It’s one of those days.
You keep scrolling through Instagram over and over again, you continuously check the news when nothing has changed.
You’re staring at the screen, but reading the same sentence over and over again.
You’re finding it hard to keep your eyes open and your brain has turned to mush.
You have a long to-do list and, as yet, nothing has been ticked off.
And it’s causing you to procrastinate.
We procrastinate because we don’t know where to start on a task, and the leap seems monumental, so it’s much easier to do something else.
But doing something else means that we fail to tackle the tasks that are important, and it turns into a self-fulfilling cycle - when we avoid the work we get more anxious about having to complete it which leads us to procrastinate when further. And in turn, the work never gets done!
Everyone procrastinates, but the key is how you handle an unproductive day when it comes your way and are able to quickly press the reset button.
You don’t have to write off the day as a lost cause, but by employing one or more of these 7 strategies, you can turn the day around in no time.
Take it from me, as a small business owner and entrepreneur I need to keep on top of my daily tasks, and some of these hacks I use daily!
7 hacks to turn around an unproductive day
1. Write a to-do list
Often procrastination is about having too much to do and not knowing where to start. Writing a to-do list can help you focus on what needs to be done.
Jot down everything on your mind - often known as a brain dump - and work out what needs to be done. What needs to be done asap and what can be left until later in the week or the following week?
If tasks feel overwhelming, and they are too big, what can you break down into smaller tasks?
Breaking large projects into smaller tasks can make them feel a whole lot more manageable, and once you get going, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel in no time.
Write down a to-do list for both today and the rest of the week, factoring in meetings, breaks, and being realistic in terms of how long a task is going to take you. You’ll feel so satisfied when you come to ticking items off your list and knowing what you need to do each step of the way can help you focus and get that work done!
And for the rest of the day:
Choose just one task
What’s the one thing you could do by the end of the day that would help you feel that your day was a success? What needs to be completed today?
Cross off all the easy tasks
I often find there is a multitude of small tasks that need to be completed that just move from one week to the next. I’ve done all the bigs tasks, that are the ultimate goal for my business, but those little tasks just keep getting written out.
A day spent on all the little tasks can really help you feel as though a weight is lifted, and you’ll gain the momentum you need to help you move forward with the rest of the actions on your list.
2. Take a break
Taking a break might sound like the complete opposite of what you need to be doing, but it’s a great way to reset yourself.
Go for a walk, meditate, make a cup of tea, go to the gym, put on a clothes wash, whatever takes your fancy.
Taking time away from your desk and computer can help make you feel energised, refreshed and raring to go when the time comes to return and you’ll race through that to-do list in no time!
3. Tidy your desk
Sometimes our unproductiveness is a product of our environment.
If you’ve got books piling up on the side of your computer, post-it notes all over the place and pens littering the space no wonder you can’t concentrate.
Tidying your desk is also a great way to refocus your mind. It gives you the time to reset, and often you’ll find that your brain has done the hard work of recalibrating your to-do list without you having to consciously think about it!
On top of having a tidy desk, make sure that you have good lighting, a comfortable chair, and you create an atmosphere conducive to work, whether that’s through plants, a mug you like to use or easy to access notebooks.
4. Start with 5 minutes
Using the 5-minute rule, tell yourself that you need to start this piece of work for 5 minutes. If you achieve the 5 minutes, you are allowed to quit if you like.
The idea is that you trick your brain into thinking that 5 minutes isn’t a very long time to spend on something and that you can handle it. More often than not, once the 5 minutes are over, you are so absorbed in the task that you keep going.
In this way, you’ve got over the difficult hump of getting started. Once you’ve got started your achievement will motivate you to carry on, and you’ll finish your task in no time!
5. Take yourself out of your environment
Once a week, usually on a Wednesday afternoon, I take myself to a local coffee shop and work from there for the afternoon nursing a couple of cups of coffee.
The idea is that sitting in the same chair in the same room every single day, especially during COVID when we are all working from home, can start to feel uninspiring and unproductive. Being somewhere else provides you with another perspective that might be all you need to refocus and recharge your energy.
Working from a cafe can give you the added bonus of a distraction-free few hours if you choose not to connect to their internet. One of the things I do when I procrastinate is to check the news (who knows why?) so being somewhere without the internet just kicks that habit. I get no new emails and no updates. I’m writing this article from a local cafe and it’s bliss.
If you are at work and can’t move to a different environment, try putting on headphones or turning off your notifications on your phone or computer for a couple of hours whilst you smash the task at hand.
6. Have a nap
A nap is also something I love to do and I am a great napper.
Often I’m procrastinating because I’m tired and when I’m tired I literally look at my screen for hours on end with nothing ever completed.
Napping gives me the quick energy boost I need - all it takes is 20 minutes - after which I can type out that blog post in no time.
I know that napping is less conducive in a work environment and some people find it makes them more tired and groggy for the rest of the day, but if you can do it, then go for it!
7. Don’t worry if you’ve had an unproductive day
Everyone has them, and no one is able to be productive 100% of the time. If your day really is going that badly, then why not sack it off?
Get stuck into something you enjoy and take your mind off your work, and by the time you come to sit at your desk again you’ll be refreshed and ready to face the day.
You might even have made some unexpected breakthroughs as you’ve left your unconscious to do some of the hard work for you!
Which productivity hack are you going to use? How do you turn around your unproductive day? We’d love to know!