1) Exercise for at least 30 minutes each morning. This induces an increased metabolism, oxygenation of blood, focus and creative output for up to four hours.
2) Drink (a lot of) water, juice, or tea. Low sugar content. No caffeine if you can help it.
3) Have within your reach, readily available, low-calorie snack foods you can eat all day (unflavored popcorn, low-carb crackers (digestives), grapes, apple slices, etc.).
4) Turn off Facebook, Twitter, and email. Work off-line as much as possible. Sketch with a pen or pencil as much as your work will allow. Experiment with various forms of music to learn which ones support reading, research, writing, math, art, and organization / composition / publication.
5) Get up and move every 20-30 minutes. Walk around the room. Look out the window. Run a flight of stairs–unless you are in a really good grove–then keep going!
6) Switch locations when all focus is gone. Find a couch and curl up with your laptop. Head to a cafe. Sit on the beach with your notebook. Anything to bring a positive outlook back to your work paradigm.
7) If frustration / anger enter the game, do physical exercise which invokes limited pain to relieve the angst: yoga stretches, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups on door jams–until the frustration is simply worn out.
8) Choose from your list of tasks based upon how you feel, what looks interesting. If you force yourself to do something that does not feel right, chances are it will not get done no matter how hard you try. In the end, you’ll beat yourself up for not doing it, only adding to the downward spiral. Embrace what you can do, what your brilliant mind is capable of in that moment, and build patterns of self-praise in order to build capacity for total, quality, creative output and subsequent joy.
9) Choose activities after work / outside of school which support a strong, focused start the next day. Each and every day is just too damn important to waste a single morning, afternoon or night not fully engaged. Personally, no social activity is worth the loss of even an hour of the next day for that could be THE day in which I write my best poem or make a cognitive leap toward the end goal of my research … or invent something that truly helps humanity. Why take the risk that I may miss that opportunity?
10) Give yourself permission to just walk away. It is sometimes better to not push through a period of total distraction or lack of focus, but to embrace that part of your day as available for something totally new. Go for a swim, a run, or to your favourite cafe. Go home early, take a hot bath, watch a movie, bake a batch of cookies or fresh bread. You’ll have a fresh start the next day, clean and clear and ready to dive in again.