creativity or brain power, there will be times when you’ll find your motivation to work waning – however much you enjoy it in general.
Something like this happens: You’re sitting at your desk, staring at a blank screen or sheet of paper, and wishing you were somewhere else entirely. You find your hand hovering on the mouse or keyboard, to check your email just one more time, or to watch a few clips on You Tube, or to just surf the net…
Are you just feeling lazy and putting off getting going with your work, or are you risking burnout and in need of a break? Here’s how to find out:
How Long Have You Been Working?
If it’s 9am and you’ve just sat down at your desk, you’re probably just in a lazy mood. Some of us are “morning people” who work well first thing, and wind down slowly during the day. Others find it hard to get going and need a bit of time working on something easy to “warm up”. Either way, the answer to that lazy feeling is usually to just get on with something.
However, if it’s 9am, you’ve sat down at your desk and you want to thump your head against it because you’ve been working for ten days straight – it’s probably time to take a break. You do need days off, and if you’re self-employed, a student, or someone who works a traditional job and carries out personal or freelance projects on the side… it can be hard to be disciplined enough to take a full day off. But you need to do so to recharge and avoid burnout.
Alternatively, it might be 4pm and you’ve been working since 8am in the morning, with just a brief break to grab a sandwich at lunch-time. No wonder you feel you can’t face doing another five minutes of work; you’ve been focusing for hours and your brain needs a rest! Stop for the day – or at least take a full hour off to do something which is purely chill-out: get a long bath, watch a DVD or surf the net with no productive intentions whatsoever!
How Are You Feeling?
When you get the “I don’t want to work” feeling, you need to delve deeper into your emotions. Are you just feeling a bit apathetic? This could be because you’ve got to work through a boring bit of a project, because you had a late night, or any number of reasons. The way to deal with this is to just get on with it – you’re feeling lazy, but you can push past that.
Sometimes though, that “I don’t want to work” feeling goes much deeper. Are you stressed, exhausted, or on the verge of tears? If you feel like you want to scream or hit something, that’s a sign that you’re getting overwhelmed. Don’t try to force yourself to work – you need to take a break.
You might also want to consider your ability to focus. If you’ve been working for a while and feel that “I want to stop”, consider whether you’re working at a reasonable pace (for you). If you’ve been struggling all afternoon to maintain concentration, it’s better to take a proper break and really recharge than to keep guiltily procrastinating over your work.
The Ten Minute Test
If you’re still not sure whether you’re just feeling a bit lazy or whether you’re about to have a full-blown meltdown, try the ten minute test. Close your email, Twitter, messenger, and anything else you have running that isn’t related to the task at hand. Make a note of the time, or set a timer. Work solidly for ten minutes, doing the best you can.
After the ten minutes are up, assess how you feel. If you’ve got stuck into the project and you’re keen to carry on – great! You’ve overcome a temporary bout of laziness. If, on the other hand, those ten minutes of work have felt like pulling teeth, and you feel you can’t face spending a single minute more working, it’s definitely time to have a rest.
How About You?
When you’re working on something that involves creativity or a fair amount of thinking, how do you know when you need to take a break? What warning signs do you get that tell you you’re becoming over-stressed or worn out? And how do you push through a temporary laziness barrier to carry on working towards your goals?
|Written on 12/15/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university.||Photo Credit: aphasiafilms|