No one admits it, but we all have what I call “stupid days” or off days at the office. I’m referring to those times when you come into work and no matter how many cups of coffee you ingest, you just can’t get your brain to fire on all cylinders. Sometimes the culprit is a bad cold and too much Dayquil, sometimes personal drama is eating away at your mental resolve, and sometimes there’s absolutely no discernible reason. But no matter what the cause, before you know it, you’re sitting at your desk looking at LOLCats and Taylor Swift memes, rather tackling that grand project due at the end of the quarter.
Unfortunately, panicking about your lack of motivation and/or brain power only tends to make your off days worse. So next time you find yourself confronted with one, fall back onto this list of relatively easy, but still productive, tasks until your marbles roll back into place. Best of all, these to-do items are things you probably should have done a long time ago, and may even spark a reminder or a little creativity reserve you didn’t know you had.
Task #1: Clean Up Your Email
Seriously, no one needs to have 3,000 emails sitting in their inbox. Scroll back to the beginning of your inbox and go through your messages one by one. File the ones you want to keep in the appropriate folders, answer any that require follow up, and ditch the rest. You’ll be amazed at how streamlined you feel once your inbox is trimmed down to a manageable size.
Task #2: Re-Organize Your Desk
During our peak busy and productive hours, most of us tend to let our desks descend into complete and utter chaos. We all know that we should take the time to wipe away the Cheetos dust, throw away the stack of Christmas cards from 2009, and re-organize to be more efficient … but there’s never time. Well, you’ve got the time now. An off day is a great opportunity to clear out the old and make room for the new. You may even find that missing file you misplaced six months ago.
Task #3: File, file and file
Even in these days of DocuSign and desktop scanners, every office still has a few pieces of important paper floating around. These could include memos from HR, invoices from vendors, or anything that involves a corporate-level signature. These are probably sitting in a pile somewhere on your desk, so if you’re having an off day, use this as your opportunity to put them in whatever file they belong before they get lost and you find yourself in real trouble.
Task #5: Tackle the Prep Work
If you do have a big project looming on the horizon, this can be a great time to tackle the prep work. Start pulling the files or articles you’ll need to research, read up on background material and processes, make a list of contacts you’ll have to speak with and start setting up appointments, and order any materials you may need. These may seem like small steps, but they can go a long way in making sure you’re still moving forward on your next project.
Task #5: Administrate Like It’s Your Job
Everyone has administrative work tasks they put off, like ordering business cards for an upcoming industry event or following up with potential clients about new sales opportunity. Off days are the perfect time to take care of all those little nagging administrative details, like making phone calls, sending emails, and replacing what’s old, obsolete, or broken.
I’ve learned that trying to fight against the tide of an off day only makes it worse. If you can accept you’re not mentally 100% and use the time instead to focus on the long-forgotten tasks listed above, you’ll be in a calmer, better, more organized place when you come back to work the next day.
For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at myFootpath.
About the Author: Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages.