Six Steps to Salvage an Unproductive Day

unproductiveIn the life of a business leader, there will be unproductive days.

Despite our best efforts to stay ahead of the uncertainties that come with running a business, occasionally everything seems to go sideways.

Unproductive days are never welcome. They can negatively affect your organization’s success, rattle your self-confidence, and elevate stress levels when deadlines are looming.

In a recent Entrepreneur post, contributor Lisa Evans shares six steps (with insights from productivity experts Peggy Duncan and Les Taylor) that you can take to rescue an unproductive day.

#1: Clear the Clutter

A workstation or desk overflowing with paperwork is enough to drive anyone to distraction, and you’ll spend more time digging through notes and files than actually getting important work done.

“You start looking through the piles of clutter to find something, then you find others that you forgot you had and you get distracted working on something else,” say Duncan.

Many of us delay clearing off our desks until all the important things are ticked off our lists, but simply getting up and making the smallest progress can spark the brain into productivity mode.

Taking a moment to reorganize and tidy up

#2: Cross Off the Easy Stuff First

If you’re faced with a lengthy task list, Duncan advises focusing on the easy tasks first, even writing a few items down just so you can cross them off. It’s a powerful technique to trigger motivation, and start each day with a sense of accomplishment.

Resist the urge to spend the entire day on the little things. Filling your entire day with the small, easily accomplished tasks means larger, more important projects get pushed further and further back.

“I always recommend people prioritize tasks that will get you paid.”

#3: Choose One Task

To-do lists might help you prioritize tasks, but too often, they just reinforce business as usual.

Les Taylor recommends swapping out the traditional to-do list for a success list. Start by asking yourself what one thing you could accomplish today that will have a positive impact on your business.

Focus on accomplishing those tasks that propel your business forward, and make them your top priority. Highlight this one priority task, to ensure things that are of the greatest benefit become the focus of your entire day.

#4: Change the Scenery

A proven productivity booster is simply getting up and moving somewhere else. If you have the luxury of being able to work out of the office, take your laptop down to the local coffee shop or find an unused conference room.

Have a clear goal in mind of what you’d like to accomplish, or you risk repeating the same unproductive behaviors.

#5: Set a Timer

Try giving your smaller projects undivided attention in short, 15-minute time blocks. You may be surprised by just how many you are able to accomplish in such a short time frame.

“The small accomplishment can motivate you to fast-toward your way through the rest of your to-do list,” says Taylor.

#6: Keep a Positive Mindset

Taylor also notes that starting your day on a negative note is the fastest way to derail your day. Set yourself up for a productive day, and avoid sources of frustration and anxiety as often as you can.

Finish each day with an audit of the day’s successes to set yourself up for the next day’s anticipated productivity.

What steps do you take to avoid unproductive days? 

2 replies
  1. Eri
    Eri says:

    I’ve seen way too many supervisors/managers who expcet their staff members to solve problems or to tackle tasks in the same way the supervisor or manager does. I find you often get better results by giving the staff member the freedom to approach a problem or task as they choose. Results are what really counts not that staff walk in the same path that you would have chosen.

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