We all go through those gloomy, low-energy work days every once in a while. Whether you slept late the night before or the weather is getting you down, a low-energy day can be a complete drag on your productivity. Beyond feeling like the hours are passing by at a crawl, you might find yourself accomplishing little of importance. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to revitalize and refresh your energy reserves and have a productive day. Your mood and future self will thank you for it.
Gamify your tasks
If you’re finding it impossible to concentrate on your work due to tiredness or external distractions, a great way to refocus is to make a game out of your tasks. Making a game out of your work allows you to challenge yourself and drive to finish either important or mundane tasks.
Start by making a list of tasks you want to accomplish by the end of the day. Depending on the length and complexity of each task, assign varying point rewards. Once you complete a task, you can check it off the list and add the corresponding points to your total. Finally, come up with a list of three reward levels: one that is easily achievable, one that is a little difficult, and one that is ambitious. At the end of the day, add up your points and see which reward level you hit, and reward yourself based on your effort and the amount you accomplished.
Just don’t cheat, and make sure you go through with the reward you earned. There’s no point to gamifying your work if you don’t reward yourself for your success (or if you do reward yourself anyway after missing your goal!).
Pair up with a co-worker
A great way to get back into a strong working groove is to pair up with a co-worker. It doesn’t have to be someone in your department, or even someone working on a similar project with you. As long as you can sit by that person and sense their progress and effort, you will both be driven to do more when you put in mutual effort. Working at your desk, in a cubicle, or away from others on a low-energy day can lead you to distracting and procrastinatory activities like browsing the web or scrolling through Twitter. Instead, go sit with a friend or even meet a new co-worker. Being around others that are working hard will give you the energy you need to get your day on track and stay productive.
Do a walking brainstorm
Sometimes you really need to get over the energy hump and get things done, but no matter how hard you try, you end up getting distracted and fail to make significant headway. In this case, a great way to get back in the groove is to literally get the blood pumping. Go for a 15 minute walk with the aim to brainstorm your way through some of the key issues you’re facing in a project. Bring a pen and notepad if you need to, or simply use your phone to record your ideas.
You’ll find that the act of walking stimulates creative thought processes. According to a research study of university students by the American Psychological Association, “those who walked instead of sitting or being pushed in a wheelchair consistently gave more creative responses on tests commonly used to measure creative thinking, such as thinking of alternate uses for common objects and coming up with original analogies to capture complex ideas.” A good walking brainstorm will boost the creative thinking you need to overcome challenges and roadblocks that you would otherwise struggle with at your workstation.
Change up the rules
If you simply can’t focus on your regular day-to-day tasks, take that as an opportunity to change up the rules and do things differently. Maybe you’ve been using a slow process that you know can be optimized but haven’t had the time to implement your new ideas. Or maybe your workflow for a regular task has gotten stale and repetitive. Or maybe you’ve ignored staying organized simply because of your busy workday. Take the time on a low-energy work day to change things up, refresh your work processes, add the things that will make you more productive on normal days, and remove the extra steps and unnecessary red tape that are preventing you from getting things done faster.
If you manage to create a more productive way to get something done, you’ve just provided a whole lot of value on a day you were otherwise feeling stuck.
Make your lunch break an exercise break
A surefire way to energize yourself on a dreary workday is to take an exercise break rather than a lunch break. If your building or employer has a gym, take advantage of it and go for a quick turn on the elliptical or lift some weights. If not, there might be a gym nearby with a low day rate or even a free one day trial you can take advantage of. If all else fails, do some pushups or active chores around the office. Once you’re done, freshen up, and when you get back to work you’ll find yourself a lot more energetic and ready to tackle the rest of the workday.
Remember that you don’t have to replace your lunch break, just split the time. If you do have to use your full break to exercise, that isn’t an excuse to starve all day. Instead, snack throughout the day and portion your food so you can eat every hour or two.
It’s possible to have a highly productive workday even when you’re entirely drained of energy. Whether by making a game out of your job, working around others, taking a thoughtful walk, optimizing your work processes, or exercising away the exhaustion, you can take positive steps to make sure that even the least energetic of days end in positive results. All it takes is recognizing that your mood impacts your work and taking the initiative to adapt.