When you’re burned out, in the 2pm slump, or not in the mood to “produce,” keep this in mind:
- It’s OK to not be productive all the time. Humans were likely designed for a 15-hour work week. Go a little easier on yourself.
- Know that you will probably not go easy on yourself. Prepare for the negativity. Don’t give regret any space to spring up. How?
- Keep a list of brainless tasks you can turn to in these moments. Keep them vague enough to apply to different environments, and low-effort enough to do accomplish easily.
My list includes things that are fun, useful to others, or simulate control over your space (which helps when chaos is your energy drain).
It doesn’t really matter which you choose. It’s the feeling of acting that deters the regret.
A few examples from mine:
- Throw things away. There’s no better feeling. This can applied anywhere and is especially useful in the home.
- Do laundry. It never ends, but it’s also never been easier.
- Scan. This also never ends. Do you have piles of found photos and legal documents that were never digitized? I have mountains. If it’s not backed up offsite, you’re one flood or fire away from your own personal Library of Alexandria moment. Have a small pile nearby, ready to process at any time. Your family will thank you.
- Exercise. This takes a bit more energy of course. But if you’re feeling completely drained from a day of creative work, nothing beats 20 push-ups for lifting your spirits.
- Sleep. If you can get away with it, because you probably need more.
- Dust, organize, or tidy up your immediate area. You have no idea how bad it looks to someone who isn’t sitting there 8 hours a day.
- Play the guitar. I always have a new riff I’m learning that’s way above my pay grade. Whenever I have five minutes between meetings or drafts of copy, I try to nail that riff one more time. It usually doesn’t work but it’s worth the effort for the rare victories.
I’d love to see what’s on your list, so feel free to reply with what you consider brainless tasks.