How to make yourself work even when you don’t feel like it

Think about that project that you’ve been avoiding lately because you just don’t feel like it. Or that phone call to a client you need to make to discuss a project that’s gone wrong. How about that gym session you were promising to do to start getting your body into shape?

Can you imagine how much better your life would get if you could just somehow make yourself do these things when it made sense to do them? Not to mention how much happier you would be.

The good news is that there are some simple approaches you can adopt to stop putting things off and become a more productive person that gets things done. It just requires a shift in mindset and a few simple rules and you’ll start to see your life change for the better.

Number one reason for not doing work: “I just don’t feel like it.”

This is perhaps the most common reason for not getting things done when we’re meant to.

You’ve probably felt this recently just after waking up and thinking about starting the day with some exercise. Yet it just doesn’t feel good to imagine yourself exercising while you’re snuggled tightly under the covers and in a dreamlike state.

In his fantastic book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman points out that much of the time when we’re avoiding doing work the reason is that we don’t feel like it. There’s nothing physically stopping us from doing the tasks we want to do.

But as Burkeman asks, “Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it?”

Think about this for a moment. Somewhere along the way we’ve bought into the idea that we need to “feel like” doing something to do it well. Isn’t this why everyone always admonishes you to “follow your passion” or “chase your joy”?

This must be one of the most counterproductive illusions held by so many people in modern day society. But it doesn’t make any sense. Think of the most prolific artists, writers and innovators who continue to produce so much output. Do you think they always “feel like” doing work?

Of course not. Even the best of us have large stretches of time feeling uninspired and unproductive. But these people invariably rely on work routines that force them to put in a certain number of hours per day, no matter how they are feeling (or in many cases, how hungover or tired they are).

Burkeman reminds us of renowned artist Chuck Close’s insight that “inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Or as the musician Kevin Eubanks says:

“Inspiration is one thing and you can’t control it, but hard work is what keeps the ship moving. Good luck means, work hard. Keep up the good work.”

It’s worth remembering that next time there’s work to get done and you don’t feel like doing it, you don’t need to feel like it. Just get started. There’s nothing stopping you.

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