How to Get Back on Track After an Unproductive Day

Everybody has an unproductive day now and again.

There are days when you’re so super focused, determined and driven that your to-do list shrinks back a little every time it sees you eyeing it. You can leave work feeling satisfied that you have gone above and beyond, and accomplished everything there is to be accomplished.

And then, sometimes, there are days when you find yourself totally unable to get anything at all done. It’s 3 o’clock, your to-do list has doubled in length, your boss’ patience is wearing thin and you’re going to miss your next deadline if you don’t turn things around.

Here’s how to get back on track, rescue the day and boost productivity.

Strategize

After an unproductive slump, your tasks and things on your to-do list probably have new time constraints on them. That blog post due in two days’ time you were supposed to have done by 12pm? It’s 3pm now, but you’ve got a conference call in 15 minutes. After that, there’s a mandatory staff meeting. After that, you’re supposed to be reviewing a project with a colleague.

First thing’s first – make a new plan.

Reassess the tasks you need to complete and figure out which are the most important (and urgent) on that list. Take time to figure out what your priorities are, which can be delegated, and what can be left for another day. Then start making your way through them in their new order.

Start easy…

When you’re strategizing to catch up on the work you missed, consider where you want to start. Lots of people find starting small helps them to get back in the swing of things – it’s called structured procrastination. Getting started is often the hardest part, so crossing something easy off your list gives you the momentum to tackle your bigger to-do’s.

…or go hard

Alternatively, you might want to jump in at the deep end and start with your most difficult or time-consuming task. Ever heard of the book “Eat that frog”? It’s based on a quote by Mark Twain:

If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.

– Mark Twain

The idea behind is to complete your worst task first. Get it out of the way so it isn’t sat on your desk, filling you with dread. Once the worst is over, the rest of your to-do list won’t seem so bad.

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Whichever way you decide to start is entirely up to you, as long as you actually start.

Try out some productivity techniques

Once you’ve got a plan in place, it’s time to get to work. To avoid another unproductive set-back and to stay focused, try some proven productivity techniques.

Whether you try the Pomodoro Technique and do some time-blocking, use smart tools to minimise distractions, or simply set a timer for 5 minutes and see how far you get, finding the right method for you can make a huge difference to your work.

Figure out why

Finally, it’s important to try and figure out the reason behind your temporary lapse so you can stop it from happening again.

Maybe you’ve taken on too many commitments and are feeling burnt-out. Or maybe you’re getting distracted by other things like emails or Facebook notifications. Whatever the reason, identifying and knowing which steps to take to avoid it will help you to stop it from happening again in the future.

Depending on how long your unproductive slump was, it might take a day or two to get back on track. Most importantly, remember that everyone has off-days and, provided they’re infrequent, they’re nothing to feel guilty about. Take a deep breath, refocus and stay positive.

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