Brush Away Those Cobwebs: 7 Ways to Handle "Off" Days

Brush Away Those Cobwebs: 7 Ways to Handle "Off" Days

Carolyn Purnell
Mar 10, 2015
(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

With the brutally cold weather and the ever-gray skies, I've been feeling "off" lately. Some days you just wake up foggy-headed, sluggish, and unable to get life going as quickly as you need to. On days like this, it can be really hard to be motivated, but here are some suggestions for toggling your switch back to "on."

1. Shock the system.

Sometimes all you need is a jolt to wake you up and get you going. I'd suggest taking a cold shower or having a really intense five-minute dance break (or, if you aren't as into the mini-dance parties as I am, do some jumping jacks or run in place). Get the blood flowing and add some movement to change up the pace of your day .

2. Try the Pomodoro method.

With the Pomodoro technique, you set a task, dedicate your full attention to that task for 25 minutes, and then take a 3-5 minute break when your time is up. After four cycles, you get a 15-minute break. This method can be helpful when you aren't feeling motivated, because 25 minutes is a manageable chunk of time to focus. It doesn't feel overwhelming or too strenuous, and it's a gentle way to force yourself into a work routine—even when you don't feel like working—and because it's so structured, it prevents all those "I'll just check my email…oh wait, I've lost 90 minutes to the internet" time sucks.

3. Clear your head with targeted activities during breaks.

Whether you're using the Pomodoro method or just working normally, try to have targeted ways to spend your breaks. Instead of staying in your seat and looking at the internet, try to dedicate your time to activities that will help you clear your head. Try a few yoga moves, some stretches, or meditation. Get up and walk around the room or talk to a colleague for a few minutes. In short, changing up your activities can make the break feel like a true break instead of a continuation of your usual routine, and it might put you in a better frame of mind when it's time to get back to work.

4. Step Outside.

This one is simple, but really important. If you can, even if the weather is miserable, being outside for a few minutes can help clear the cobwebs. Vitamin D, fresh air, and movement are important.

5. Make lists and prioritize.

If you're having trouble getting started, then take a few moments and make a list of everything you need to do. It will give your day more structure, and once it's on paper in front of you, it will seem more manageable, and you won't have to think about what to do next. (On my off days, I find that it's best just to move to autopilot with a checklist.) I have taken to using the Day Designer method of planning, where I have a full list of to-dos, but I prioritize the top three things that I need to do that day. Clear goals are helpful when you're not at your peak performance.

6. Approach the more "unthinking" tasks first.

At first blush, this may seem somewhat antithetical to the statement above, but I'm not suggesting that you indeterminately put off your more important tasks. But by giving yourself an hour at the start of the to day to deal with email, some simple spreadsheet tasks, or other basic to-dos, you can can get a clear sense of accomplishment, as well as valuable time for your head to clear.

7. Just jump in.

Sometimes you just have to force yourself to do things when your brain doesn't seem like it wants to cooperate. Muster every ounce of willpower, glue your butt to the chair, and make yourself jump right in. I'm all about self-love and the importance of being kind to oneself, so don't go overboard, but sometimes it's easier to get into the flow of things once you're past the initial hurdle.

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