It’s a Monday afternoon, in the heat of what seemed to be activities and tasks all laid out for the week, I lost motivation to work. It’s a weird feeling; I wasn’t angry or depressed or anything, I just did not feel like doing anything.
As I stared at my computer wondering how I was going to waste the remaining hours of my day, I realized that there were things I had to do that didn’t feel like work or don’t require what I consider “a significant functioning of my brain.” These tasks would allow me to ride out my mood and not make me feel like I blew through my Monday, which you know is one of the busiest days of the week.
As professionals or students, it can be difficult and draining to stay in a concentrated work mood from sunrise to sunset. Aside from being exhausting, it’s almost impossible. What happens is that we end the day beating ourselves up for the hours we spent doing nothing.
It turns out that I had a pretty productive time when I felt like doing nothing. I tackled small tasks that were not ‘work’ and got some form of mind-rest while doing them. These tasks can be done with a movie playing in the background or some nice music in your ears. More importantly, you don’t have to commit any energy into thinking or figuring anything out, which is what your brain really needs a break from.
Below are some things I did when I felt like not doing anything and tasks that can help you maximize your day when your brain needs a break.
1) Organize Files And Folders On Your Computer
If you’re like me, I save a lot of things and have multiple versions of files on my computer. Sometimes it’s from revisions but other times it’s forgetting I had them in the first place and downloading multiple times. Either way, what ends up happening is that my desktop looks like a hot mess – can you relate? The worst part is that you never really find time to organize things because you keep rationalizing that there are more important things to do with your time. A messy workspace can even be the reason for not feeling like doing anything.
You can use this time and go through file names and delete duplicates, or create folders and organize the files in ways that you will understand and access them. The good thing about this task is you can literarily do it entirely with your fingers on the keyboard, and just lay back on a chair and relax. It takes very little brain activity. If you also have files that might actually need to do an in-depth review to determine where they belong, just create a folder and name it “Needs Review” or something that helps you identify it and put those files there. You can get to it later. This task can help you do something nice for yourself, while your brain is working its way back to motivation. At the minimum, you will have a saner workspace, when you finish.
2) Delete Things You No Longer Need
This is broader than the first tasks and may or may not be filed. Let’s call it “Electronic House Cleaning”. You can do this on your computers, phones, or any electronic gadget you work with. The things that need to go include:
a) Those apps you haven’t opened in months
b) Multiple “exact same” pictures on your phones
c) Notes that you have addressed and no longer need
d) Games you no longer fancy
e) Messages and chat histories that are no longer relevant
The list actually goes on. In summary, anything that clogs your space that you haven’t had time to sort through, you can get rid of at this time. Again the good thing about this is you can stretch out on a chair and just tap your fingers and get this done. It takes very minimal brain activity. Similarly, if you stumble into anything that will need a lot more from you to make a decision, it is totally fine to leave that for later.
3) Sort Through And Clear Out Emails
Give me a nod if your mailbox looks like a madhouse. I promise you’re not the only one. Depending on where you work or what you do, you can receive 20 or more emails daily, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with you. Let’s not add those things we subscribe to that feel like a bad idea every time we open our emails. Let’s not also forget the spam/junk box and the nagging fear that selecting and deleting all may inadvertently lead to the loss of something important. So, we just let them pile and pile – I know!
Well, this is the time to get that cleaned out. Again you can do this entirely with your hands on the keyboard, scanning through the headings/senders and deleting or appropriately filing. Notice I didn’t say reply the emails; if you’re like me, I write emails that are exhausting to craft. However, if it’s simple responses, feel free to reply those emails at this time too.
4) Clear Out Your Desk (Cleaning It Too Is Not a Bad Idea)
I just casually slid in the cleaning. For those that hyperventilate at the thought of cleaning anything, take deep breaths and relax, this is not that serious. If you have any type of office table (home/work) it’s always a paper magnet. I can’t entirely explain how it goes from all clear to no clear space in hours. It’s easy to move things to the corner when you want to get work done, but after a while, the table starts looking like a madhouse.
Well, this is a good time to pick up those papers and either discard or organize them. I have found that you pretty much only need to scheme through the titles, or first few sentences to determine if they belong in the trash or a folder. As I have mentioned a few times, it’s okay to keep papers that may require further review to make this distinction.
If you’re a coffee/tea drinker like myself, there is a high chance you will find coffee spills and cup marks on your table, or any other small mess. Take a wet paper towel, and wipe down – that’s it! I told you there was no need to hyperventilate.
This might feel out of place if it’s not something you typically do. But it’s one of those habits, I encourage. Blogging also has a similar effect on me. By journaling, you get to pour out your thoughts and feelings through writing and give your mind a chance to breathe. You may find words to express the feelings that are currently affecting you and may be able to resolve them and get back to work. You may also use this as a getaway; talk about something entirely separate from work or your real life. I’m embarrassed to admit what my getaway topics are, but who knows I may share on a brave day. But I hope you get the idea; journaling helps you relax, clear your head, and probably figure out a way to get back to work.
6) Listen To Voice Messages
I’m one of those people that you’re better off sending me a text message than actually leaving me a voice message. Am I the only one? I find listening to voice messages an entirely weird experience. So, this makes me pile them up. If anyone that has left me a voice message reads this – I apologize and I’m hiding my face (text me next time).
But seriously, some important messages get lost like this. So, if you’re like me and have almost 30 unheard voice messages, this is a great time to have them play and, delete the ones from telemarketers or call your aunt back. You may also find a juicy opportunity hiding there too.
We all have days and times when we are not pumped to face the world or do anything seriously productive. There are better ways to ride out those hours and I hope you try some or all of these, the next time you feel that way. I do not know everything, and I learn a lot from your comments too. So, leave one sharing your thoughts on this post and other tips you might have as a student or young professional.