In search of the 10-minute psychic recharge
November 11, 2010 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I tend to hit a midday motivation wall. What can I do in ten minutes to recharge myself emotionally and physically, so I can get back to work?

I'm in the middle of an academic project that's mostly self-directed, very tedious, requires a lot of concentration, and is hedged about with a variety of emotional landmines. Even though I work on a pomodoro-style schedule with 5-minute breaks every half-hour, after ~3-4 hours of sustained work, I'll frequently hit a "wall" where I just feel so physically drained and spiritually empty that it becomes impossible to motivate myself to continue. Seriously-- it's like the id just reaches up and grabs me and says NO! NO MORE OF THIS!. Spooky feeling. At that point, I may leave, or I may just spend the next hour staring at the table, but I haven't ever succeeded in restarting the work.

I'm looking for little 10-15-minute exercises or activities I can do at this point to recharge, break me out of the paralysis, and get me through another four hours of productivity. I know exercise is the canonical suggestion for these situations, but I'm frequently not properly equipped or situated for a 20-minute jog or whatever. Shopping or web surfing provide reliable endorphin rushes, but are hard to contain and make for a really dismal transition back to work.

So: what else can I do, think, read or ingest in 10-15 minutes that's refreshing and motivating, but not too fun? Previouslies will be welcome too-- I feel as though this must have been asked a bunch of times before, but have succeeded only in finding this more morning-oriented thread.
posted by yersinia to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
eat a low calorie high protein lunch. Not kidding switching to this has changed my momentum for the whole day.
posted by sweetkid at 10:17 AM on November 11, 2010

I would just go outside and walk around for a while, even if (or especially if!) it's cold outside. It will give your body and mind a nice little jolt of energy.
posted by something something at 10:19 AM on November 11, 2010

Caffeine nap
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:29 AM on November 11, 2010

Things that help me:

(I'm about to do a few of these now, myself)

*Reach over and smack my Art Director on the arm
*Try to tip my ergonomic chair over
*Take a few photobooth pictures of my face looking really excited
*Watch Whitney Houston video (sorry about the pre-roll)
*Work on something that is not work (Photoshop something weird)
*Pretend it's Friday and I need to get this done FAST
*Drink two cups of coffee and crank some metal in the headphones
posted by functionequalsform at 10:36 AM on November 11, 2010

I get this too! My brain just gets tired of computer screens, so almost every day at 3, I go for a quick walk around the block with one of my coworkers. I think the combination of fresh air, occasionally sunshine, and some enjoyable non work conversation all unite to leave me feeling refreshed and happy.
posted by chatongriffes at 10:45 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I find that nothing helps me more than really putting it away for a while. Is taking a 30 minute break really going to make a real difference to your schedule if a 15 minute one doesn't cut it? Have a snack, crank some music while you go for a nice little walk outside. It's not aout tricks, it's really about taking a break.
posted by advicepig at 10:48 AM on November 11, 2010

I had similar problems when writing my PhD thesis. Focussing that hard on something you care about that much is draining in so many different ways!

Number one recharge activity for me: go for a walk. I'm not talking about serious exercise, just get up and wander around for ten minutes. If you can go outside that's best, but even just inside your building is better than nothing. Get your blood flowing again, go somewhere different, focus your eyes on something further away than the screen or paper, and think about something else for a few minutes. I like Greg Nog's idea of jumping around to some music for a few minutes too, it's a good way to burn off stress.

The other thing I found helped was stretches. I started doing them anyway to help my poor back and found that it was a great way of re-centring myself. One of my stretches was the yoga child's pose (you can google it) where I just get down into position, get stable, then relax into the stretch. It allowed me to release tension and focus on my breathing for a few minutes. I would think about how my muscles were working, which helped switch my brain off from what I was doing. Plus being down on the ground made it feel like a rest, heh. I was surprised at how much better my days went once I started doing this regularly.

One of the big issues though, is how to get back into work. It's really hard to get going again when you stop no matter what you stop to do. So I was always work out before hand exactly what I needed to do next, often writing it down or even starting just a little bit. It's much easier to come back and pick up a specific thing and start doing it without thinking than try to figure out where to go next (for me it was often looking something up, I'd write down what I needed to find out, get the paper out, read the first paragraph, then stop). It's nice to complete things in chunks and rest after you've finished. But I find starting new things really hard, even tiny tasks like reading one more paper, so I tried not to stop right after completing something. That way working out what to do next and starting it was something I always did in the middle of a work session when I had momentum. Also it's easier somehow to relax in the break when I'm not thinking about what to do next. It turned out I would often ignore my list of things to do next and do something else, but having that list there to ignore is still the catalyst to get going.

Lastly, I found that working so hard for long hours was something that I had to build up to with practise. So while you're burned out after four hours now, just plug away at lengthening that time. You won't jump right to eight hours today, but keep going and soon enough you'll be doing ten without breaking a sweat. It's just like training for anything else.

And yeah, there were a few days I gave an involuntary yalp then rushed out of the office to go home. I think everyone deals with that with big research projects. I made it to the end though, and so will you!
posted by shelleycat at 10:50 AM on November 11, 2010

a 10 minute period of meditation would be extremely helpful and refreshing.
posted by halfguard at 8:49 AM on November 12, 2010

If going for a walk outside isn't likely (it's rainy, maybe), I find doing stairs, even just the same flight 10 times, gets my blood pumping and I'm refreshed. I also love getting some small nagging thing (that has nothing to do with my work) done - call the pharmacy or water the plants. Something social is also good - I've been known to go for that walk around the block while having a quick chat via cellphone with a friend.
posted by ldthomps at 7:50 PM on November 12, 2010

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