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How to Recover From an Unproductive Day Like It Never Happened →

There was one day last week where I accomplished more in the last hour of my day than I did in the previous 6ish. This happens to everyone from time to time: despite our best intentions, there are all sorts of things that can cause a workday to go sideways on us.

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We all have unproductive days. Maybe an unexpected event throws your schedule for a loop. Maybe you’re not feeling well. Whatever the reason, it can be tough to get back on track. Here’s how to get past the dip in productivity and back into gear.

For me, key to recovering when a day turns unproductive is to find a way to reset and tackle the remainder of the day with a renewed focus. I spend 15 or 20 minutes at the start of every day composing a to-do list and defining my action plan for the day, and when I find myself unable to execute on that plan for whatever reason I repeat that exercise and re-define my action plan based on my new reality. I also find it helps a lot to have a change of scenery: if I’m in the office and my day isn’t going the way I wanted it to then I’ll go home and work the rest of the day from there. If I’m already home then I might head to my favourite coffee place and spend an hour or two working in that environment.

I also find that as part of redefining my to-do list it’s important to be fully inclusive. My day consists of both big and small tasks, and it’s tempting when putting a list together to omit the small ones and just do them immediately, but of course this only leaves the big tasks where I’m more reliant on others and unforeseen things are more likely to occur. When things don’t go to plan it’s entirely possible to end up with a to-do list that has nothing checked off at the end of the day, and it’s important to me not to finish my day that way – I’d much rather spend my evening relaxing with at least a small sense of accomplishment than worrying about a perceived lack of achievement. If I’m only able to achieve smaller things that day then so be it, but that’s better than nothing and cause for correspondingly small celebration, but celebration nonetheless.

If you’re not able to recover your productivity within the working day? Well, that happens to the best of us and isn’t cause for panic. The article I’ve linked to above has some tips and tricks to help us get back on the metaphorical horse the following day.

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