6 Ways To Stay Productive At Work When Your Brain’s Gone M.I.A

Simple yet effective tips.

I can honestly, hand-on-heart say that I love my job (hey, Carmen! It’s me, Mad, sucking up again). It’s varied, no two days are exactly the same, I do stuff that I’m genuinely interested in, and I work with a great group of people (who are as kind and talented as they are lel).

That doesn’t mean that my brain doesn’t like to pack its bags and send itself on mini vacations throughout the day, though. Oh, no. Nor does it mean that I don’t occasionally find myself staring through my computer as if in a trance. Before I know what’s happening, my fingers are in a frenzy hitting up a million different tabs on various topics that I have momentarily convinced myself I am deeply passionate about. Don’t even get me started on Spotify. It’s my gateway drug. 

I’ve lived in my frenetic brain long enough (almost 27 years) to know that it sometimes need a firm but gentle reminder to stay on task. At current, it has the tendency to feel like various scraps of paper floating around in the breeze. The below steps have acted as a stapler of sorts, piecing them all together so that I can do my job properly. Maybe they can help you too—I guess there’s only one way to find out… 

Exercise Before Work

I almost cried when my alarm went off for the gym this morning. I wasn’t confident my heavy, weary limbs would be able to make it out the door, let alone intermittently sprint on a treadmill and lift weights for sixty whole minutes while someone barked at me to not stop. I felt like I was essentially calling up Satan and begging him to drag me down to Hell. But, and I’m sure you’ve heard smug people sprout this before, I have never regretted exercising of a morning. Quite the contrary. I practically float to work on a magic carpet weaved together with endorphins, am a much cheerier person to be around (just ask my housemate/colleagues), and have a newfound zest for my job after doing so.

Walks at lunch are also my jam. There’s nothing like a bit of Vitamin D mixed with space and fresh air to allow you to plan out your afternoon. 

Write ‘To Do’ Lists

If digital lists work for you, then go forth and download the app Wunderlist—it will change your life. As an old soul (or maybe someone with a general unwillingness to keep up with technological advancements), I prefer to do all my list making the good old fashioned way—a.k.a with a paper and pen. You really feel like a hero when you cross off a little box on your list, your boss will most likely spy it over your shoulder and mentally congratulate themselves for hiring such an organised, genius of an employee, and you will actually get shit done.

I never thought I’d be the type of person who’d enthusiastic extoll the joys of a ‘to do’ list, but I guess a big part of growing up is becoming the person you used to sort of hate. 

Have A Break

Have a kit kat! Jokes. I just can’t hear that phrase without my mind dreaming up a chocolate ad from the 60s. What can I say? I’m a slave to consumerism. See! My brain has already diverted from the task at hand, and, quite frankly, I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t just open up a tab to rewatch the original ad on YouTube. Bookmark it for later. Or don’t.

ANYWAY! On with this guide… Take a break, get outside, fill your lungs with air and give your skin a chance to slurp up that Vitamin D. Personally, I do all my best breaking in nature. Even as I type this, I’m fresh from a 20-minute pause in the park that neighbours our office, and ready to carpe the diem right out of this story.

Set Yourself #Goals

Something that I have found works for wonders for me in the productivity department is setting goals. In this context, I’m talking about professional ones, but I also lean on it to achieve my personal ones, too. I make big goals, and then I break them down into smaller, very realistic daily goals that help me stay on track. Keeping yourself accountable is key to productivity. Also, make sure to keep them visible—I wrote mine out with a permanent marker on a giant A3 sheet of paper and blue-tac’d them to my wall. I’m sure there’s a more chic way to remind yourself of your #goals, but whatever works for you.

And Deadlines!

Back on that accountability tip—set yourself strict deadlines, even if you don’t actually have them. If you can estimate how long it takes to get a particular task done and set yourself a deadline (i.e. finishing a story by 3pm, or editing a video by 5pm), you’ll be more likely to stay on track. Trust me. 

Chase Down That Elusive Work/Life Balance

Being an adult can be a punish sometimes. Maintaining your social calendar, being a gun employee and fulfilling your ‘me time’ quota can be exhausting in and of itself. Buuuut, I have personally found that if I manage to strike a balance between the above three verticals, I am my most productive self at work.

Bad moods and negative thought patterns take up a lot of mental energy, which is incredibly distracting. On the contrary, knowing that I am going to meet a friend for a nice dinner after work boosts my mood, which in turn boosts my productivity. Similarly, if I’ve had a chill night at home doing nothing but face masking and listening to podcasts, I will be much more content, and therefore way more likely to approach work with a fresh, open mind. 

Words, madw0n