How I learned to stop worrying and love the workaday life
January 28, 2014 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Any tricks, hacks, tips to get yourself out of bed and to work each day?

Like thousands of others on the planet, I hate to go to work in the morning. Unlike thousands of others, my job is not horrible. Yet, I am finding it really, really hard to motivate myself each and every morning to get up and go into work. It's like my entire work ethic has been smashed to pieces. Whereas I used to pride myself on being the first person in (albeit I had a different job and no kids) and strove to succeed, I can barely manage to get out of bed, take a shower and get on the train. I know my feelings stem, in part, from the daily grind. After being a stay at home parent for over 8 years and just doing part-time work, I'm now a single parent in a fulltime job which means that I need to be totally organized each and every day (which does not come easily to me), e.g., lunches all need to be made, bags packed, laundry done, kitchen clean each night in order to get out the door in the morning. I'm not in a position at the moment to look for another job and I really don't hate this job; it's simply just getting there every day and starting work that is the problem. I don't think it would be different with a different job. I have to plead with myself each morning just to get motivated to start the process of going to work.
Have you ever had a similar problem? What did you do? Any suggestions appreciated.
posted by notcomputersavvy06 to Work & Money (24 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
Get enough sleep. If you don't feel like you can get up and get going when the alarm goes off in the morning, go to bed a half hour earlier each night until you can. Have a consistent bedtime and rising time, even on the weekends.

IME, being able to get up in the morning is a lot easier when you like your life, but getting the sleep you need is critical, either way.
posted by BrashTech at 8:05 AM on January 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

The only thing that helps me with getting things straightened out as far as making lunches, finishing laundry, etc.—which is also difficult for me—is reminding myself of how much easier it is the next day when I've done what I'm supposed to do. I feel happier when I have my shit together. If I didn't manage to get lunches done or I have 200 loads of laundry waiting for me instead of just the one, I am really hard on myself. It doesn't make it easier or more fun, but it does help me get things done because I know I'll be glad later. Just do it for a couple of days as best you can and you might realize that it really helps your state of mind for the rest of the day.

I realize this is probably not huge news to most people but for the naturally disorganized or prone to procrastination, it can be a motivator.

And good luck! I'm sorry that you're doing it as a single parent right now. Sometimes I talk myself into going to work because it's a respite from housework :)
posted by theredpen at 8:07 AM on January 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Odd idea. Could you get a whiteboard with a checklist on for what needs to be done each morning? I sometimes find when I'm demotivated that the difference between "I need to do stuff. Oh, but which stuff should I do first? Urgh. No time. End up doing no stuff" is a lot easier when it's "I need to do A then B then C."
posted by Wysawyg at 8:08 AM on January 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

Although it's true that the majority of people work, there are an awful lot of people who don't - at least in that same-place-every-day, five-days-a-week way. It is easy to fall into the default working life without really considering whether you're suited to it. You could think about freelancing, self-employment or other ways of making money that are more flexible and might make you feel less ground down.
posted by cincinnatus c at 8:14 AM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Absolutely agree with BrashTech! Do you get enough sleep OP?

When did this start, could it be seasonal? Maybe you're low on D3? How about your other vitamins (B12 / iron make a big difference in energy levels)?

Could you enlist your kids to help prepare food or help with other household chores?
Could you hire a cleaner to come in once a week/every two weeks to help out a bit?

Do you have something nice to look forward to in the morning? Like a coffee/ an iced coffee / tea / morning paper/ emails? Could you try to carve out some time in the morning to do that fun thing?

Put your clothes out the night before, pack your bag etc. so there is not so much work to do in the morning.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:21 AM on January 28, 2014

Seconding looking into depression. You may not have it, but if you think there's any chance, it's absolutely worth looking into.

There may also be a seasonal element. I have a much harder time starting my day in the winter, when it's still dark out, and the cruddy weather's no help. If you think it's the darkness, look into getting a sunrise alarm clock.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:23 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: After being a stay at home parent for over 8 years and just doing part-time work, I'm now a single parent in a fulltime job

So in other words, you have undergone massive life changes. Your body and mind take time to adjust and it's not surprising you're feeling tired and drained. How much time are you able to set aside time just for you to take care of yourself, when you're not being a mother, employee, home manager etc? Schedule it in like you schedule everything else that's important. What relaxes you totally, or makes you feel happy? Can you make sure you do this at least once a week? Or come up with strategies for clearing some room in the midst of all your obligations that's about prioritising your emotional and physical well-being? Getting enough sleep is definitely important, but something that you can enjoyably engage with, rather than just switching off.

