Do you wonder why you’re so damn tired at work?  Maybe you find yourself wondering if it is possible to be physically immune to caffeine, as you stumble over to the coffee machine for the third time today, wondering why on earth somebody hasn’t invented an injectible version of this magical elixir of life.  Like, there’s gotta be commercial value in that, no?

If so, I feel ya.  I used to work at an office where they sold caffeinated gum in the break room.  No joke.  They practically had Adderall in the vending machines.  Okay, that was a joke.

But in all seriousness, why are we falling asleep at our desks nowadays?  I recall having a conversation with my sister about literally taking a 5-10 minute naps while sitting on the toilet in the bathroom and thinking, this can’t be a family trait, right?  Other people surely MUST feel this way too…right?

Turns out that they do.  Now, if you’re fresh out of college and used to staying up late and sleeping in, this is perfectly normal.  You will absolutely adjust.  It will mark the beginning of the end of your youth, but you will get used to it.

But for the rest of us relatively well adjusted folks that are perpetually in a state of undiagnosed chronic fatigue, here are some possible reasons why.

  1. Sleep. Obviously, but we have to cover it.  Ask yourself honestly, are you actually getting enough sleep? I’m not going to tell you to get 8 solid hours, but see what feels right for your body.  Practice good sleep hygiene:  by that, I  mean don’t count the time you spend on Instagram in bed as ‘sleep’, and also don’t count the time from when your alarm goes off until you stop pressing snooze.  I’m talking about real quality shut eye.  If you’re not getting enough sleep, get more.  Try charging your phone in (gasp) another room, or if you need the alarm (I’m onto all the excuses, trust me), charge it across the room.  You know what I’m talking about – I won’t belabor this point.

Try this:  Charge your phone in another room, or worst case, across the room from your bed.

  1. Engagement. Are you actually interested in your job?  Or are you bored to death because you don’t like the work?  Are constant meetings grinding your brain into a pulp?  If you are at least engaged-ish, you are guaranteed to spice up a boring AF meeting by bringing in treats.  You can do this on the cheap – take a break and head to Dunkin Donuts or Panera and bring in a dozen pieces of deliciousness – trust me, it’s a great ice breaker, makes you look like a hero, and gets everyone out of autopilot.  However if you actually don’t give a sh*t about what you’re doing at work, you work in a toxic environment, or if you don’t feel motivated whatsoever – this lack of engagement is a surefire way to feel constantly drained and tired at work.  This is also totally fixable, it just take a little soul-searching.  If you’re not sure if your job is the right fit for you, download this checklist to find out.

Try this:  Bring treats to a meeting to spice it up and get your boring coworkers out of autopilot.

  1. Procrastination. Procrastination is a serious mojo killer, for even the most engaged employees.  It’s so easy to put something off, especially if your plate is full of seriously boring tasks or projects that truly aren’t urgent.  If you’re anything like me, you work best under pressure.  Ask yourself if you are just going through a lull or if you are avoiding tasks because they are not challenging or engaging.  If you’re avoiding starting something because it’s just a slow time, try setting really crazy short timelines for yourself.  It’s a scientific fact that the longer you give yourself to do something, the longer it will take to complete.  So give yourself 10 minutes to return an email or complete a task.  Turn on the timer on your phone andddd – go!  Once you start, it’s easier to continue.

Try this:  Give yourself a very short timeline to complete a task you don’t really want to do.  Set the timer on your phone, and see if you can get it done in that amount of time.  Ready, set, GO!

  1. Environment. Is your environment dull?  Is it grey with fluorescent lighting?  Maybe brown?  Maybe the carpet hasn’t been cleaned in probably 10 years, and you’re pretty sure there’s asbestos in the ceiling?  A constantly draining atmosphere is sure to make you feel tired at work.  But this, my friend, is something that is under your control!  Create your environment!  Get a pair of headphones and put them on your dang head.  Go to youtube.  Stream something (I personally like this mix).  Get a fish – seriously, I did this and everybody that came over to my desk, from teammates to VP’s, always had a comment about my fishy.  People would ask to feed him, ask how my fish was doing…it’s a fabulous ice breaker and gets everybody out of their usual autopilot.  You can also decorate your office or cubicle.  Put some unique pictures on the wall – I once printed out on photo paper an image of ‘the ugliest dog in the world’ and put it up as though it was my own dog.  How fun it was to see how people reacted!  Again, get people out of autopilot and it doesn’t just benefit you – it benefits everyone and will make you feel good about your contribution.

Try this:  Get some sweet headphones and listen to music, get a colorful beta fish and give him an obscure name (like, Mr. McGillicutty), or decorate your cubicle with unique stuff.  Our friends over at Mr. Kate have some great tips to get you started.

  1. Inertia. Yep, I said it.  Newton’s first law of motion states that “an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest”.  Well, turns out it’s true with our actual bodies as well, not just balls and blocks and pulleys and other physics-ish stuff.  Listen, if you plot your arse down in your desk chair and become one with it slowly and surely all day, this is a recipe for workplace fatigue, autopilot, brain fog, and overall just being tired and unmotivated AF.  Newton’s first law of motion also says that in order to take an object at rest and put it into motion, it requires a force.  Well, this is also fixable!  It’s a little tactic I like to call ‘getting up off your arse’.  Instead of sending an email, go speak to that person.  Get a Fitbit and compete with your friends in the workplace on the number of steps you can get.  Go walk outside at lunch time.  Doing laps in the building is another surefire way to not only wake up, but also to get sh*t done.  Walk quickly, with purpose, and go and “touch base” with your teammates or coworkers.  Ask them little questions about the project you’re working on, and I guarantee you will be amazed at what conversations come up.  Worst case, you might end up making a friend.

Try this:  Pick a day this week and walk around the office ten times, and make it a goal to speak to ten different people.  Ask them about an initiative you know they’re working on, or if they’re teammates, ask them a small minor question about the project.  “Oh hey Bob, I was meaning to ask – how is that inventory build plan going?”  See what happens.

I would love to hear from you!  In the comments below, let me know which one of these tips you’re going to try, and then let us know how it goes!  Share as MUCH detail as possible in your comments, as your experience could really help inspire somebody to have a breakthrough or to make meaningful changes in their lives.

If someone you know suffers from impenetrable workplace fatigue and the dreaded autopilot, be sure to share this article.


Jaclyn, aka Independent Career Chick.

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