When I’m too tired to do something, I plan

The first week of 2018 has been, frankly, a bit draining. Here in New York, as in much of the U.S., we’re covered in snow. I managed to make it out the door for yoga this morning (for which I deserve a medal), but other than that I’ve been holed up in my draftier-than-preferred apartment, working from home on my chaise lounge under a pile of blankets. This is not hygge; hell, it’s not even hygge-adjacent.

Between the weather and my lack of interaction with other people in the past 10 hours, I’m in a bit of a creative slump. I don’t feel up to attacking anything that requires real inspiration or brainpower. But because the rest of the week has involved similarly frigid climes, along with playing catch-up post-holidays, I’m already way behind on my creative goals for 2018. My brain is too fried to make any real progress tonight, but there’s one thing I can do: plan.

Planning does two things:

  1. In the present, planning allows me to feel like I’m accomplishing something, despite not having a tangible product to show for it.
  2. In the future, when I do have the mental bandwidth to get to work, I already have a roadmap for what to do.

Here are some simple planning actions that you can take now and benefit from later:

  • Document ideas for your future work. OK, I know this sounds hard. But instead of trying to force yourself to come up with ideas, pay closer attention to the ones that arise passively, and then write them down. I have this waterproof notepad in my shower so I don’t lose ideas that come up while I’m washing my hair. I recently plotted out a novel in there, one I actually plan to write. You may find that ideas come to you on the subway or during a conference call. When this happens to me, I type them into the Notes app on my phone, and then transfer them to a spreadsheet when I’m back at my computer.
  • Send an email to someone you’d like to partner with. There’s probably at least one email you’ve been putting off sending, even though you already know what its content should be. Now’s a good time to dash that off.
  • Make a list of books, articles, research, etc., that you’ve been meaning to read or review. Don’t actually read any of it, just make the list. Then, when you’re better able to focus, you won’t need to waste time or mental energy figuring out what to focus on.
  • Schedule or reschedule tasks using a project management platform. You don’t need a ton of brainpower to break your big goals down into manageable tasks and schedule them for later. As I’ve mentioned, Asana works best for how my brain is set up, but figure out what works for you and use that. Tonight, I’m going to shift around all the stuff I didn’t accomplish on deadline to other dates that I think will be more manageable.

As an added bonus, you may find that just the process of planning your future work kickstarts your brain so you can get started on some of your plans now. But if not, your future self will appreciate the head start.

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