On a more day-to-day level, can you think of one carrot that would entice you each morning at each step? So, a really fluffy pair of slippers beside your bed to step into when you get up, a really gorgeous-smelling shower gel you look forward to using, a book you love ready to read on the train, a great coffee from a place nearby work to bring in with you to start the day...those kinds of things. Be nice to yourself and talk to yourself like you would a friend you love. Not "oh get up out of bed you lazy witch what's wrong with you!" but rather "I know it sucks hon and you'd rather be in bed, but let's just take this ten minutes at a time and you'll get there".
posted by billiebee at 8:27 AM on January 28, 2014 [23 favorites]

I occasionally have this problem. I have had this problem since I was 13 and my dad would knock on my door to wake me at 4 a.m. to go feed my horse, because he was feeding his horse at this ridiculous hour and my parents thought it was fair that I also get up that early. Every morning I would wake up and say to myself "I hate getting up this early. I hate it." I was miserable.

One day I realized I would not live forever and that life is, in fact, extremely short when compared to all the books in the world and all the sunrises and sunsets and ice cream. There just is not enough time.

So instead of saying "I hate getting up this early!" I decided I would instead say things like "I love ice cream!"

I realize this makes no sense but saying something positive or being grateful for something you appreciate actually does help. I was sure this was a bunch of bogus until I tried it.

Unfortunately, I always wind around to saying "I love sleeping in!" ;) You can't win them all...
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:29 AM on January 28, 2014 [14 favorites]

Best answer: It's going to be systems and processes that make this easier for you. Because single parenting is HARD!

When you get home, everyone puts the clothes in the laundry and the kids hit the showers and change into jammies.

You get dinner going. Don't make this hard. A quesadilla and salad is dinner. You can buy the salad pre-made. Have enough for leftovers for your lunch. Before sitting down to eat, put your lunch in a bag in the fridge. Write your name on it with a Sharpie you keep in the silverware drawer..

Once showers are over, put the laundry in. Kids pick out outfits for following day, and you do the same. It's even easier if your kids have uniforms. No choices, no hassles.

Wipe down the kitchen. Don't go nuts! Use paper plates if you have to, but make it as easy as possible.

As for lunches, can your kids buy lunch at school? If not, do they like Lunchables? If not, can they make their own lunches? If not, can you alternate PBJ with Turkey Sandwiches? Then throw an apple, a Gogurt and a juice box in there. Done.

Hell, on Sunday, prepare the bags with the stuff that won't get stale, Gogurt, juice box, apple. Then the sandwich can go in the night before. Done.

Take time for yourself. The kids go in their room at eight. They don't have to sleep, but they can't come out.

Wind down. Read, paint your toenails, fold a load. If it makes it easy, take your shower before bed. Front-load as much as possible so that you can be out the door with as little fuss, muss and bother in the morning.

As for breakfast, would a cereal bar and yogurt work? How about a muffin and milk? Whatever you can throw together, even better if they can get breakfast at school.

Don't think you're a horrible person if throwing money at the problem would make it easier for you. Or using convenience foods would make it easier. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

It is a grind, but you like your job, so that's not the problem, it's the unrelenting hassle of living, and once you make your peace with THAT, the rest is a cinch!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:31 AM on January 28, 2014 [25 favorites]

On a more day-to-day level, can you think of one carrot that would entice you each morning at each step?

This, too. For me, it is an extremely yummy breakfast - something that cooks fast, though, since I prefer to linger over the eating rather than the cooking.

You might also try leafing through Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:32 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Three simple and stupid things:

1 -- Bed is for sleep (and sex). Nothing else. I found that when I stopped reading/watching TV in bed, my sleep got a lot better.

2 -- Leave your alarm out of reach. If you have to get out of bed to stop that goddamn beeping, then you're already out of bed.

