How to Work When You’re Tired

By Ali Luke

January 27, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

We all have days when we just don’t feel with it. Maybe we were up late the night before, maybe we slept badly, or maybe we’re simply tired for no clear reason. But when you’ve got work to do – whether in your day job, on your small business or around the house – then you can’t just go back to bed. You want to stay alert, make the most of your time, and avoid getting distracted or making silly mistakes.

Here’s how to work when you’re tired:

  • Be Clear About What You Want to Accomplish
    It’s always a good idea to have a clear goal in mind, but especially when you’re feeling tired or otherwise sub-par. Sit down and think what you need to get done today. If you’re working on a big project, what exactly are you going to get done? The next chapter? That section with the statistics you need to look up? If you’re spring cleaning, don’t just do whatever catches your eye – make a plan.

It’s very easy to start meandering into lots of unrelated tasks, if you don’t have a clear focus on what you want to accomplish. I’m sure you’ve had days where you’ve looked back and wondered where your time went – well, this is how to make sure you spend your time on something worthwhile!


  • Get Ruthless About Distractions
    Again, this is always good advice – but when you’re tired, it counts double. Stay out of your email, don’t log into Facebook, and don’t keep taking breaks from the task at hand. It’s so easy to get distracted when you’re not focusing well, and it only makes it harder to concentrate.


You know what it’s like to “just check Facebook” and spend the next hour looking at your cousin’s holidays snaps; so every time your attention wanders, direct it straight back to what you’re supposed to be working on.


  • Drink Plenty of Water
    Dehydration saps your concentration – so make sure you’re sipping water regularly if you’re tired. Although caffeine can supply a temporary boost of energy, try to go easy on the coffee: you’ll only crash otherwise. (Ditto for sugary sodas.)


I like to keep a bottle of water on my desk, within easy reach: because it’s next to me, it’s easy to remember to drink from it, and because the bottle has a screw cap, there’s no chance I’ll accidentally tip it into my computer’s keyboard!


  • Keep Moving Around
    If you’re feeling sleepy, the worst thing to do is to sit down somewhere warm and comfy – you’ll almost certainly nod off! Instead, make sure you move around frequently: get up and stretch, go for a brisk walk, get your body temperature up a bit. This is an especially good idea if you get that mid-afternoon slump: walking around will shake it off.



  • Take a Shower
    Getting into a shower will really wake you up when you’re feeling sluggish. If you’re struggling to even get out of bed, head straight for the shower: as soon as you’re under that running water, you’ll feel considerably more alive!


If you work from home, a mid-afternoon shower can be a great pick-me-up when you’re tired. If you’re in an office, splashing your face with cold water can be a good refreshing alternative.


  • Perform Easier Tasks
    If you’re feeling really tired but you still need to get some work done, try doing your more routine tasks: things like replying to emails, filing documents, making minor website updates, and so on. Often, your energy will naturally pick back up while you work.


How do you cope when you’re tired and you need to carry on working?

Written on 1/27/2010 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line ([email protected]) or check out her website at Aliventures. Photo Credit: kevinlawver
Ali Luke

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