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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

How to Work Hard When You Really Just Don't Care Anymore

Mentally, you’re two feet out the door. Or three. Heck, you may even be all the way down the block by now. The bottom line is this: You’re checked out at your job and you just don’t care anymore.

But you need to turn around and walk right back through that door, because even though you may not want to be there, you’re still committed to it.

There are several reasons you shouldn’t let your indifference decrease the quality of your work—for starters, you don’t want to burn bridges and you don’t want to let your team down. But, most importantly, you don’t want to ruin the awesome reputation you’ve built up.

This lackadaisical attitude you’ve adopted does not accurately characterize who you are. You’re a hard worker and a good teammate. And even if you don’t care about the projects you’re doing, you should still knock them out of the park while you’re there. Why? Because that’s who you are.

But how, you ask, do I motivate myself to work hard when I just don’t give a damn? Here’s how.

1. Change Your Mindset

Listen, at the end of the day, whether you care about it or not, this is still your job. You signed an offer letter and agreed to fulfill certain responsibilities. While you may be looking for something new, you have no idea how long that process will take. So for now, this is it. You don’t get to go into two-weeks’-notice mode before you give your two weeks’ notice.

Make a concerted effort to stop thinking of this position as the bane of your existence, and start thinking of it as yet another opportunity to grow and learn. That chance to further your professional development should become your motivation to care. Examples of skills you could actively work on picking up during this period are: learning the ins and outs of commonly used tools such as Excel and PowerPoint, determining the specific techniques that best fuel your productivity, and honing your patience for executing tasks you don’t love (since they will undoubtedly surface at every job to some extent).

As Leandra Medine, the founder of, says on her podcast “Monocycle,” “We have to reframe our methods of thinking. Because everything has the potential to be good. Everything has the potential to be seen as a learning experience and a tool of motivation to make us better.”

This doesn’t mean you have to settle and remain disengaged and unhappy forever. But until you know your next steps, respect yourself and your co-workers by putting your all into your day (most days).

2. Set Up Your Own Personal Reward System

Your employer may or may not have some sort of rewards system already in place, but when it comes to keeping you interested and engaged, it doesn’t seem to be working. Therefore, take it into your own hands by setting up a personal incentive program.

As tasks you dread pile up on your plate, schedule rewards to give yourself upon completion. They can be small, such as a grabbing a coffee with your co-worker, or larger and more significant, such as taking a personal day.

Choose goals you need to reach—finishing a project, staying on top of your inbox, actively participating in a team meeting—and then pick appropriate rewards to go with them. (Appropriate meaning: You shouldn’t give yourself a day off every time you answer five emails.) Be mindful of your budget, though—not every prize has to cost money.

3. Plan Your Next Steps

There’s a chance that you’re just going through a rough patch at work. Maybe the honeymoon phase is over, or maybe your company itself is transitioning and things are rocky. But, that doesn’t mean you have to leave.

You may be able to speak with your boss and others at the company to gain a better perspective on your specific position, opportunity for growth and change, and how you can help out in other areas of the company that may be of interest to you. So don’t sit at your desk, procrastinating every day: Start setting up these meetings.

Or, maybe you’re sure this definitely is not just a tough couple of months, and it really is time to move on. That’s totally fine. But as you start to look for new positions, keep an eye out on what skills they want. And then use your remaining time left to attain those. For example, maybe you’re lacking public speaking experience, so sign up to lead meetings—not to help your boss out (we’ve established, you’re over her)—but to throw another bullet on your resume.

Either way, you need to start taking action to get yourself out of this slump you’ve been in. You’ll probably find that once you feel more in control of what you’re doing and can see an end in sight (no matter what that end will be), it may be easier to cross things off your to-do list.

After all—which of the following makes you feel better? I only have to do this for X more months or I have to do this for…ever.

That’s what I thought.

You can’t control everything in your life (unfortunately). But you can control how you handle it. As JZ Bingham, VP of Acquisitions and Editor-in-Chief at Balcony 7 Media and Publishing explains in a LinkedIn article, “There's nothing wrong with mentally checking out; it happens. But how you deal with it says a lot about you.”

How are you going to deal with it?

Photo of bored worker courtesy of Shutterstock.