3 -- Make your bed. Every morning, as soon as you crawl out and turn off that goddamn alarm, turn right around and make your bed. There. You are now a functioning adult human being who has taken steps to improve your environment. You have accomplished something already. Now do what's next.
posted by Etrigan at 8:35 AM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

If I get to work early enough, I have time to get myself a breakfast I actually enjoy and maybe even eat it before I have to go to my desk. If I am only a little early, I can grab something okay and eat it at my desk. If I am almost late, I can't get anything to eat for about an hour or so. Knowing this helps me to leave a little early when I am not carpooling.

Maybe breakfast is not your reward, but if you can think of anything like this that you can look forward to and even keep your mind off how miserable it is to wake up early, it could help.
posted by soelo at 8:38 AM on January 28, 2014

Best answer: I struggle with this too, and I have to use the "I get to stop for coffee" carrot to get myself out the door on most days. But the other thing is, I recognized that I feel better about myself when I do get to work on time and get even a little bit of work done. I also sometimes try to think of work as just another thing I have to do that day for a defined period of time. So, on those really rough mornings, I say to myself, "hey it's just a place I have to be at for 8 hours, no bigs" and think about how much better my day will go overall if I can just get it off to a good start.

It's not perfect, and if you might be depressed then I probably am too, but it works most of the time.
posted by cabingirl at 8:48 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I gather at least one of your kids is 8+? That's old enough to start helping a bit. So you might think about what daily chores could be outsourced to your kids. That might free up a little time in the evening or morning.

Another idea if you can swing it would be to bring in a maid once a week to do the major cleanup stuff.

It sounds like your life (like probably all single parents and most two-parent families) is a simple rush from work to home to chores - to kids - to not enough sleep - to back to work. Carving out some "you" time, even if its just 30 minutes at night because the kids made their own lunch and put out their own clothes for the next day, may go a long way towards making getting up for the next day easier.
posted by COD at 8:49 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

This isn't a systemic solution, but it's a little hack that has really helped me when I found myself inexplicably getting in to the office later and later (after years of being early). I have fostered and encouraged in myself thinking about my morning shower as an indulgence that I really look forward to. Once I'm showered, I automatically snap into my morning routine. I may not get in as early as I once did, but I'm certainly getting in earlier than I did for a while there.
posted by janey47 at 9:36 AM on January 28, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone who responded; I appreciate all the suggestions. Yes -- I'm aware of the importance of sleep. I try my best. I do front load as much as possible. Showers, bags packed, lunches made and clothes laid out are all done the night before (though, even that adds to my feeling of being on the hamster wheel since it seems like all I do at night is get ready for the next day). I like the idea of the whiteboard with a to-do list -- that will definitely help and I plan on putting one up in my room today. I also like the idea of a "treat" in the morning whether it be nice slippers, good coffee, or a leisurely breakfast.

I know my malaise is caused in large part by "the hassle of living" as so aptly put by Ruthless Bunny. I recognize that this is a transient period and it will not last forever as kids get older and activities subside. I will try to take some time for myself. If there are any other suggestions for making the hassle of living slightly easier in the mornings, I'd relish hearing them.
posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 9:38 AM on January 28, 2014

What do you do for lunch at work? Do you eat at your desk? Maybe packing yourself a really fabulous lunch and making sure you get away from your work would help. If at all possible, set aside that 30 minutes or an hour for you and you alone. Period. Maybe knowing you have some personal time at work will help motivate you to get out the door and get there.

The weather isn't great now but when it is nicer out, maybe take half your lunch for eating and then get out and take a short walk. Or just sit in the sun. Find a quiet spot if you can and just sit still. Or read your favorite author. Or knit. Or whatever you like doing.

It sounds like you need mental rest as much as physical rest. Good luck.
posted by Beti at 9:49 AM on January 28, 2014

Large glass of water waiting on the bedside table. Immediately after you wake up, sit up and chug the whole thing. You'll feel much better and ready to get up and face the day.
posted by saul wright at 10:37 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You are me, only your situation is much more stressful. I'm not a single parent, but my husband leaves so early for work that I operate as single parent in the morning. Ideas:

-- I agree about seeing someone for possible depression/anxiety. I do.

