15 things to try when you’re feeling uninspired/unable to focus

Recently, I’ve been feeling emotionally drained, uninspired, unable to focus. I was very upset about something and the frustration was consuming space in my brain. I tried everything I could think of and every recommendation I got from the internet. Here are a few things that I tried that worked, and some that didn’t work for me but might for you… They may give you ideas to try when you’re feeling too agitated to deeply focus.

What worked for me.

Delve into other forms of art

I happened to be subscribed to The Sketchbook by Shari Blaukopf and saw this awfully beautiful painting in my inbox that day. For a minute, I got lost in her paintings, reveling in their beauty, feeling inspired to create something beautiful too. It certainly helped take my thoughts to a more positive space. It doesn’t have to be “art” in the traditional sense. It could be a cool engineering feat, a fascinating scientific study, a community effort, anything that gets your admiration.

Make someone’s day

Everyone has days when they question themselves or their work. When I’m at a low, I try to go the extra mile to reach out to someone whose work speaks to me, and let them know that their work is meaningful. That way, at least my bad day brightened someone else’s. Plus, the positivity is often returned in the form of a thankful note.

“You shouldn’t give when you have extra. You should share what you have.”

– My very Catholic mom, whose teachings I take to heart despite not being religious.

Going outdoors and/or intense workout

I am a city hermit, often guilty of burrowing in my apartment for days without ever going outside. At the recommendation of a few Facebook friends, I decided to get a work out in. Being an island girl, the water always calms me down. I went for a swim thinking about happy snorkeling memories. The next day, I went to the gym and did a more intense workout that I usually do. Both seemed to help release some of the tension in my body.

Organize/clean

One friend suggested finding creative ways to trick yourself into being productive. Looking for a somewhat mindless task, I decided to clean/re-organize closets and kitchen cabinets that needed it and cleaned the house. A clean, tidy space always makes me feel more peaceful. If your place is already clean and tidy, how about your Dropbox / computer desktop / Spotify playlists?

Garden

sherry's mini garden

Although I don’t have a patio, I do have a tiny garden on our window sill where I planted some herbs and greens. I spent some time pruning, cleaning, repotting.


PS: I love animals but plants are my favorite pets. They don’t make noise when you’re tracking vocals and don’t need to go to the bathroom.

Watch instructional videos

I have been learning production since June 2018. I’m subscribed to a couple of websites with a vast number of tutorials. Sometimes watching one of the videos will give me an idea for a mix I’m working on and I’ll be excited enough to try it to forget about my current state of mind.

Paperwork

When you’re in a really bad mood and you want to still be productive, it’s the perfect time to take care of (non-fun) business tasks that are just adding to your sense of non-accomplishment. Sending reminders to billed clients, getting started on taxes, filling out immigration-related paperwork, adding metadata. I mean, if you’re going to be mad, you might as well go all out and call your cable provider’s customer service. Am I right? While those were not fun, they did eliminate some of the items that were nagging me in the back of my mind. One step closer to Zen!

Writing

Writing is a great way for me to organize my thoughts. It doesn’t have to be about the issue that’s bothering me. As long as it’s something that’s helpful (to me and others), it feels like I accomplished something despite the brain fog. Writing this blog, for example, is rather therapeutic.

Drawing it out

Sometimes drawing things out to try and wrap my head around complicated tasks (eg. coding), helps me get back in the zone. I try to do that when the distractions are minimal and I’m the most energetic. If I can at least start to get the big picture in my head, I can break it down more easily, which brings me to the next point.

Breaking complicated tasks into small, easy ones

Once I’ve drawn out the flow of things, I can usually tackle pieces of it, just like I would write a function that does one thing if I was coding. I like working off a checklist of small tasks that do one thing. Nothing feels as good as crossing off a checklist on those days.

What didn’t work for me this time, but might for you.

Music

Playing music/singing usually helps, but sometimes when I feel really, really drained, I don’t even have the energy to do that. Listening to music can help too, but didn’t work for me this time. I tried to even take an analytical approach and just listen for what’s going on in some new mixes, but it didn’t really help much. Better luck next time.

Take a nap

If you can easily fall asleep mid-day, I’m told this does wonders. I’m unfortunately terrible at taking naps. I either can’t fall asleep and feel like I wasted more time, or sleep like a log and wake up at dinner time. What can I say. I go big or go home.

Reach out to friends/ meet friends in person

Many people suggested that meeting with other humans face to face might be a good antidote for feeling crappy. Maybe in another situation. That day, I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone (hello introverts) at all. In fact, I thought some time away from talking to people would serve me better. But it might work for you. Especially if you’re extroverted.

Changing environment

I will try this one again. I promise, I’ll get out of the apartment… Later 🙂

Meditation/Yoga

I will try this one again. I think it takes a little bit of practice to get into it and reap the benefits.

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