to recharge, do that and come back ready to go. If you can't, then you have to figure out how to bring the best possible you to your work, even if you don't feel motivated to do that.

It's possible, however, to put out your best effort even when you don't want to (or would really rather be at the beach or on your couch). This isn't a case of faking it until you make it -- you already have what's needed inside you, so there's nothing to fake. It's about getting into the right mindset.

A woman yawns at her desk at work.

Some days you'll be less motivated than others. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Create a deadline

If you have a project you've been putting off that's going to take a few hours (or even all day), but it isn't due quite yet, you can motivate yourself with a self-made deadline. Just tell your boss that you'll have whatever the work product is on his or her desk by the end of the day.

Doing that forces you to focus on something you otherwise might have nibbled at the edges of. It also removes any question as to how you're going to spend at least a portion of your day.

2. Offer yourself a reward

While I love my job, as a work-from-home freelancer, I only get paid if I produce work. There are days -- though they're rare -- where I need to work but don't want to (usually due to a combination of good weather and proximity to a beach).

On those days, I make a deal with myself. Maybe if I finish two stories before noon, I can splurge on that new drink at the coffee place. Or if I hit my daily target, I can order that gizmo online that I've had my eye on.

The key is that you have to hold yourself to the standard you set. If you don't hit the goal, you don't get the reward.

3. Gamify the job

Back when I was in high school, I used to work for my family business on Saturdays. My work would often be tedious and repetitive, like stuffing envelopes or counting out parts into boxes.

To make the time pass, I used to challenge myself to complete a certain amount of work in a certain amount of time. I also had to do a good job, of course, but making something boring into a kind of game made the time go faster.

Not every job lends itself to this tactic, but many do. If, for example, you've been delaying going through the stack of business cards you picked up at a recent trade show, or you have to file a stack of reports, a little gamification might help.

You can do it

Even when you have a dream job like mine, you're going to have days when you'd rather be doing something else. It's your choice whether you let your lack of motivation on one day drag down your performance, or you work to power through. If you dig deep and think about the bigger picture, you should be able to bring your A-game -- even on days when your motivation is hovering around the C-minus range.

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