by Caryl Teh

NB: note that these are not tips to avoid procrastination. Rather, we’re talking about when you are already stuck in a procrastination rut – how to break that cycle and get out of it.

No matter how well you eat, sleep and exercise, you’re bound to have off-days. It’s not humanly possible to be on your A-game every single day. That fatigued, mentally fuzzy inability to concentrate is called “brain fog”. And on those days, it’s very easy to procrastinate the day away. But your day doesn’t necessarily have to be wasted. Here are 7 ways to make the most of your “off” days.

A. Put yourself in the best mental position 

1. Change your scenery – get some fresh air

Studies have found that getting some vitamin D does wonders for your mental focus! This is a great way to reboot your system. 

2. Change the channel – get moving

An increased flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to your brain can help you sharpen up in just a few minutes! 

3. Take a 20-minute coffee nap

What is a coffee nap? It’s when you drink a whole cup of coffee then immediately take a nap. Make sure to wake up within 20 minutes, so you don’t enter the deeper stages of sleep and you’re awake when the caffeine is just starting to hit your brain. 

4. A journey of a thousand miles…

Instead of telling yourself to workout for an hour, say you’ll go for 10 minutes. That is your first step. After that, you naturally want to stay in the status quo. 

B. Tasks that you might still be able to do even on off days

5. Get organised

If you’re putting off work because you feel like there’s too much to do in too little time, then sorting them in an Eisenhower matrix might help you get some direction about where to start. It’s a way of clearly sorting your to-dos based on (1) importance, ie. which tasks to focus on, and (2) urgency, ie. which tasks to tackle first.

6. Administrative tasks – turn on cruise control

Brain fogs are a surprisingly good time to complete administrative tasks. Those are tasks that are mandatory and easy to do, but are not enticing because they might take some time to complete. (And will give you stress if you delay them right until the deadline!) 

For example, clearing that seemingly constant queue of emails, filing your taxes for the year, organising your work folders, or creating that proposal presentation template. This lets you start easy, and once you’ve completed your task, you’ll feel a little more motivated to keep your productivity ball rolling! (But please, save the important emails for when you are thinking clearer.)

7. Creative tasks – go with the flow

Research has shown that you’re at your most creative when your circadian rhythm is off. But before we jump into that, what is your circadian rhythm? It’s your physiological (roughly) 24-hour cycle which determines when you’re at your sharpest. I.e. if you’re a morning or night person. When your circadian rhythm is off, you are more susceptible to distractions.

Why are you most creative when your circadian rhythm is off? Because that’s when your mind is open to thinking “outside the box” – new insights, more information, or alternative interpretations or solutions. So on your off days, you might work better on projects that involve the right side of your brain because your ideas will be able to flow with less filters or limitations. For example coding, journaling, designing clothes, photography, or video editing,