10 Ways to Salvage an Unproductive Day

Unproductive days, we’ve all had them.

There are days when you’ll be on fire, getting work done, accomplishing all that there is to be accomplished, and at the end of it all, heading home with a satisfied grin your face, knowing you killed it today at work. And then there are certain days on which you find yourself unable to work or get much – if anything at all – done.

We’ve all been there, and it happens to the best of us.

Luckily, there are ways in which you can salvage such an unproductive day before it’s too late. Here are 10 of them:

1. Make a list

Always seems to work for me. Having an unproductive day? Grab a pen and paper and quickly list down the things that you need to do or accomplish (or had to) during the work-day. Everything goes on this list, even the small stuff. Once done, prioritize according to importance by writing a number with each task – with 1 being the most important to-do item on your list. Keep your list in front of you at all times, and get to work!

2. Improve Your Office Feng Shui

Feng Shui refers to an ancient Chinese practice of arranging physical objects in a certain way so as to create and attract positive energy. Yes indeed, the manner in which how things are arranged in a certain room or a space – right down to how organized you are – is said to affect the energy in the room. In order to create vibrant and positive energy in your work-space, you should look into reducing clutter in and around your space (remember, less is more!), being more organized, adding some greenery and plants to your table (or maybe an aquarium), and above all, cleaning your table and space.

3. Change Your Work-Space/Scenery

Take a day off and try working from home instead. If you already work remotely, go out to your nearest coffee shop and see if the energy there motivates you to be more productive. Take your work to your nearest library and see if the quietness coupled with a change of scenery makes you more productive. Pick up your laptop and go to a park. A geographical change might just be what gets you productive once again. It’s worked for me before!

4. Break Large Tasks Down

…into smaller tasks. For those of you familiar with Project Management, it’s called breaking down a large project into smaller deliverable-oriented components. Breaking a larger task or assignment down into more easily-digestible chunks will (a) give you a list of all the tasks or things that you need to do, and (b) prioritize each one of them easily. This will give you direction, because once you have a list of things in front of you that you need to do, you’ll be much more focused and motivated towards accomplishing them.

5. Take a Break

It might be a good idea to take a breather and relax for an hour or two. Use this time to calm yourself down, recollect your thoughts, and refocus. Hit the gym, the pool or the spa for an hour. Meditate to regain focus. Or just simply go for a walk. A relaxing couple of hours may be just what you needed to get back on track.

6. Focus on Another Task

Do entirely something else than what you were supposed to do. Look at a task which isn’t priority and you were supposed to do tomorrow, or next week. Look into crossing off a personal task off your list perhaps. Hey if you can’t concentrate on doing what you were supposed to do, you might as well put your energies into accomplishing something else. Beats wasting time, doesn’t it.

7. Try Delegating or Outsourcing

Ask someone else to cover for you, or help you out. Or simply delegate your tasks to someone else. If you can’t do it doesn’t mean someone else can’t either. Find someone in the office to delegate your tasks to, or better yet do what I do and look for and hire a freelancer online to take care of your work for you. There are many great websites out there which let you hire freelancers easily and outsource work. Some websites to check out for this purpose are:

8. Pomodoro Technique + Timer

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management tool that uses a timer to break work down into 25-minute chunks, each usually followed by a 5 minute break. In this manner, you can break every hour down into two separate 25-minute intervals and two 5 minute breaks. Buy a physical timer or get a timer app for your phone. Set a 25-min timer, and get to work. This forces you to focus on your to-do list. Focus on a distraction-free session of work during this time, and take a 5-min break after each session. A few such sessions where you sit down and force yourself to work may help you in salvaging an otherwise-wasteful day.

9. Take Your Work Home

While I’m not a big proponent of this, it might be a good idea to take your work home with you, and giving it another shot at night from the comforts of your sofa. Take a nap, and try getting something done before you turn in. You might feel fresh and motivated and may be able to save the day just yet!

10. Schedule for Tomorrow

Alas, if the day proves to be completely unsavable, it might just be a good idea to write it off and instead prepare yourself for the next working day and making sure that it isn’t as unproductive and wasteful. Set yourself up for success tomorrow and the rest of the week by planning ahead. Work twice as hard tomorrow to make up for the day you couldn’t get a lot done.


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