GoalsOnTrack Blog

A systematic approach to achieving goals and getting results.

5 Ways to Turn an Unproductive Day Around

By Thanh Pham

The way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest day. Waking up and starting the day productively, most likely results in a productive day. But…start a day with a bad mood and it can spiral out of control and you’ll get nothing done at all.

We’ve all been there.

I used to believe that it was impossible to turn an unproductive day into a productive day until I discovered these 5 techniques.

1. Meditate

My go-to fix is to meditate. I’ll comfortably sit in my chair, close my eyes and do the breathing exercise that’s taught in the Productivity Blueprint. The basic mechanics are very simple: you breathe in for 3 seconds, you breathe out for 6 seconds.

Continue to repeat this for about 10–15 minutes and you’ll feel a huge sense of relief and have a mind void of noise. You’re literally changing your state when you’re meditating and this relaxed state allows you to get back in the game. Give this a serious try the next time you’re feeling unproductive (especially those of you who tend to be very scatter-brained).

2. Change Environment

Sometimes our direct environment is not helping us get into a productive mood. Kids might be running around. There’s construction going on next door. You’re getting cabin fever. Whatever the case may be, an easy fix is to simply get out of that environment.

You could go for a walk and then come back later to try again. Or you can simply grab your stuff and start working at a coffee shop, co-working space or any other environment that allows you to get work done.

Personally, I like to go for a walk around the block whenever I’m not feeling it. There’s plenty of science available that shows that walking (or going for a quick run) can change your mood, which allows you to be productive again.

To avoid cabin fever (since I work from home) every Friday I work either at a coffee shop or at Whole Foods. I particularly like working at Whole Foods since it’s a like one big refrigerator whenever I’m taking a break.

3. Take It Easy

One day I randomly discovered this trick that helped me turn around unproductive days.

I noticed that whenever I felt stuck, I would automatically go to my OmniFocus and find tasks that took less than 5 minutes to do. Then I would just start doing them and slowly but surely it helped me build momentum. After completing a couple simple things like “file X-document” or “empty trash” I started to feel better about myself. All of sudden I was in “doing mode” and then naturally I would shift back into doing the “hard things”.

Do the little things. The easy things that don’t require much effort and before you know it, you’re back on track to get the big things done. And if you don’t, then at least you got rid a lot of excessive tasks that have been laying around collecting dust.

4. Set a Timer

A strange but effective way to get over the slump is to set a timer ala the Pomodoro Technique. It’s this external accountability that pushes you to move forward.

So instead of your boss throwing the whip at you, you have a timer that’s ticking away and for some strange reason it really works. I usually do this as my last resort when I really need to finish something and my favorite timer is Vitamin-R.

The next time you feel stuck, set a timer for just 25 minutes and see what happens.

5. Talk To A Positive Person

Everyone has that ONE friend that is always positive and happy up to the point where it’s really annoying sometimes to see this person always being happy.

Call that friend whenever you’re stuck and not in the mood to get stuff done!

If you don’t have that friend then talk to one of your co-workers or your parents (they always love hearing from you anyway). Getting that social energy will help.

Don’t ask me why it works. But it does.

Pick One

There you have it – 5 easy ways to turn an unproductive day around. The next time you’re feeling unproductive, pick any of these five techniques and you should be back on track in no time.

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