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My job is mentally tiring. I find that I often have to study on it a little when I get home to keep up with the current technology, but by then, I'm often too exhausted to focus on anything.

My personal projects often involve a lot of creativity - writing, game design, business plans, etc. Unfortunately, being mentally exhausted makes it very difficult be creative, much less do any research or learning necessary.

Trying to force myself to slog through it does work, but by the time I get inspiration, it's 1 AM, and by the time I get something useful out of it, it could well be up to 4 AM. The lack of sleep hurts learning and productivity for the rest of the week, even if I get something done that night.

On the other hand, when I tell myself to take a break and watch TV or play a game, I find that I could spend all weekend on it and achieve nothing.

So, are there any recommended approaches to get enough rest and still be creative or learn something?

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Do you absolutely HAVE to do all these projects? If not, perhaps, it's time to prioritize your goals (I have some pet projects which will take all my free time and then some if I won't stop myself)

Also, you might want to relax and let your creative side take charge - write down all questions, problems etc on the list of paper and put in your pocket; every time you have an idea about one of the items from that list - write it down or (even better) use pocket voice recorder in your cell phone); You will be surprised how much you can do without actually putting any effort (just make sure to process these recordings every week or so)

when stressed out, it's difficult to remove from my mind onto paper, creating something that feels like mental constipation

afaik, this is perfectly explainable - if your mind would not believe that all these recordings will be processed, it will try to keep all that stuff in your head (which is the terrible way to keep unfinished projects, takes lots of mental resources); so if you will convince your mind that keeping all these little things somewhere else is safe, it will let you to do that. This trick is from GTD.

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I find it stressful to not make any progress on personal projects. When I get an idea, I hold it in my head until I can note it down somewhere. I know the techniques for inspiration. But when stressed out, it's difficult to remove from my mind onto paper, creating something that feels like mental constipation. – Muz Dec 15 '12 at 5:30
@Muz: I find it stressful to not make any progress on personal projects why is it stressful? does it feel like an obligation to yourself or someone? – Steve V Dec 16 '12 at 0:18
@Muz: when stressed out, it's difficult to remove from my mind onto paper, creating something that feels like mental constipation please see an update to my original reply. – Steve V Dec 16 '12 at 0:23
  1. Make an absolute rule to catch sleep at least for 6 hours, and take short cat nap once in a month or a week just to get that the sleep deprivation out of your system and get it declogged. For me it’s hit the bed at 12 and get up at 6 which means skip parties and late night movies but make few exception if there is need and it is must, it is tough but one needs to draw a line to get life back to me.
  2. Use standing desk for work, which will automatically make you super productive and get you, aligned 80/20 principle without you getting realize that you are already doing it. Standing long hours builds your mental toughness, you automatically skip trivial stuff and low priority stuff. (if you are worried to get high priority and low priority done at same time I suggest adopt GTD to the core)
  3. Use pomodoro technique to review your day, and to do weekly review. Don’t mix or dilute work and life, have good work life balance.
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Excellent suggestions! – Kristina Lopez Dec 20 '12 at 18:47
I think it would be awkward to be the only person in office who stands :) But now that I think of it, doing work while lying in bed has been incredibly unproductive. I already do the other two, but thanks. – Muz Dec 21 '12 at 3:04

I am a Software Professional and hence I understand the mental fatigue. You need to cultivate some interest and take some time out on weekends to go away from your work and fulfill your passions or hobbies. This way you would be happy and hence would enjoy work weekend more rather than watching T.V. or playing games, which consume lots of energy. Also your mind would feel lighter and more fresh with your hobbies and passions.

Don't sleep till late on weekends as well. Rise early and meditate and rest of the day you can workout with your hobbies. You can travel to some peaceful places on weekend and rather go for some creative hobbies like photography.

Hope this would get you all refreshed by start of the week and hence you would be able to give more productivity in your work as your mind would be refreshed.

Hope this helps you :)

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up vote 0 down vote accepted

Thanks for the answers. What has worked for me is a combination of a few of the answers.

The problem

We have a bunch of inner voices telling us to do different things. GTD helps a little with this, but over a period of time those voices become loud again.

"Check email now, you don't have checking email written in your GTD!"

"You said that we wanted to go on a tour of Italy, when are we going to do that?"

"The table is dirty! It's been dirty for 3 days! Clean it now! We can't work on a dirty table! Ants will get into your laptop! And there's things rotting in the fridge!"

"Hey, you paid $40 for that game, remember? It would be a real waste if we never finish it!"

"Are you going to sit there getting fat on video games? We paid $80 on running shoes remember? You haven't ran in a month!"

GTD alone will track these, but even with weekly reviews, those issues will feel neglected. The more creative we are, the more these conflicts arise.


Committing 99% to something is mentally fatiguing. But 100% commitment is easy. Once you make 100% commitment to one thing, the other voices immediately shut up.

They solution is to make a 100% commitment to something. Write it down. Week Plan, as suggested, is a good solution. Planning too far ahead risks plans being shot down, especially when it involves someone else. Planning something for just one week works. There also needs to be GTD, but that GTD should be converted into a schedule.

To turn it into a 100% commitment, have a punishment should those plans fail. Donate a small bit to charity every time a plan fails (or an anti-charity). Even the slightest, concrete punishment works.

Work-life balance

However, relaxation must be planned as well. Computer games go best uninterrupted. Movies are best with a friend and when fresh in the cinemas. Without fun, there's no point to work.

Treat enjoyment with the same seriousness as work. Plan it out. A day with the family, a day with friends, or just a day to yourself. Set aside the same fine for not committing to that fun. Without committing to fun, a part of yourself will be yelling at you to procrastinate.

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