7 *productive* things to do when brain-dead

A “constant creative peak” is an oxymoron.

There are times when I feel deflated. There are times I feel drained, as in “I can breathe, but everything else is optional”. A nap, or better yet, time off my desk is wonderful but not always possible. More often than not I have to find productive uses for these dreary, tired hours. Enter “7 productive things to do when brain-dead”.

This is not a typical “how to stay productive when you’re exhausted” post. I’m not going to tell you to tweak your nutrition, stretch, and get a nap. It’s solid advice, but sometimes you can’t jump-start creativity or muster enough optimism for a reasonably significant task. Sometimes you’re physically OK, but mentally or emotionally depleted. A stretch or an energy drink will only take you so far. 
This post is about stuff to do when you’re creatively brain-dead.

Let’s dive in, shall we?


1. Do free trainings from the experts you have long planned to do, but never found the time.

You probably have a list of those. Maybe these emails reside in your “Education” folder. Maybe you have a directory with pdfs buried somewhere under “Biz Dev” label. Maybe you have 674 unplayed episodes in your podcast app. Pick one and dive into it.

Bonus points if you jot down a list of next steps the training has prompted you to take. Double-bonus points for walking or running with a good podcast in your earphones.

 2. Check the financials

I’m not talking “Financial Planning for next quarter”. I’m talking “look at your numbers, check if your need to update some paid invoices or expenses, see if there any red flags”. Maybe look at your monthly Freshbooks report.

 3. Tweak headlines to planned content updates. Without commitment to the end result.

Headlines: an Art or a Science? The collective business community hasn’t reached a verdict yet. Jokes aside, your first attempt at a headline rarely produces your best one. If you’re like me, you probably have a cache of content pieces in various stages of completion. This is the time to play with headlines, with no commitment to nail down the final version.The last piece is important. If you approach this task with the intention to make that headline final already, the best you can hope for is an hour of resentful spitting through gritted teeth. The more likely scenario - you won’t even start.

If, however, you browse your content folder and you play  - that’s a fun, undemanding activity. Try going completely ridiculous. Say, instead of “7 things to do when brain-dead” write “7 things zombies eat when trying to lose weight”.

 4. Browse industry-specific Facebook groups guilt-free

Step one: set a timer. Facebook is a rabbit hole - you open it and the next thing you know it’s 8:30PM and where did the day go? Step two: browse your favorite groups, click Like on some posts, see what’s going on. If you have enough energy for thoughtful responses - wonderful. Way to show up and get your name out there. If not, that's OK too. Write down frequent questions  people are asking. Note most common challenges. It could turn into marketing gold later on.

 5. Look at stats

It doesn’t require any mental effort or creative juice. Just take notice which content is most popular, where people hang out, who opens your emails. Like many points on this list, this is about absorbing information rather than making decisions or creating something new. 

6. Install new versions of my software

Ideal for a zombie-state. This is a kind of mindless work that has to be done. No point wasting good productive hours on it, especially if the new version requires rebooting your computer. 

7. Read about the newest apps and tools in my industry

You know you need to do that from time to time to keep your business up to date. If you’re a nutrition coach, check out “Best nutrition tracking apps”. If you’re a graphic designer, google “Best iPad apps for pro designers”. If you’re a boat mechanic, search for “Best tools for marine mechanics of 2016”.
Just make sure to set a timer, because it’s easy to get lost in exploration.


A parting thought:

Using “brain-dead” times goes beyond "I really can’t afford to lose these 12 hours". It’s especially true when you’re emotionally invested in your work. It goes deeper than that: I know that if I lose a day to mindlessly surfing the net, I'm going to pay dearly with sharp guilt and a nose-dive in self-esteem.
This, in turn, will bring about debilitating paralysis of will, and require a huge amount of energy to lift myself back up to operational level. That means losing even more hours, and chipping away at my sanity.
I really cannot afford it on the deep psychological level.

So here you go - I’ve described the Coping Mechanisms I developed to use my brain-dead times and prevent meltdowns. By the way? They deserve a capital letter because they are so effective.

I bet I'm not the only one who has days feeling completely and utterly incapable. A quick post about creating your own list of "stuff to do when brain-dead" is coming out in a couple days.

Stay tuned!