Getting work done when you’re tired

Photo of a woman feeling tired at work

I’m exhausted. I have been for several weeks due to circumstances outside my control. However, I’m pushing through my tiredness every day. Maybe you are having difficulty getting to sleep or are tired, too.

All of us have days when we feel unmotivated and out of sorts. You can’t go back to sleep when you have work, whether at work with others for a company or from home alone for yourself. Here are my tips to stay focused, dodge distractions, and how to avoid making mistakes.

Clarify your goals

A clear goal should always be in mind, but it’s imperative when you feel tired or unmotivated. First, make a list of what needs to be done today. Then, break down larger projects into smaller tasks. It can be easy to start doing unrelated tasks without a clear focus. This is how to make sure you spend your time meaningfully. Is your list long? Focus only on three things.

Avoid distractions

When you’re tired, this is even more important. Don’t check your email or Facebook, and don’t keep your mind on the task at hand. Concentration is hard when you’re not focused, and falling victim to distractions makes it even harder. The allure of checking Facebook and scrolling through your social feeds is always tempting. If your attention wanders, return to your current task as soon as possible.

Stay hydrated

Drinking water regularly when you’re tired can help you concentrate. While caffeine can temporarily boost energy, don’t overdose on it: you’ll crash soon after. A bottle of water on my desk makes it easy to remember to drink from it since it’s nearby. I limit coffee to one or two cups a day.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

Set a timer and work for 25 minutes, then step away from your desk for 5 minutes. This will help the time go by faster and keep you from being sedentary for hours. You can apply those 25 minutes repeatedly to one task until it’s done or spread your attention over one task per Pomodoro. Small progress will add up and feel less overwhelming.

Take a nap

If the feeling of exhaustion turns into a yawn fest, go ahead and take a short nap. A small 20-30 minute power nap can do wonders for your body. Just don’t sleep so long that your day is shot. Guided meditation using tools like Headspace can also help quiet your mind.

Keep it simple

If your most significant projects seem too much to deal with, do the easier tasks for you. This might be returning emails or working on bookkeeping. You might not tackle your most important items, but you will still be moving forward. After all, progress is essential, even if it’s not what you had planned for the day.

Throw in the towel

If you’ve reached peak exhaustion, giving yourself time off for the rest of the day might be good. Then, you can work later that evening or even on the weekend. This has been working well for me for the last few weeks. Just let clients know you are running behind and will get a promised item to them the next day. You don’t have to explain why.

Remember who’s boss

In my case, I’m my own boss. It’s not my clients who are responsible for what I do. I am. And if I need a day to regroup, reenergize, or reset, taking time off might be the best thing to do for the client’s project. It may spark your creativity or help you fix a coding issue to step away. For many years, I would push through no matter what so I wouldn’t disappoint anyone. But, unfortunately, it often leads to work that needs to be corrected.

As they always say, please put on your own mask first before you help someone else with theirs.

How do you deal with fatigue at work? Please share your tips in our Facebook Group.

RESOURCES: – Freelance Fatigue and How to Beat It

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Cami MacNamara

Cami MacNamara has 20+ years of experience running a small, profitable, one-person web design business, so she can walk her dog whenever she likes. #WorkingSoloWP / Twitter / Instagram