How to Get Through a Day of Work When You’re Dreading It

All of us have to make a living somehow. The jobs we hold may have different responsibilities and paychecks, different locations and schedules, but there’s something I think we all have in common: There are days you don’t want to do it.

Am I right?

I would predict that even people who love their jobs have days where they really don’t feel like doing it. Then when you add something like chronic depression into the mix, going to work every day can be a huge challenge. Whichever group you’re in, here are five suggestions for getting through a day of work when you really don’t feel like it.

1.Take it one day at a time

When your job isn’t your favorite thing to do, it’s easy to let your negative thoughts about it get bigger and scarier. First you’ve been thinking about how you don’t enjoy your workday, and soon, you’re thinking about how every decision you’ve ever made in life has been a mistake, and how you’ll never feel joy again.

It’s easy to let our thoughts grow out of proportion. When you’re thinking about how you’re dreading a day at work, instead of thinking about everything in your life at the same time, try just focusing on one day. You just have to get through the next 24 hours. You just have to survive the next shift. And then it will be over, and you can do some things you really do enjoy! So instead of letting your dread grow and take over, just think about getting through one day.

2. Think about something you enjoy about your job, and focus on that

I had someone make this suggestion to me once, and it’s probably been the most useful piece of advice I’ve heard on getting through a hard work day. There probably aren’t many people who enjoy every aspect of their jobs, but I bet you can always find something about being there that you can look forward to.

While I was working as a junior high and high school teacher, I didn’t particularly like aspects of the job like disciplining students or grading. I did enjoy the creativity of the job, however, as well as when students reacted positively to an activity I had planned (which was more likely to happen when we played games or watched YouTube videos or listened to songs). It made a big difference in the school day to focus on those moments: on enjoying the creative process, and on enjoying students’ excitement when it happened.

Once, when I was talking to someone else about how she was dreading work, I learned she worked at the jewelry country of a department store. When I asked her for one thing she enjoyed about the job, she said she liked it when she was able to make a customer happy, and she liked it when she saw couples connect with each other. Try this exercise for yourself: What’s something—even something little—you enjoy about your work? Try focusing on it next time you find you’re dragging your feet getting there.

3. Don’t watch the clock: Be present

Somehow, for me, the clock always moves faster when I’m not counting down the minutes.

When I’m dreading being at work, I’m much more likely to keep an eye on my watch and on how long I have left. But that makes time move even slower! Do yourself a favor and try to stop watching the minutes pass. Instead, try “being present.” Instead of focusing on the time, focus on the tasks you’re doing. Focus on doing your job to the best of your abilities—something that might include chatting with others a little more and pulling out your phone a little less. As you try to be present in your work, the shift really will end faster.

4. Think of small rewards and praise to add to your work day

What kinds of small things could you use to treat yourself during a work day?

I believe in little rewards. For me, this is usually things like some Peanut M&M’s from the vending machine at lunch and a few minutes of YouTube videos towards the end of the day. Rewards don’t all need to be tangible, though. Rewarding myself during a work day also means telling myself “good job!” after I check an item off of my to-do list, patting myself on the back when I get something accomplished, and, when I make a mistake, telling myself it’s okay and I’m going to keep trying.

It’s often easy for us to be hard on ourselves—it matters that we give ourselves kindness and understanding, too. If you work with a subordinate and only give them harsh feedback about every mistake they make while ignoring everything they do right, you’re going to have a burnt-out subordinate pretty quickly. It’s the same thing when you talk to yourself: You need to tell yourself “good job” for what you get done right, not just get down on yourself for what you do wrong. Speak kindly to yourself.

5. Go home and enjoy

When you do finally get through the work day you’ve been dreading, go home and don’t think about work. Do things you enjoy. Spend time with your family and friends. Do a little of a hobby you enjoy. I find I enjoy cooking and getting in a workout. Just focus on things other than work, and focus on enjoying them.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of less-than-perfect things about life. This might include your job. Even if you find yourself dreading your work day, there are some steps you can take to make things more bearable. Try focusing on one day at a time (rather than worrying about your entire future), and on the little aspects of the job that you do enjoy. Try being present and ignoring the clock, and incorporating in small rewards and praise during the day. And when you’re done for the day, go home, spend some time not thinking about work and focusing on things you enjoy.

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