Running a membership-based organization is a lot of work: whether you’re bravely diving into paperwork or trying to update yet another spreadsheet, there are a lot of small tasks that can make you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

The unfortunate truth of many jobs is that you’re going to have to deal with a lot of tasks you find tedious or less-than engaging, and you should definitely expect it in a job that requires you to pay attention to detail while managing large lists and contact records.

Using a membership management software suite can help cut down on the tedium and boredom of work like this – but now and again we all find ourselves tired, staring at a list, wondering how we’re going to steel ourselves to look through another hundred cells.

That’s where this advice comes in: we’re going to discuss a number of ways you can maintain your focus and stay productive when you feel like it’s hard to go on. Some of them might seem like common sense, and a lot of the advice has the potential to be applied elsewhere in your life, but we’re going to focus on what it means to someone who spends their time managing people – and spreadsheets.

1. Take a deep breath.

No, really. Do it slowly, in and out, and then take two more. Taking a moment to examine your breathing is a meditative technique that helps you switch gears for a moment and pull you out of whatever problem is bothering you.

Close your eyes while you do it, too; you’ve probably been staring at a screen for a while! Maybe you’re tired and want to go home, and shifting your attention to something you are doing deliberately and intentionally will help you feel like you’re in control of yourself and your work.

As busy as you may be, it’s still a good idea to take some very intentional downtime in order to make sure you can always keep going.

Practices like mindfulness and meditation can be an important part of keeping your cool and your resolve during stressful or tedious situations. They can seem like a waste of time, but if they help you to manage yourself better, then the time you’re spending is a good investment in getting even more done today.

By the way – did you really take three full deep breaths back there? It’s easy to just take one and decide it’s not working. Take three actual deep breaths, and then carry on reading.

2. Step back and think about bigger goals

Sure, deadlines are a thing, but not everything is urgent. The day-to-day work you do, whether you’re working with software or people, is important, but it’s also worth remembering that you should be thinking with bigger goals in mind at the same time.

It’s worth taking time to carry out long-term consideration of questions like: is my strategy working for me? What is my strategy, anyway? Which demographics are we targeting – and which ones aren’t we targeting? Those questions are also important and just as much a part of your work as the tedious tasks. Consider them an essential distraction and an excuse to take a break from the usual work at your desk.

You should also consider: are the tools you’re using the most effective ones you have available? Are you doing things that are inefficient and making yourself more stressed out because of it?

It is possible that your routine isn’t working for you and needs to be altered for you to be at your best, and taking time to consider that question is as much a contribution to your work as any keyboarding you’ll be asked to do.

Look for new software, plugins, and other services, and make sure that what you’re using isn’t causing you problems by being inefficient and outdated. That kind of effort takes some time to pay off, but once it starts paying off, it never stops, because you’re always going to benefit from doing things more efficiently.

3. Get up, then eat and drink something

It’s easy to forget about our physical needs when we’re stressed out. A bit of motion, not to mention keeping yourself fed and physically prepared, helps us focus and do what we need to do.

Bring food to your desk, if you have to – order in, if you’ve got no other options, but spending a weekend afternoon on frozen meal prep can also be a good investment of your time. Water’s especially important to keep on top of – by the time you’re feeling thirsty, you’ve already been dehydrated for a while.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you’re not sure how much water you need, see if you can make it to the bottom of the glass without putting it down. If you can, then you should probably already be working on the next glass. And yes, it needs to be water – soda and juice are fine, but they are not replacements for staying hydrated.

If you got enough sleep last night, and you’ve had your coffee, but you still have a dull headache and poor focus, you probably need some pure, old-fashioned water!

Getting up and moving is also an important part of this. It’s a good time to think and process what you’re working on, and handling long periods of time in a chair is a lot easier when you break it up with some motion here and there.

You’re going to have to do it when you get some more food and water anyway, so stretch a little while you do it – consider it multitasking!

4. Switch tasks – but not too often

Many of us have heard of the joke about using one task to procrastinate on a different one – like using washing the dishes to procrastinate on doing your taxes. It’s talked about like it’s a shameful thing, but it’s really not: taking a break when it feels like you’ve gotten frustrated, and trying to achieve something different can help you shake things up in your head.

Not to mention, sometimes our best ideas and inspiration arrive when we have allowed ourselves to stop thinking about a task. Taking a break isn’t a sign of weakness but often a necessary step in overcoming a task that’s frustrating us.

If you’re tired of thinking about email campaigns, take another stab at that data import you’ve been meaning to tackle. If you’re tired of thinking about event registration, switch over to an easier task like answering some emails.

And yes, we know – multi-tasking isn’t actually a super-efficient way to do things. It takes time and effort to switch from thinking about managing a project to trying to upgrade software, or to switch from entering contact records to taking a phone call. This advice should be taken in moderation, as a way to improving your workflow – not for the sake of bragging how many tabs you’ve got open.

We know you work hard – and we hope that by making use of these ideas, you can help yourself work more efficiently and feel better while doing it.