Some varieties of feeling “out of it”

[Epistemic status: phenomenology. I don’t know if this is true for anyone other than me. Some of my “responses” are wrong, but I don’t know which ones yet.

Part of some post on the phenomenology and psychology of productivity. There are a lot of stubs, places for me to write more.

This is badly organized. A draft.]

One important skill of maintaining productivity through phenomenology is distinguishing between the different kinds of low energy states. I think that people typically conflate a large number of mental states under the label of “tired” or that of “don’t feel like working.” The problem with this is, that the phenomenology of these different states points to different underlying mechanisms, and each one should be responded to differently.

If you can distinguish between these flavors of experience, then each one can be the trigger for a TAP, to bring you back to a more optimal state.

I don’t think I’ve learned to make all relevant state-distinctions here, but these are some that I can recognize.

Sleep deprivation: Feels like like a kind of buzzy feeling in my head that goes with “low energy”.

The best response is a nap. If that doesn’t work, then maybe try a stimulant. You can also just wait: after a while your circadian system will be strongly countering your sleep pressure, and you’ll feel more alert.

Fuzzy-headed: Often from overeating, or not having gotten enough physical activity in the past few days.

The best response is exercise. (Maybe sufficiently intense exercise, that you have an endorphin response?)

Hungry: You probably know what this is. I think maybe the best response is to ignore it?

Running out of thinking-steam due to need to eat: This feels distinctly different from the one above. Sort of like my thoughts running out, due to something like an empty head?

Usually, eating entails some drop in energy level, but if you time it right, both not eating and eating can be energizing. Though I’ve never done this for long periods and I don’t know if it sustainable.

Cognitive exhaustion: This is the one I understand the least. I don’t know what it is. Maybe needing to process, or consolidate info, or do subconscious processing? I don’t know if emotional exhaustion is the meaningfully different (my guess is no?).

The default thing to do here is to take a break, but I’m not sure if that’s the best thing to do. I think maybe you can just switch tasks and get the same effect?


I’ll write about aversions more sometime, because they are the ones that are most critical to productivity. Aversions come in two different types: Anxiety/Fear/Stress aversions and “glancing off” aversions.

Anxiety/Fear/Stress/Belief Aversion: This sort of aversion is almost always accompanied by a tension-feeling in the gut and stems from some flavor-of-fear about the thing I’m averse to. A common template for the fear is “I’ve already failed / I’ve already fucked up.” Another is a fear of being judged.

The response to this one is to use Focusing to bring the concern that your body is holding on to into conscious attention, and to figure out a way to handle it.

“Glancing off” Aversions: This is closer to the feeling of slipping off a task, or “just not feeling like doing it”, or finding your attention going elsewhere. This is often due to a task that is aversive not do to it’s goal relevant qualities, but due to it’s ambiguity, or it being to big to hold in mind.

The response, as I’ll write about later, is to chunk out the smallest concrete next action and to visualize doing it.

Ego deletion: Feels sort of like my brain is tired? This feels kind of like cognitive exhaustion, and they might be the same thing. I think this is due to other subsystems in me wanting something other than work.

The correct response, I think, is to take a break and do whatever I feel like doing in that moment, though I don’t have a good understanding of mental energy, and it maybe that I’m supposed to do something that has clear and satisfying reward signals? (I don’t think that’s right, though. Feels a bit too mechanical.)

Urgy-ness: Also have to write more about this another time. This is a feeling compulsion for short term gratification, often of several verities in sequence, without satisfaction. This is often a second order response to an anxiety or fear aversions, and can also be about some goal that’s un handled or an unmet need. See also: the reactiveness scaler (which I also haven’t written about yet.)

Response: exercise, then Focusing

I wrote this fast. Questions are welcome.



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