1. Focus on one important task.
Take stock, have a look at your task list, and do the one thing on it that fulfills one or more of the following criteria:
- Will make you or your employer the most money
- Will most delight your customers or colleagues
- Will save you the most time or money
Everything else can wait until this task is completed. On an unproductive day, being able to take stock and focus has to be your best friend. It can completely turn things around and turn you from productivity zero to hero.
2. Take a short break.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but if you just aren’t feeling it, you could do much worse than take a break. Take a short walk or go make some coffee, as this break can be just what you need to get you going during an unproductive day. Taking a short break can actually save you time rather than cost you. If you come back energized after your break, you will more than make up for this time.
3. Remove distractions.
Email, social networking and surfing the internet are great for keeping up to date but won’t help during an unproductive day. These time sinks can take you away from what you should be focusing on and make you feel busy when you aren’t. If you can’t discipline yourself, try using an application that limits your ability to use these tools for a specific chunk of time.
If you are in a busy office, the distractions may come in the form of others who want to chat. Politely but firmly state that you have to get on with your work, and then do it. You might want to try wearing headphones (even if you are not listening to music) as these remove some of the background noise and mean that you are less likely to get interrupted without good reason.
4. Change of scene.
If you are working on a mobile device (laptop, mobile phone, tablet, etc.), having a change of scene can help kick start you on an unproductive day. Moving to another room, going to a coffee shop or just facing another direction can make you view things from another perspective, enabling you to get your most important task under way.
Coupled with taking a break, a change of scene may be all you need to help you take stock and re-focus.
5. Batch tasks.
By batching tasks, you improve your capacity and turn things around on an unproductive day. Whether batching email, dealing with the post or creating content, doing them at a planned point in the day means that you can rattle through them quicker and won’t lose focus when flip-flopping between one task and another. It can take a little practice to get used to this, but once you’ve batched activities like dealing with email, you will start to understand its power.
6. Avoid trying to multitask.
Multitasking is the devil in disguise – as far as productivity on an unproductive day goes. Studies have shown that by trying to complete many things at once, each individual task can take up to 40% longer. Instead, focus on one task at a time and don’t move on until that is done.
7. Don’t get overwhelmed.
It’s really important that you do not get overwhelmed and feel like the job is too big to start. Break large projects into smaller, more manageable chunks to get started. Once you are moving, it will be much easier to see your way through things. If you get blocked by the magnitude of a follow-on task, make sure to cut that up into smaller pieces so that you can keep going.