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13 Productive Things To Do Tonight (Instead Of Netflix Again)

I’ve fallen into a pattern of laziness. Definitely over the past few months, since I started working out of the house from 9-4 PM, but even more so in the last week, since I’ve felt a little extra broke (thanks for needing an expensive surgery, Gaston!) and a little sad. I used to pack my schedule full of fun and productive activities to complete outside of work. I had hobbies, I met friends for drinks and coffee, I planned day trips with my friends and family, I did projects around my house — but all of that seems to have come to a halt. I’ve spent a good amount of my time recently sulking, resting, and “self-care”-ing — but not in a good way. My self-care, while maybe necessary while my dog was in the hospital and I was a nervous wreck, hasn’t felt productive, and has possibly made me feel worse. Allowing myself to come home from work at 4 PM, skip dinner, and go straight to curling up under a blanket in front of the TV would have maybe been sweet and helpful if I did it for a day. But we’re coming on two weeks now, and I’m feeling sapped of all energy and motivation.

It was probably a little more than just being sad about my dog. Things like this are normally the result of a snowball effect, when all of the things that have been stressing you come to a head and make you check out and resign to the couch, where you’ll comfortably sit contemplating every thought in your head (besides the ones that motivate you to actually do something.). That’s where I am. And I wouldn’t say it is anything near depression, it is just that I let the stress of “what if” cloud my mind, and went on a small (but very real!) existential journey.

But the good news is that I’m starting to snap out of it. I invited my best friend over today (!!!!) who I haven’t seen in over a week (which is a long ass time for us), did the grocery shopping I’ve been meaning to do but ignoring in favor of skipping meals, and got ahead on work I had to do for the rest of the week. I organized my hallway closet, which I’ve been telling myself to do for weeks, and took my dog on that extra walk I always promise him but never actually get around to. Today was a good day for getting my shit together because, to be honest, I haven’t felt like myself for a few weeks.

Now, though, I am realizing that in times of stress, sadness, and laziness, it is so much better to make yourself at least do something than to sit around and do nothing at all. I decided to compile a small list to use when I feel like I’m in a funk and can’t find something to do to pull myself out of it. Here are 13 small but productive things to do tonight, instead of sitting on the couch and doing nothing. (Not that a good nap isn’t sometimes the answer.)

1. Make two goal lists: one for short-term goals, and one for long-term goals. Make them look pretty. Hang them where you’ll look at them often. Maybe you’re not accomplishing a goal tonight, but planning is the first step.

2. Bake something special and nostalgic and autumnal. I’m currently mixing up a batch of the pumpkin bread my nana always made, and it is making me feel happy, warm, and creative all at once.

3. Watch something inspiring or educational. If you’re mentally and physically exhausted, maybe you do need the type of self-care that plops you on the couch in front of the TV. But you don’t need to watch 15 mindless Gilmore Girls reruns. (Or do you?) You can make it a learning experience by watching a new documentary on a topic you don’t know much about, or a movie that will inspire you to do something you’ve been meaning to do, and learn something new during your night on the couch.

4. Clean your refrigerator. I feel like we should all do this more. It’ll feel nice to look in a fridge that is clean and pretty and well-organized, instead of the chaotic disaster it is now. (Or is that just mine?)

5. Do something that you know you’ll have to do on Friday. Fridays are awesome, but the worst part of them is the morning/early afternoon when you have to still pretend to be in work-mode. Knock something off of your regular Friday to-do list earlier in the week, and Friday you will be thanking Tuesday you.

6. Dig out the remnants of your old favorite hobby that you’ve given up in all of your busyness. For me, it is painting. For my boyfriend, it is a card game. For you, it might be knitting, or cooking, or woodworking, or some sort of art project. Pull out your supplies, look through them, organize them a bit, and maybe even get a little inspired to pick it up again.

7. Do that one really random, little thing that you’ve been too lazy to do. For me, it is walking down to the dumpster with a pot of herbs in my window that died over a month ago. It just looks so heavy and the dumpster is so far that every time I’ve decided to do it, I decided not to a second later. I think if Drew hears me say “I have to throw away that plant” one more time without me actually doing it, he’ll leave me for a woman with follow-through.

8. Rearrange your furniture, even just a little. The smallest change of scenery might impact you in a huge way. Put your couch or bed on the other side of the room if you have the strength, and see how it feels. If that’s too much work (def too much for me), try just swapping your lamp with your potted plant, or putting a candle on a different end table, or rearranging framed pictures on a different shelf. I switched a decorative vase of lighted sticks to the other side of my entertainment center a few days ago, and weirdly enough, it has given the room an entirely different energy.

9. Light a few candles around your home. Not just because it is cliche and sounds cute, but because it makes it so much easier to walk around the house and be productive. I get 10x more done with music on and candles lit than I do without them.

10. Get online, do a little reading, and look into all the options you have with your money. Maybe you’ve never even considered investing before, but look some stuff up, and think about what could happen if you didn’t just let your money sit and do nothing. I opened my IRA on a whim after doing some Googling with my mom one day, and you can, too. It could make thousands of dollars of difference in your life if you start now. 

11. Go for a walk, or try an at-home workout routine. You know what they say about exercise and endorphins and not shooting your husband. (But in all seriousness, it will probably make you feel happier.)

12. Cook something using the random kitchen appliance you own but have never really touched. (For me, it is a veggie spiralizer — sorry, noodle-shaped zucchini isn’t spaghetti.) It puts you in a creative mood, adds something new to your meal rotation, and you’ll get dinner at the end of it.

13. Eat something. And I’m not saying “eat when you’re bored” or “eat when you’re not at all hungry,” but sometimes when you just feel like shit, eating isn’t on your radar, even though it is one of the things that really might make you feel better. Every time I wake up crabby and lethargic from a nap or find myself feeling grumpy and sad for no reason at all midday, eating a granola bar always brings me back to life. Eating almost always helps. (So does drinking water — but you already knew that. Drink more water, seriously.)

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com

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