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Monday, February 15th, 2010 | Author:
When your day has gone astray, don't give yourself flack, get it back on track

When your day has gone astray,
don't give yourself flack, get it back on track

Everybody has an unproductive day once in a while, sometimes for the most trivial reasons.  Maybe you couldn’t stop thinking about what your friend said about you or maybe you just didn’t feel like getting out of bed. A single unproductive day occasionally may not bother you much, and it may even be the break you need to recharge and refocus.

But a series of unproductive days could really put you back on your schedule, make you feel stressed out, and even affect your self esteem. But be it a single unproductive day or a series of them; if you want to move forward, you need to treat the wasted day like you would treat an expired carton of milk. Throw it away and move on and use the next one wisely.  This day is gone but how can you counter the ramifications?

Triage the loss before it’s final

Usually, you see a lost day coming.  You realize you won’t be able to get done what you wanted to get done.  Decide early what things you can let go, and what things are critical.  Try to juggle in some less critical things that you also enjoy doing and see if they’ll fit in instead.  If you don’t feel like working on the car, painting the house, finishing your cousin’s wedding album that to promised to do… maybe take the time with your spouse and kids and fit in a surprise outing together.  This may be just the break you need, and it can also buy you time tomorrow to get back to what you need to do.

You have to realize that “me days” are not wasted!

Everyone needs days for themselves.  Everyone needs days they can spend doing nothing.  Everyone needs time to disengage, let the mind run free, or even not run at all.  So don’t be afraid to give yourself a day from time to time.

Get over it

Before you do anything else, get over it!  First off, if it was just a single lost day and you enjoyed it and relaxed, then stop thinking about the day as being wasted.

It’s a better idea to simply let the day go rather than waste more time moping about the unproductive day. Stuff happens! It’s all right, you can power through this.

And if it was a day of dealing with outside stuff that popped up, then realize that most of that stuff had to be dealt with eventually.  Getting it dealt with now could just give you a sense of relief rather than a sense of loss.  You just have to see it from the right point of view.

Where did I go wrong?

Often asking questions of yourself is the best way to figure out where you’ve messed up.

Being bold enough to ask yourself where you went wrong in the first place is the starting point to combating the effects of an unproductive day.  Retrace your steps and try to figure out what factors led to you being unproductive.  Could it be a series of unproductive phone calls or web chats?  Or was it some silly thought that buzzed in your head the entire day?  Think about each factor and make a note of it.  Don’t overlook the trivial ones too: bad lunch, tickle in the throat, sight of neighbor’s annoying dog etc.

Things to NOT do

Instead of focusing on what you should be doing, focus on what you shout not be doing first.  Often, you focus too much on what to do and in the process you might tense up with anxiety, procrastinate and end up feeling quite miserable and emotionally worn out.

Think about the things that you simply must not do; like wallow in bed long after you wake up or drink too much the night before a busy day or chat online late into the night and end up drinking a six-pack of Red Bull to pull you through the day.  Once you eliminate the strict no-no’s you wouldn’t have a similar situation in the future.


An easy way to get back on track is by segregating things into what’s urgent and what’s important.  When your phone rings it’s urgent since you need to pick it up before it gets disconnected.  But if it’s your friend who just called up for the heck of it, it’s not important just urgent.  You can always talk for a bit and then hang up saying that you’ve got something important to do.  Focus on what’s important rather than what’s urgent.

Make up for the backlog piecemeal

So you had an unproductive day or a series of them and you’ve accumulated some backlog.  The only way to deal with the backlog is piecemeal.  Break down your work over the week or the next couple of weeks, and tackle one thing at a time.  Don’t look at the whole list and get discouraged.  Only think about the task you are doing.

You might choose to work a little longer each day but it won’t stress you or bother you since you are choosing to work in order to accomplish each task.

Or you might choose to dedicate an entire day, and work long to knock off the list.  Just remember that it’s one task at a time.  If the tasks are errands, you may need to plan them so you can chain them together into a series, but you are still doing only one task at a time.  But if you choose to make it up in a hard day… make sure you plan for the downtime you’ll need to recharge afterwards.

Be a success junkie

Instead of getting addicted to the adrenaline rush from procrastination, get addicted to the feel-good effect of success in even the smallest of challenges.  If you’ve got ten reports to do, break it down and enjoy the success you get from completing each one.  As you wade through all your work, the feelings of accomplishment only increase.  If you enjoy the feeling of success from mini challenges, you won’t be motivated to procrastinate or let your day go by unproductively.

Also, it helps a lot if when you get 9 of those 10 reports completed, that you can feel 9 small successes and 1 small failure (I do hope you did the most important reports first, right?) rather than feeling 1 big failure.

While you may have your occasional wasted day, don’t let it bog you down with negativity. Tackle it practically rather than letting it get to your emotions. By tackling unproductive days with days of continuing productivity, you end up being more productive overall and increase your satisfaction and morale in the process.