- Unless they are infants, get your kids to do as much as possible by themselves. Don't be nice about it ("Put your snowpants on/make your lunch/brush your teeth NOW or I will [insert punitive thing you will do]!".

- Get someone to actually call you to wake you up. There are cheap services for this.

- Leave a wet washcloth near your bed at night. In the morning, put it on your face.

- Set your alarm to play something that makes you laugh or smile every time.

- If you can afford it, possibly get a Keurig? It just feels really awesome to press a button and have your coffee all ready in less than 30 seconds.

- Figure out the tasks that coincide with you thinking 'damn, I don't want to go to work' and either do them at night, change how you do them, do them faster, some such thing. See, for me, I start ruminating miserably when waiting for coffee to brew...

- Worry about what would happen if you were fired for too much absenteeism.

And remember, practically no one in the entire freaking world likes getting themselves up, getting kids ready, and making themselves go to work. Not your boss, not your colleagues, not the folks on the bus. We are all in this together. If you're reasonably ok with your job, then once you finally get there and start doing whatever it is you have to do, it feels better.
posted by kitcat at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think others have gotten at this already, but you may find it helpful to gear your routine around a (healthy) way of rewarding yourself for getting rolling. For me, a total non-morning person working every weekday in a location that believes in ungodly early hours (e.g. 7 am meetings! 5 am work arrival times! Ye Gods!), the trick has been loading my morning routine with things I like, e.g. --

1. Soft classical music as my alarm

2. First thing after turning off the alarm is a couple of minutes of dog pets/tummy rubbing

3. Flipping on TV news. Most AMs, a half hour or so of running or yoga.

4. Building in enough time to pick up my favorite kind of coffee drink.

5. An addictive audio book I start listening to on the way out the door.

6. Saving reading the paper for the bus ride.

You get the idea. What would you look forward to? Build that in. Next thing you know, you'll be at work.
posted by bearwife at 11:24 AM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do everything you can the night before. Clean everything before you go to bed, and make lunches. That way you don't have a pile of work to dread first thing.

For a while I used a cheap timer plug on my coffee machine so that coffee would start bubbling away at my get-up time and fill the house with a delicious smell. Unfortunately it still wasn't tempting enough for me, but it might work for you.

If you can find some little ritual you really look forward to on the way to work or first thing at work, that can help. For example, I started looking forward to my (bike) commute more when I started listening to audiobooks and taking a longer route that involved cycling through parkland beside a lake.
posted by lollusc at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like making several (or all) of the week's lunches on the weekend. I feel like it leaves more of the week for enjoyable downtime. Depending on how you pack it, do something like five small containers of crackers on a shelf, five fruit or veg containers in the fridge, and five protein containers in the fridge or out depending. Then it's a twenty second job of empty the lunch box out and refilling it. (You could even lay out five outfits, on top of each other, or hanging in order in your closet.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:51 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been a single parent for years, worked full time and went to was hard and now I wish I'd of waited on school...or at least enjoyed the kids more.
It's not easy I am not working in a job I enjoy, I envy those people, I never pursued a degree in my field after all, now I'm probably too old.
What I do in the morning is get up early, get ready, get some coffee, sit at my computer for about 20 minutes and read the NY Times. I'm not from NY but it's my dream to live there and it makes me feel better reading some of the feature articles. I don't know but why but I'm in my own world for a bit and it helps me to believe I may get the courage to move.
I also started taking B-12 and I think working out (even walking) for a bit everyday helps.
Good luck and it will work out, have your kids help out during the week it teaches them responsibility and will leave the weekend free for all of you to enjoy each other without worrying about chores (don't forget to get out for some me time once and awhile).
good luck to you
posted by irish01 at 6:32 PM on January 28, 2014

Laminated "chore" lists for the kids?

Works great for 1 of my 3. He runs down in the morning to see what he has to do:

1. Pee
2. Dress
3. Breakfast
4. Brush teeth
5. Hair
6. Boots/coat/gloves/backpack, etc.
7. Free time!!!

Amazing how it inspires him. The other 2 ignore the list, but at least it gets 1 of them going!
posted by agog at 11:34 PM on January 29, 2014

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