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How To Turn An Unproductive Day Around

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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.

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    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 October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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