10 Things To Do When You Have No Idea What To Do

don't sit on fence

Do you ever have those days when your brain goes on hiatus?

You’re sitting on the edge of your bed first thing in the morning or sitting at your desk wondering, “What should I be doing here?”¬† “What’s the best choice for this situation?” “How should I make the best use of my time today?”

And your brain just says, “Duh. I don’t know.”

It’s like your ability to make a decision, to choose, or to take mindful action has just been erased from your cognitive operating system.

Every option you consider feels like eating chalk. Every action you start to implement seems uninspired and empty. What’s happening? Why have you flat-lined?

I’m not talking about those days when you are sick or tired or PMS’y or stressed out. I’m talking about a regular ole day when things should be ticking along normally. But out of the blue you’ve morphed into a piece of dry toast.


I found this happening to me when I was trying to decide what to write about this morning (hence the topic of this post). I sat staring at the computer like it was going to tell me what to write. Didn’t work.

When I’m in these situations, and I try to force myself to choose or decide or act, every fiber of my being launches into resistance mode. A mental barricade slams down just as I’m trying to get some traction. All I can see in front of me is a giant slab of grey.

This used to send me into a mini panic attack. “OMG, I can’t think! I can’t do anything! I’m a loser, a half-wit, a lazy bum. An alien has visited me in the night and sucked out most of my brain matter.”

I felt panicky because I wasn’t accomplishing or I was stuck in limbo about a decision, so I couldn’t move forward. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Moving forward. Accomplishment. Get ‘er done, get ‘er done (as Larry the Cable Guy reminds us). Well maybe not.

I’ve had to accept there are days when I’m just not going to get ‘er done. I’m just going to walk around with a cloud hovering around my head. But I’ve found ways to make the best use of these fuzzy days and to acknowledge that maybe my brain is trying to send me a message — like “give me a break!”

Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever wake up to find yourself in the Twilight Zone? If you do, maybe some of my fuzzy-day techniques will work for you.

1. Stop fighting it

Just accept you are having a fuzzy, indecisive, non-action oriented day. Who knows why. It doesn’t really matter. It’s happening, so maybe your subconscious knows something¬† you don’t. Maybe your brain needs to recharge. So be kind to yourself and accept that sometimes our “inner knowing” knows best. If you fight it, you are simply adding more stress and unhappiness to your day.

2. Talk a walk

Or a run. Or a bike ride. Just get outside and get some modest exercise. Get the blood pumping, the endorphins going, and your body moving. There’s just something about being outside and moving around that clears the head. And even if it doesn’t fully restore brain function, you’ll burn some calories and feel better physically.

3. Do mindless tasks

If you can’t think of something truly productive or make an important decision, then just clear your desk. Or load the dishwasher. Or clean out your email. Pick some simple task right in front of you that doesn’t require hard decisions or intense thought. You’ll still be accomplishing something, even if it isn’t the big thing you think you should be doing.

4. Learn

Use this time to read a blog or book or listen to a video or audio about something you want to learn or become more proficient at. Don’t put pressure on yourself to learn something complicated or difficult. But just read or listen and absorb what you can without stressing.

5. Borrow a brain

If you’re at work or somewhere you need to perform or risk the wrath of others, then ask someone you respect and trust to help you out. Just tell them you are having a fuzzy day, and you need some guidance on a decision or priority action. Sometimes it helps just to have someone tell you what to do without having to decide.

6. Meditate

Sit quietly for 10-15 minutes, breathing slowly and watching your breath. Allow your thoughts to drift by without judging them. Continue to focus on your breathing, gently pushing thoughts aside as they arise. Meditation can calm and balance you and help clear your mind of the racing thoughts that might be blocking your ability to focus and function.

7. Do something creative

Give yourself an hour break and go do something creative, something you might feel passionate about. Draw, cook, garden, paint, play an instrument, dance, write a poem, anything that allows you to get in a creative flow. Whatever you do, don’t judge the creative process or attach meaning to the outcome. Just enjoy the relaxation of the activity.

8. Help someone

If you don’t know what to do for yourself, then do something for someone else. Offer to help out a co-worker or a neighbor. Write a letter to an old friend. Call someone who’s been going through a hard time. Spread a small ripple of good.

