How To Be Productive When You’re Really Not Feeling It

Ever have one of those weeks where you get in a fug and you’re not sure which way to turn? Maybe you’re coming out of a busy period or you’ve been quiet for weeks and you sit down to make your plan for the week and…nothing. You can’t for the life of you think what’s going to grow and serve your business and end up spending the week stewing and worrying rather than being productive.

Can you tell that I might be having one of those weeks too?!

Hands holding tea and a pastry

The first thing to do is not to panic. This is not, I repeat is NOT, how things are going to be forever and ever. You’ve not lost it, your brain is just saying ‘hey, you know what, I need a bit of a break from all this overhtinking’. These periods happen to everyone, whether you’re running a business or working a 9-5, sometimes you will feel directionless and a little bit useless.

So you need to accept that today you’re not going to create your masterpiece or come up with the idea that will skyrocket your business. And that’s ok. Just take that weight of your shoulders this week and put it aside ready for when you’re fighting fit. But now what? You can’t just take the week off, and brain fug is the sort of thing you need to work through anyway. So here are the things that I do when I’m not feeling at my peak creatively, and I know they will help you too.

Tips to refocus when you're feeling burnt out, small things to do to be productive and the importance of focusing on what your best at

Make a list and start ticking off

I’m guessing that you’re not sleeping brilliantly at the moment, right? I’ve still not quite worked out whether this is a symptom or a cause of brain fug. But the second you start to relax in bed your brain decides to have a little spring clean and gets out ALL of your thoughts – your worries, your ideas, your nagging little tasks, the things you forgot to do that day.

And once that pile gets too big it’s too hard to focus on doing anything else. So list them all out, acknowledge them so your brain knows it can stop dusting them off every night. And while you’re feeling creatively challenged start ticking them off – maybe you’ve been meaning to sort out the categories on your site or you need to organise your email list (these are both on my list at the moment). All these more menial business tasks are great things to tick off when you’re in a fug.

As for the ideas and worries – any that don’t get ticked off in the task conquering will be in the actions below.

Autumnal window with Virginia Creeper

What’s everyone else doing?

You aren’t the only one who’s ever struggled with worrying about sales/engagement/web traffic/direction/other (delete as appropriate). For some reason we seem to think we need to come up with our own unique solution to our problems, when other people have gone through all that for you. Why put yourself through weeks of torture when you can research and emulate someone else?

To clarify, this does not mean copying (I never mean that you should copy someone else’s work). It means looking at how others have solved these problems rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. If you’re suffering a dip in engagement, look at how people with high engagement behave, or even ask them what they do to maintain this level of engagement.

Tea on a pine crate with a blanket

Focus on what you’re best at

This is the most important point. So often the things that get us down about our businesses are the things that we don’t understand or don’t know how to do (see below). We fixate on these and devote so much time and energy to them that we stop doing the things we’re actually good at. Which is mental, when you think about it.

The best thing you can do to serve your business is to do what you’re brilliant at.

I’ll just leave that there.

This does two things. One, it injects absolutely amazing things into your business – whether that’s creating content, making new products, taking beautiful photos. And two, it builds your confidence back up. You’re not getting disheartened by all those other things, you’re being uplifted and inspired by stuff that you are the BOMB at. It will help you remember why you’re so awesome and why you believed you could do this in the first place.

Bowl of dried flowers on a cloth

Get support

And for everything else, there’s someone else. If one of the things giving you brain fug as the prospect of doing your accounting, call in a favour or hire someone to do it. If you’re spending three weeks worrying about the accounting rather than making new products and selling them, then the opportunity cost there is huge. Get it off your plate and focus on what you’re best at (I’ll keep saying it 😉).

While you’re in this period, it’s also good to get support from a friendly ear. I know that talking things through with my coach is so so helpful for me to make sense of the things that have been spinning around my mind at 2am and just letting them to someone who understands is so cathartic. If you’re worried that your brain fug is here to stay, or you are feeling really directionless, then looking into coaching might be a positive step for you.

So how are you feeling now? I don’t know about you but I am suddenly feeling a lot more uplifted! Have you been suffering from brain fug lately?

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Tips to refocus when you're feeling burnt out, small things to do to be productive and the importance of focusing on what your best at

  • Oh, the brain fug!

  • Lists for DAYS, that definitely helps me as I know I feel the most unproductive when I’m overwhelmed with too much to do. It’s like I just go into shutdown mode when there’s too much on my plate. Getting help from others is definitely something I’m getting to grips with too but it helps so much when you know you don’t have to rely on just yourself!

    Emma | Paper Planes and Caramel Waffles