After a tough day, what can I do to get back in the mood to do more work?
March 24, 2007 12:22 AM   Subscribe

After a tough day, what can I do to get back in the mood to do more work?

Scenario: It's a busy college day and I have a bunch of deadlines looming. I arrive back to my room after finishing something strenuous (say, an exam or a day of classes), but I am too mentally exhausted to begin working again. Even if I try to begin working, I am incapable of doing it, and my mind wanders. What can I do to get that feeling of "OK, now I'm ready to get back to work" fairly quickly?

Recently, I have been surfing the web, playing video games, watching TV, and listening to music, but I find that I can often do these activities for a long time without actually feeling replenished.

What activities get people here restored and ready to work again? I know this will vary incredibly from person to person, but I'm interested to hear ideas. I'm planning to try jogging, taking naps, or just lying down and clearing my head. Any other things to try out?
posted by lunchbox to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Practice boxing skills. Hitting a speed bag can be entertaining. Hitting a heavy bag, hard, can be rewarding, though taxing.

There is something about generating power and applying force that is elemental, and that focuses the mind. And there is a ritual to taping up, putting on the gloves, and warming up that carries you through to epiphanies of leather striking leather, of sweat flying in shock, of breath expelled in grunts, of aggression called and tamed to private purpose, that is training to the mind and will, as well as the body.

Seriously. Hit something, or better yet, some one.
posted by paulsc at 12:37 AM on March 24, 2007

Exercise - preferably strenuous - helps you use up all your built up stress hormones and thus clears your mind and body.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:41 AM on March 24, 2007

eat something/brush teeth/powernap/shower/coffee, basically just prime yourself into feeling like a new day is ticking over by doing a quick cycle of the things you normally do before and after sleeping.
posted by juv3nal at 12:50 AM on March 24, 2007

physical activity should get you going again.

I run. it's practically impossible to sleep for a while after working out and you will be surprised just how alert you are. there is a reason a lot of people do this early in the morning.
posted by krautland at 1:08 AM on March 24, 2007

juv3nal has it. The quote has been around, but I can't stop thinking about how great it is:

"You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half-way measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That's what I always do. Don't think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That's a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one - well, at least one and a half, I'm sure. When the war started, I had to sleep during the day because that was the only way I could cope with my responsibilities."

- Winston Churchill
posted by cior at 1:12 AM on March 24, 2007 [6 favorites]

Boyfriend contributes: go to cinema, go out drinking.
posted by cior at 1:14 AM on March 24, 2007

Power nap?

Tai Chi?

Deep breathing exercises?

In other words, try to relax completely in the space of 15-30 minutes. Let your brain enter a different state of awareness.

But it also sounds to me like you're working yourself too hard. I appreciate there might be situations where this is necessary, but it's something you should keep an eye on. You might get results now but they're useless if you end-up with a nervous breakdown in a few weeks/months.
posted by humblepigeon at 3:51 AM on March 24, 2007

You asked for the quick fix, but have you thought about a more holistic and long term way to find balance?

When I was in school, I designated "work hours" for myself between 9 and 6 during weekdays, and a couple of hours on Sunday morning. That meant I was typically socially unavailable all day during the week, even reading or doing homework during lunchtime.

The flip side is that I had my evenings free, and I could take the time off without guilt. I could relax and rejuvenate because I knew everything was under control. It was scheduled goofing off time. It didn't really matter what I did, it just mattered that I felt free to do it.

At the beginning of every quarter I studied more than most of the people around me, but by the end of the quarter I was actually putting in fewer hours than they were. I had absorbed more throughout the quarter, so there was less for me to cram. I put in the occasional evening or extra weekend time when the load felt stressed, but it wasn't the norm.

Oh, and exercise is great for clearing the mind, as others have already noted.
posted by nadise at 5:28 AM on March 24, 2007

This was on wikihow recently
posted by any major dude at 5:29 AM on March 24, 2007

Best answer: Previous similar question.
posted by anaelith at 7:38 AM on March 24, 2007

Just learn to enjoy it. Work is the same, but more so. You've got at least 50 years of this ahead of you. But with more debt.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:17 AM on March 24, 2007

Power naps do wonders for me. They are now regularly scheduled on my weekends between 2p-3p, which I've found is my "lag time." Keeping notes on when your body clock tells you it's time to slow down is a good way to determine your own best time, and I'm with cior & Churchill -- no halfway measures. Get in bed. Get under the covers.

If you're concerned with mental exhaustion, the numerous posts to do something physical are excellent suggestions as well. Doing something physical will draw you out of your headspace almost inevitably. I find these are good times to clean, particularly more strenuous cleaning like scrubbing the bathroom tub or vacuuming. Wash your car or help a friend move that piece of furniture. But MOVE.

Circling back to the power-nap: I never get tired of shilling for a personal favorite, pzizz. It sounds like bullsh*t and seems kinda spendy on top of it, but I am an unabashed convert, so much so that I occasionally worry I'll one day wake up from one of its NLP-induced naps and declare I want to give all my money to the people who make it and there will be precious little anyone will be able to do about it. But for now, it's given me a couple years of the best power naps I've ever had, so maybe it'll have all been worth it.
posted by mrkinla at 8:22 AM on March 24, 2007

Get out of the room and go study somewhere else where other people are doing work and you don't have a computer near you.
posted by Loto at 8:22 AM on March 24, 2007

Try signing up for lessons or schedule things with friends... you maybe very tempted to cancel after a crappy day at work, but stick to the schedule and you may find it helps you lift your spirits.
posted by perpetualstroll at 10:10 AM on March 24, 2007

I find a quick relaxation does wonders. Check out for some short refreshing relaxations.
posted by thesquire at 1:34 PM on March 27, 2007

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