How do you work when you don't want to work? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by John L. Miller, Ph.D, Software Engineer/Architect at Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Oracle for 25 years, on Quora:

Working when you don't want to is difficult. I have a variety of ways I try to motivate myself in such sadly too common circumstances:

  1. Sit at your desk and do nothing else. No web browsing, no messaging or emails, no phone. Work or nothing, period. Limited breaks to get up. Boredom is a surprisingly good motivator if you have the discipline (ironic given discipline should let you work) to let it appear.
  2. Minimize distractions. If you have meetings, set aside time daily or weekly that no meetings are allowed in. Make sure you force yourself to work during those times. Close down email put an 'out of office' notice up, turn off your phone - whatever you need to do to keep from being pulled out of the productive zone. While you're at it, avoid audio and visual distractions. Arrange your workspace so you can only see a wall or a fixed view, not looking across the office where everyone walks. Wear headphones with white noise, nature sounds, or some mindless music with no lyrics. For special cases earplugs can be very helpful.
  3. Have a way to mark progress. I write down a bunch of stuff to do for the day on a sticky note or a whiteboard I can see by glancing up. Every time I finish something, I cross it off. When I get depressed about making no progress, I look at the crossed-out lines and realize I'm doing SOMETHING.
  4. Find a high-pressure job. I do a lot better in a job where I'm picking the five things I won't work on, rather than having to choose between making my agenda or idling. High pressure motivates me to get more done more quickly. Love it!

If you can't work, and being productive is important to you, either revise your job or find a new one.

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Published on: Dec 6, 2016