Have you ever fallen into the Friday afternoon trap? That feeling where your brain just won’t focus on that big creative task in front of you? The one that keeps getting distracted by thoughts of lie ins, coffee in bed and sunny Sundays. That period where your brain just won’t work.
Or perhaps you’re going through something deeper? Mental stressors, emotional personal situations or health worries can also play on your mind, particularly when you’re trying so hard to focus on something else. Those pesky intrusive thoughts tend to collide with your working brain, stopping you from actually doing anything productive.
But there’s a boss on your back, bills to pay, clients to invoice and yes, it’s Friday but there are four more hours left in the day before quitting time. As a freelance marketer, this is a feeling I’m unfortunately all too familiar with. Spending my time working in coffee shops and from my desk at home can either be super productive or super distracting depending on my mood.
So what do we do? We can’t give in to the procrastination – our generation is far too well conditioned in endless productivity for us to do that. But we also can’t work at 100% creativity all the time, and forcing ourselves to focus can only make it worse.
After years spent puzzling with this brain block, I’ve come up with some useful tips on how to work in marketing, when your brain just won’t work.
Build Up Some Engagement
As a digital marketer, our lives are spent both on Twitter and trying not to be distracted by Twitter. So do something productive with your procrastination – start engaging. A great way to boost your following and gain a more interactive audience is to like, follow and comment on other people’s socials. Send a supportive message to that business you want to work with, give some love to the account that inspires you and retweet a couple of your favourite relevant tweets from the last week.
This is an activity that doesn’t neccesarily require a lot of mental focus, but is still super productive and beneficial to your own traffic levels. Even if you’re dealing with a boss who is a little bit of a micromanager, increasing engagement levels is always going to look good on your timesheets – especially if it ends up reflecting back on your monthly social reports!
Do Some Casual Competitor Research
In a similar vein, this is another great activity that allows limited creative attention but can still help your socials out in the long run. Take a good 40 minutes and explore your competitors social accounts. What are they tweeting, what’s their latest theme, what hashtags are they currently using? Is there a particular event coming up that’s worth staying on top of? How often are they posting and at what time?
If you’re prone to feeling this brain malfunction often, turn your competitor research into a regular exercise. Draw up a quick form or spreadsheet with similar questions to the ones listed above and whenever your feeling a bit blocked, take some time to fill it out and take a browse. That way, you’re still being active and engaged with your competitors, and you can take a fresh look at how this information can benefit you when your brain is better shape.
Easy Calendar Blocking
This might just be a me-specific activity, but filling in my calendar generally doesn’t require too much strain. Whether you’re making a list of company events, social media anniversaries or even just replicating the big days of your business’s socials in your Google Calendar, you’re also subconsciously committing these dates to memory. This allows you to be more prepared and appear more organised, without having to create new ideas or endure long periods of writing.
Once you’re finished, make sure to share your calendar with your boss or client to help them to follow your process of work, and to inform that you have actually been working for the past hour.
De-clutter Your Inbox
Unless you’ve already spent the labourious hours involved in adding tags and labels to your inbox (like me…) this is a job that’s relatively soothing to complete.
Crowded or cluttered inboxes can seriously slow down your productivity, even though you might not realise it. Searching back through months of spam and junk mail just to find that one attachment from a colleague is big waste of your time, especially when facing a deadline, so why not try a touch of organisation in your inbox.
Creating separate folders, tags, labels and colour-coordination is a calming and repetitive task that can actually be seriously beneficial to your mental approach to tasks and communication. It can be surprisingly cathartic to go through and delete a big chunk of pointless emails from years back, leaving your inbox fresh and clean for new information. So take perhaps 45 minutes and deep dive yourself into de-cluttering your inbox – a project that benefits both your mind and your digital memory too!
Try Some Content Reflection
With busy schedules and hot deadlines, taking the time to reflect on past content is a luxury many of us don’t get to enjoy. But, even if your brain is working at full speed ahead, it’s a good and positive task to help improve content for the future.
Look back over your output for the past 6 months or so and evaluate it thoroughly. Taking into consideration analytics, social reports, feedback, traffic and brand vision, look at each piece of content and ask yourself the question ‘is this our best piece of work or could we do better?’.
Not only will this seriously impress your boss and demonstrate your commitment to pushing your content to new standards, but it can also give your brain a rest from coming up with new creative ideas.
We all know that our minds and our brains are dangerously precarious things, and if we’re in the wrong mood, one small thing can make distract us for good. But instead of constantly berating ourselves for feeling distracted or unproductive, put your half-asleep brain to good use with some calming, repetitive tasks.
However, I should add a disclaimer that if you consistently find yourself unable to work, or are really struggling with ‘bad brain days’, then it’s really important to seek some help. It could be that you’re simply not finding the work challenging enough or that you’re unhappy in that workplace, so if you can, speak up to your manager or boss about what’s happening.
If you found these tips helpful, and want to find out more of my advice, why not check out my last post: ‘FAQs for Mental Illness at Work’!