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How To Turn An Unproductive Day Around

How To Turn An Unproductive Day Around

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.

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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.

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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.

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Coupled with taking a break, a change of scene may be all you need to help you take stock and re-focus.

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Take a walk on an unprodcutive day

    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.

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

    However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

    Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

    Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

    Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

    In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

    What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

    To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

    The Biology

    Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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    Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

    The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

    A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

    Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

    So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

    Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

    Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

    Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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    Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

    The Psychology

    Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

    Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

    Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

    Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

    What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

    Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

    Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

    1. Identify Your Habits

    As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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    2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

    Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

    It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

    3. Apply Logic

    You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

    Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

    4. Choose an Alternative

    As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

    Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

    5. Remove Triggers

    Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

    Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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    6. Visualize Change

    Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

    For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

    7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

    Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

    Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

    Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

    More About Changing Habits

    Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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