7 Ways to Stay Productive When You Are Exhausted

Pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline? Don't worry. Put on the coffee, take a deep breath and follow these tips to stay sharp and get the work done.
May 21, 2013

You can barely keep your eyes open, yet you need to meet that critical deadline. You had no idea it was going to take this long, be this difficult or that so many things were going to go wrong. It doesn’t matter, though, because sometimes you just need to push through. You can blame it on poor planning, ridiculous demands or both. Whatever the reason is, it’s irrelevant now because no excuse in the world is going to change things. You need to do the work now!

If you're running on no sleep, try these seven tips to stay awake, focused and on task.

1. Disable all computer distractions.

Our ability to concentrate and stay on task becomes extremely diminished when we’re exhausted. Drifting around the Web and checking your email for the 100th time will keep you from getting the work done. Simply turning off email won’t work, since you will turn it back on. Disable your email and the Web altogether. The best way? Disable your wireless connection, or pull the data cable.

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2. Turn up the tunes that you don’t know.

Music helps ... but it needs to be instrumental or music with lyrics that you don’t know (so your mind doesn’t focus on singing). Secondly, make sure the music rocks. You want it to have lots of energy. Listening to lullabies, or music that makes you want to cry in your beer (you should not be drinking beer if you’re that exhausted), does not help at this critical time.

3. Take a short nap.

Napping may sound counterintuitive, but trust me, naps work. If you have kids, you know what 20 minutes of snooze time can do. It works for adults too. Yeah, you have a critical deadline ... every minute counts, right? Yet I’m telling you that you need to get some sleep, even a little bit. It’s true. Even 25 minutes of sleep will give you more energy than a cup of coffee and loud tunes. Set the alarm to very loud and go lie down for 20 to 25 minutes. You’ll be groggy when you wake up, and you may feel the urge to suck your thumb, but start pushing forward. After a few minutes you'll be cranking away again, and even feeling pretty refreshed.

4. Ingest coffee, Coke, sugar and caffeine.

Do I need to say more? Knock back some double espressos, Mountain Dew, Red Bull or whatever it takes to keep you going for the short haul or for that last push.


5. Exercise.

Push-ups and sit-ups will wake you up. Do them hard and do them fast to get the blood pumping and your metabolism up. If you can’t do push ups and hate the idea of a sit-up, then find some stairs and go up and down them a few times. Run in place. Put your back to the wall and do squats. Whatever you do, get your heart rate up.

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6. Stand up.

When you’re sitting, it’s easy to slump. If you can, stand while you're working. Find a counter or build up a low counter by putting a box or something on it to create a counter you can work at. If you have something you can do while walking around and talking into a tape recorder, or writing on a pad of paper, do it.

7. Slice and dice it.

If you ask people who are drunk to say the alphabet, they will mess up every time. If you ask them to repeat one letter at a time, after you say it, they will nail it. It's the same with your work. If you have to work on a full-length report for example, break it down into very small chunks. Just think about the one sentence you need to do. When it's done, put all the focus on the next sentence.

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