You can’t be on your A-game every single day, it’s just not the way life works. No matter how much you sleep, exercise, meditate, or how many power foods you eat, you’re bound to have off days when you can’t think as clearly as you normally do. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as brain fog, and is characterized by fatigue, mental fuzziness, and an inability to concentrate.
Just because you’re feeling foggy, however, doesn’t mean that the day has to be a total wash. You can still power through some of your to-dos and make the most of it, while conserving your thinking power for tomorrow.
With that, here are some things to keep in mind that might help you leverage your foggy brain days:
Wade In, Don’t Dive
Studies have shown that tackling smaller tasks helps you motivate yourself to accomplish bigger projects. So if you have a foggy brain, then set out to get the smaller, less overwhelming tasks out of the way. When your mind is clear again, you’ll be ready to tackle bigger projects without as many distractions.
Just because you’re not ready to write your next great memoir, or work on a huge client project doesn’t mean you can’t be productive. Put on some music or your favorite podcast, get comfortable and start working away on the things you’ve been putting off.
You’ll end your day feeling great about what you’ve accomplished as you mark those pesky little things as done.
Sweat The Small Things
Have you ever heard of the Zeigarnik effect? It’s the condition in which you remember things that are still in process. It’s the reason why your lingering to-dos will pop up in your head while doing something else, like trying to sleep. According to studies of the Zeigarnik effect, once a task is complete, you’re less likely to think about it.
Take this unfocused time to complete tasks that will get in your way later. By getting dreaded tasks done while you have a foggy brain, you’ll be less likely to stress out over them when you’re focused on projects with pressing deadlines.
Start prepping your expenses for this year’s taxes, or work on a new presentation template or proposal template: something you know you’ll need later. Your “off day” can actually save you stress down the road.
Turn On Cruise Control
How about that constant queue of emails awaiting your response? You guessed it, now is a good time to get through some of them. Yes, emailing may not sound enticing to your foggy brain, but once you start you’ll be surprised how easy it is to power through.
Some experts say that getting over procrastination is a matter of starting easy. As in, not overthinking it, and essentially tackling a task while in “cruise control.” In a way, when you have a fuzzy brain, you’re forced to start easy.
A fuzzy brain is a great way to avoid over-thinking issues or decisions that don’t require too much brainpower. So when you have a clear head again, that overloaded inbox you’ve been procrastinating will be taken care of.
That said, you should probably save the most important emails for when you’re thinking more clearly. :)
Harness Creativity (It’s More Abundant When You’re Groggy!)
Research says you’re at your most creative when your circadian rhythm is off. Yes, you read that right.
A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings. They’re what determines if you’re a morning or night person, as in, when you’re at your sharpest as well as when you’re most susceptible to distractions.
Studies show that you’re best off solving insight problems, those that require thinking “outside the box,” when you’re susceptible to distraction. These opportunities allow you to consider a broader range of information and access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations. This opens your mind to insight and innovation.
When you’re experiencing brain fog, try thinking about some of the problems you’ve been working on. Take a step back and allow yourself to think about your projects from a bird's-eye view. You may just come up with your best ideas or solutions yet!
Since your creativity is heightened when your brain is foggy, try working on a project that involves your right brain. Writing, designing, photography, and video editing are all great foggy brain activities. Your foggy brain will allow your ideas to flow openly as you work without a filter or limitations.
You may produce your best, most creative work ever. Plus, your foggy brain will give you an opportunity to tackle that creative project you’ve been too “busy” (read: uninspired) to get started on.
For Brain Fog Emergencies...
Some days you just can’t afford an “off day.” Maybe you’re on deadline, maybe you have an important presentation. In that case, here are some tips for clearing that fog out so you can go about your day:
- Get some fresh air: Studies show that Vitamin D does wonders for your mental focus.
- Get moving: The pros say it increases the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your brain and can help you sharpen up in mere minutes.
- Take a 20-minute coffee nap: They work, it’s science.
- Meditate: Science also says it’s one of the best things you can do for brain health.
How do you overcome brain fog? Share your tips in the comments below!
Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!