9. Write a list

When we are feeling confused and fuzzy, sometimes it’s helpful just to put it done on paper. Write down all of the decisions, choices, and actions you are mulling around. Just make a list of them. Organizing them on paper helps you organize your brain. You may not be able to take action today, but you’ll have the list handy when your brain revives tomorrow.

10. Do nothing

Whoa, what a concept. What if you took a mental health day. Go play hooky. Sit in the park and read. Watch a movie. Meet a friend for lunch. Allow yourself to have fun today without guilt or stress. Your brain will thank you in the morning!

What about you? What do you do when you have no idea what to do? Please share your ideas in the comments below.


If you want something really life-changing to do with your time, please check out my Path to Passion Course.

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photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

Comments

  1. This post came at a perfect time for me–just as I’m feeling like dry toast. :)
    When this happens to me, I almost always go with number three, the mindless tasks. Setting my house or inbox in order seems to have the same effect on my brain.
    If that doesn’t work, I give myself permission to veg for a while. The combination seems to do the trick for me.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Amy,
      I’m so glad it came at the right time — amazing how that happens sometimes! I love what you say about setting your house in order has the same affect on your brain. That is so true. Our minds can mimic our actions. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I have left work as of last October and because I am now responsible for my own direction and motivation each day, the idea of being able to get myself started takes on an added importance as I have no employer who is watching me arrive each day. I do freelance work so I am accountable but I am able to decide when I work.

    When I get like this, your #3 and #2 work best for me.

    I do mindless tasks, like pay bills, mail a letter, clear my emails….and then a small sense of accomplishment starts to grow in me. So then I start to do other things and it is self-perpetuating and I get back on track.

    The other thing is that I go for a walk/run and while I am doing the exercise part, my brain can get quite creative and motivated. So that puts me into an upward spiral also.

    Great post! Despite the ‘dry toast’ start! (loved the dry toast analogy)

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Kelly,
      I do that exact same thing — go out for a run. And as I’m running, I get all of these creative ideas.Amazing how that works. It adds some jelly to that dry toast. :)

  3. Great Post Barrie. Some l aready do, the others are great suggestions to add,thanks.

  4. Thanks for this post, Barrie~!

    I usually clean out the house and read a book afterwards during times when my brain’s a big ball of fuzziness.

    Reading a book in a quiet cafe works wonders for my brain as well. :)

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Lianne,
      I love the quiet cafe idea! That sounds lovely. Reading is always a good de-fuzzifier!

  5. Darius Maurya says:

    Nice!! This was a breeze to read through.
    My personal favorite are no 6, 8 and 10. :D

  6. Excellent list, and I’m definitely going to have to remember the ‘dry toast’ analogy. For me taking a walk is like turning on the mental faucet. In fact I’ve learned to bring either a mini recorder or pad and paper with me because all these ideas start flooding my brain. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Great post Barrie.

    I often find myself in nowhere land.

    I need to do more for myself- like taking a long work or being creative.

    Life is to short to be wrapped up in thinking all the time.

    ty

    SW

  8. I’ve recently had a bad few weeks of this happening, not only indecisiveness, but I didn’t want to do anything. Full stop.

    First, it bothered me, as I had a long list of tasks to get on with, but then I just let go of all the guilt that came with this feeling of “I must do something important, otherwise I am no good”.

    Then I figured that I truly NEEDED a break….

    I’m pleased to say I am all back to ‘normal’ with new ideas and inspirations.

    In the meantime I ‘pottered around’, went for long walks, watched movies, decluttered, cleaned and tidied. In short, I pretty much employed all your above advice naturally. It’s priceless and it really works…

    ASH

  9. that is awesome post, by the way some of the methods you told are weird still a good post.

  10. When my mind goes blank and I can’t think of what to do, I get ready with intention, grab my headphones and some music, choose a general direction, and I walk. It’s lovely having a phone with the ability to play music, get directions, and take pictures because the directions can help this process (obviously) and the music motivates it; the photos – for me – inspire further action. Sometimes while I’m out on an adventure, I decide I want something. I live in California, and once in a while, this thing it will be a burrito; I never would’ve thought of burritos if I had stayed home. There’s something about being out experiencing life that bring such ideas to thought. At this point, it will become a quest to find the best burrito! And often times ill discover a place I’d have never otherwise found; bonus if I can write there and extra bonus (for future writing endeavors) if they have a clean, useable restroom!

    This is actually how I canvassed Los Angeles and was a fun way to meet people whove become dear friends, and become intimately acquainted with my city.

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