How to Be Productive When You’d Really Rather Not

I have a confession.

I am very bad at sleeping. I’ve worked on fixing this for years, but still haven’t mastered it. Years of architecture school (and Netflix) ruined my sleep pattern, so even though I’ve learned to love my commute, it’s not always easy getting started in the mornings.

Regardless of whether you’re wiped out, sick, or just not passionate about your daily grind anymore (which is something we will definitely discuss later), there will be days when it’s hard to approach life and work with the energy and engagement to get things done. And that’s ok!

We are only human, we can’t expect ourselves to function at 100% energy 100% of the time. With that said, here are a few strategies I use to keep things going on those low-energy days.

Slow Down

If you’re not focused, you’re bound to make a mistake. When you’re feeling especially disconnected, take extra time to re-read your emails, reports, drawings (whatever you produce), and ask a coworker/supervisor to review work with you. A second set of eyes is always helpful, especially if yours are half-closed.

I work in a fast-paced office, so don’t give me that “nobody-got-time-for-that” face – a few minutes will not kill your bottom line and can save you hours of headaches later.

Break the Day Up

Productive When You'd Rather Not
This is one of my general rules, not just for slow days. I’ve built highlights into my daily routine which keep my mood up and structures my day into manageable segments.

After 1 hour: Coffee Walk.
I’m in the office just before 8 AM, earlier than most others in my office and this beautiful golden hour of near silence flies by. I use this time to catch up on any leftovers from the previous day, and when I hear the noise level rising around me, that’s my cue to take a break.

Commit to Lunch:
We’re working in a culture where nearly 70 percent of usย just eat at our desks and “power through” the day. When you do that, you’re not focused on enjoying your food. You’re also not giving your mind a necessary break.

The 3:00 PM* Wall:
I like to take a short walk in the afternoons, even if it’s just a lap around the office. It’s like a 10-minute mobile meditation session, where I can plan the rest of my day, get excited for my evening, and run down my list of targets for the day. (*not exclusive to office jobs, otherwise known as the 6th-hour slump).

Reward Yourself

My guilty pleasure is an almond milk chai (sometimes with a shot of espresso) from Gregory’s Coffee, but it’s a bit much for a daily drink. Instead, I save this treat for when I make good progress even if I’m not energized.

Get Yourself an Anthem

…or a whole playlist of anthems! I’m a serious chair dancer, and the struggle to sit still while my songs are playing is enough to keep me awake. There are some songs I will always give in to, and a little bouncing brightens my mood and keeps me up!
How do you push yourself on slow days, and what are you listening to? Show me your playlists!

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