Thursday 24 November 2011

Being Productive when Tired

There are different types of tiredness at work.  Like:
  • No sleep last night because of noisy neighbours/  baby crying/ didn’t get in till 3am (delete as appropriate) tiredness
  • Been in the office since 7am, now it’s 5pm and I’m running out of steam tiredness
  • Had a super productive day, got loads done, and now tailing off fast
  • Just got back from a business trip and I’m jet-lagged or just plain tired from several days intensive work
  • Got a cold/ headache/ hangover/other type of unwellness
  • Not got a good reason, just firing on much less than three cylinders and don’t seem to care …. tiredness
  • You probably know other types of tiredness at work.  It’s a universal problem. 
No matter how many books get bought on Time Management, it’s a simple fact of life that we get tired and work gets a lot more difficult.  So how can we be productive when dog-tired?

As Philip Pullman once said – “A bad day’s work is a lot better than no day’s work at all”.

So here are my ten tired, tried and tested ideas:
  1. Work on your To Do List – and prioritise it.  Make sure everything you need to do is written down and then decide what needs to be done next.  The act of sorting out what needs to be done, and in what order, is motivating in itself, and more often than not prompts thought and action on the task.
  2. Set your stop watch to 15 minutes and work on your Most Important Task.  Just 15 minutes, even if you work slowly.  Getting started on a task, even a little bit, moves things forward and will make the next 15 minutes easier to do.
  3. If you can, take a nap.  Even a short nap can make a huge difference in your productivity and might make the difference between a decent day’s work, or a totally wasted day. 
  4. Work on routine admin stuff, like expenses, filing, accounts or something that doesn’t take too much brain power.  I often that I can get quite engrossed in little tasks, and get quite a lot done despite initial tiredness.
  5. Track your time.  You are most likely to waste time by web surfing, reading the paper or generally wasting time when you are tired.  And most likely to lose track of time when you are tired.  We do it without thinking, or realising how much time has gone.  If you track your time then at least you get reminded where the time is going, and can use another technique to try and get back on track. 
  6. Learn something new.  Reading is productive, and a good way to learn about important but not urgent things.  So if you’ve been meaning to learn a new software package, or get up to date on industry trends, tired time might be perfect timing. 
  7. Give yourself a deadline.  Not having a deadline for tasks can be a huge problem – when everything is urgent, but nothing absolutely has to be done today.  Work ahead and figure out deadlines for mini-tasks and work in hour long chunks, tracking your productive time in each hour.
  8. Work with someone else.  Hold a meeting, a telecom or something that requires interaction with someone else.  It’s amazing how you perk up when reacting to someone else’s ideas and views.  Just be careful not to waste someone else’s time in the process of trying to rescue your own day.  I like holding meetings at the end of the day because it helps everyone keep going a bit longer, and the ideas are just as relevant.
  9. Work on something you love.  It’s always easier to work on something that naturally inspires you.  It may be better to get something done in an area that flows easily during tired time, and work on more difficult things when you are fresh.
  10. Remind yourself of your ultimate goals.  Not giving in to tiredness is difficult, and often the only way to do it is remind yourself why you do what you do, and why you love it.  It’s easier to motivate a tired brain when you know why it’s worthwhile. 
What are your top tips for working when tired?  I’d love to hear them.  And I promise not to disappear for such a long time again!