Productivity For Creatives: What to do on your Zombie Brain days to stay on track with your business goals

By June 8, 2018 September 6th, 2019 Productivity

I envy those analytical people who enjoy traditional productivity techniques and even thrive in them - like my super-organized dad whose desk is always tidy and who always arrive everywhere on time.

But me... I'm often messy, ad-hoc, and spontaneous - which hardly ever works with a jam packed calendar and a 500 row long task list.

It took me lot of self-discovery and half a year as my own boss to realize how to become more productive without jeopardizing my boho, rebel creative self. And if you are like me, you'll like these important lessons too.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING YOUR "ENERGY CYCLE"

My first lesson came after way too much tears and headache. I realized that I will always have energetic, "gimme the whole world and I eat it for breakfast" days, and awful, "just cover me with a thousand layer of blankets and leave me alone" type of days. This is totally normal and nothing new under the sky, ey?

The problem is, many of us - and me too - try to be productive on those nasty days too. Have you ever done that?

I bet that you were very unhappy at the end of the day because despite all of your efforts nothing important got done (other than eating a whole box of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey while watching Big Bang Theory and then crying over your mile-long list of undone tasks). And everything felt very difficult, even smiling during a meeting or calling a client.

Everyone has an "energy cycle" with highly charged days, and less energetic ones. You can push them away, instead, acknowledge and embrace them. Also, start taking notice of the signs that tell you when you run out of energy. 

For example I know, that I'm most productive between 10am and 2pm. But on my least energetic days, I tend to grab my phone and kill an hour or two with braindead Pinterest scrolling even in during these productive hours... On these days, I don't feel creative. Even my most exciting project can't motivate me to grab my Wacom and start drawing. On these days I make my lunch break super long and binge-watch Stephen Colbert videos on Youtube while eating frozen pizza from last day. Ok, maybe this is too dramatic. Not all the bad days are sooo depressive, but what's common in them is that I can't perform in my usual, creative way.

HOW TO USE THESE UNPRODUCTIVE DAYS FOR YOUR ADVANTAGE?

There's a silver lining in every bad situation - and hopefully you're the type of person who thinks the same way. These unproductive days are amazing for those boring, repetitive tasks (I call them "zombie simple tasks") that you hate to do when you are in the middle of your creative flow.

Here's how I use my worst productive days to still proceed towards my goals:

Step #1: Start taking notice of the "Bad Day Signs".

Start recording the signs leading up to your unproductive and super productive days in your planner or Google calendar.

The reason why it's really important to know when a bad day is just on your doorsteps, is that you can re-organize your tasks accordingly. Maybe even a few days ahead.

In my case, I usually have a 5-7-day long extra energetic interval each month followed by zombie days (I guess I use up all my energy during those awesome days). So I can plan ahead a week and schedule less meetings and less design related tasks for that period.

Some examples of signs predicting that you are heading to an unproductive phase:

  • You lose interest in your favorite projects

  • You feel more moody, more tired than usual

  • You don’t want to go out and meet people or call others

  • You can’t focus on too complicated tasks

And for my fellow fempreneurs: as women, we also have to take into account our biology. Our period also affect our energy level and it's often in close relation with our low energy level days.

Step #2: Create a list of "zombie simple tasks".

These are the tasks, that make you sleepy by just typing them down because they are so robotic, repetitive and boring, but you know that they are still important. You would never want to work on these tasks when you are full of creative energy, but neglecting them would hurt your business. For example:

  • Organizing your website: updating all the plugins, cleaning up your WordPress media folder, checking if every links work properly, etc.
  • Organizing your files on your computer or in Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive
  • Creating your project task lists in Asana - this is best when your projects are repetitive and contains mostly similar steps.
  • Going through your editorial calendar and plan blog post tasks in your planner or in Asana
  • Updating your contacts in your CRM system (I really love Dubsado for CRM)
  • Collecting data about your website traffic and social media analytics - but do not analyze them, that task is for the creative days
  • Create lists of the Instagram hashtags that you want to use in the upcoming weeks

These are just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure you’ll find more zombie simple tasks that add to your business and don’t require an overwhelming amount of creative energy.If you need some guidance to find the right tasks, check out the freebie I created for this post. It includes 100 Zombie Simple Tasks that you can easily do on you feel energy drained.

Step #3: Leave flexibility in your calendar.

Some people like to fill up their calendar 120%, meeting after meeting, task after task. I found that this is not the proper way of planning your days. The problem is, that when you reach a bad day and your calendar is full of creative projects or meetings where you have to show your best self, you'll feel obligated to following your calendar even if that schedule is not the best for your energy level.

Step #1 will help you better plan your week by leaving gaps for the zombie simple tasks that you can complete even in your PJs with no makeup and your cat curling up in your lap. That's a much better way of spending those bad days than procrastinating an important client call or trying to record a 5-minutes long video for 4 hours…

do you want to just leave behind these zombie days?

You know, sometimes you just want to leave these days behind. Or you don't have a choice, you must dig out your energetic self because of an interview, deadline or exam. In the next productivity post, I'm going to hare with you my favorite activities to gain back momentum.

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