How to Use Your Zombie Hours

Drew Mackie:

This is about how colorful and lively I feel during my zombie hours.

Zombie hours. We all have them. You know, that stretch of time when you feel about as vibrant and intelligent and insightful as a stick figure of a sleepwalking corpse. You dream of napping under your desk. You eat chocolate chips by the handful. Your five-minute Twitter break turns into a forty-five minute Twitter break.

For me, the zombie hours most often strike midmorning if I’m sleep-deprived or in early afternoon on a normal day. Sometimes I can turn the zombie hours into good hours by granting myself a 10-minute nap, taking a brisk walk, or brewing some tea. I recommend trying these solutions first.

Okay, you tried that, and you are still struggling to remember how to spell your own name and biting your tongue to stay awake. Do you just give up? Are you done being productive today?

My trick at this point is to go to my zombie task list. This is the set of jobs on any number of current projects (creative, academic, personal or otherwise) that require very little creativity or intellect but nevertheless need to be done at some time. Instead of feeling crappy about the fact that I am not producing as much as I’d like on the day’s “real” task, I give one of my future selves a gift of time by taking care of some boring task now so that I won’t have to waste productive time on it later. Some of the items on my zombie task list:

(1) Format bibliography for Silva paper

(2) Look up articles on glossaries in YA fiction

(3) Find swim lesson options for Liam

(4) Organize file cabinet

(5) Follow up on articles that have been submitted for over 3 months

(6) Check for emails that I haven’t answered

(7) Laundry

Sometimes by embracing your limited capacities during the zombie hours, you can still get a task done. Often, sometime toward the end of the zombie job, I realize that I’m feeling a little more alert, and I can go back to “real” work. Other times, I’m still little better than an animated corpse, and so I keep working my way down the zombie task list.

So there. Put your zombie hours to work. 


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