Five Ways to Stay Sane When You Have to Slog Through

Posted 03.17.2014

muddy-slogFrom the archives of the Department of Irony, I found myself overwhelmed this past week while working on a book whose title is Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative (coming to a web site or book store near you this Fall).

I was at the point in the process where I had to read through about 400 pages of interview excerpts and sort them into working files for each of the 19 chapters of the book.  It was about three days straight of reading, thinking, copying and pasting.  As passionate as I am about the topic and the project, I have to confess. It. Was. A. Slog.

No doubt, you’ve had episodes like this and probably will again.  It’s that important step in the project that can’t really be delegated or outsourced because it requires your judgment and perspective throughout.  And it’s going to be several solid days of work.

So, how do you stay sane when you have to slog through?  Here are five ways to do it that worked for me last week:

Stretching:  Lots of stretching.  When you’re working at a desk all day, you absolutely must get up and stretch every 60 to 90 minutes.  Your shoulders, back and hips need it and so does your brain.  If you’re looking for a good five minute routine you can do by your desk, here’s one.

Walking:  Preferably outside, but indoors is fine if the weather’s not cooperating.  A 15 minute walk twice a day is a great way to refocus and reenergize.

Napping:  Nothing is worse than trying to get through mentally taxing work when you’re sleepy.  It takes three times as long to get things done and the quality of what you do finish is probably five times worse.  I had a day like that last week.  I fought it and couldn’t overcome it so I took a 30 minute nap.  My productivity when I got back to the desk was off the charts.  More and more offices are designating nap rooms.  If yours doesn’t have one, you might try your car.

Talking:  When you’re in the midst of a slog, a short conversation with a colleague or friend (they don’t have to be mutually exclusive by the way) can be a great way to sustain your sanity.

Checking:  To keep myself from getting distracted during last week’s work, I shut my email down with the intention of checking it once mid-morning and once mid-afternoon.  I was surprised to find that 10 to 15 minutes of focused email maintenance was a great break from my main work objectives.

So, there you have it.  Five ways to stay sane when you have to slog through.  I don’t recommend using them all at once or you won’t get anything done.  But, like so many other things, when used in moderation they can really help.

What are your favorite ways to stay sane when you have to slog through?