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10 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Unproductive

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have a list of things to do as long as your arm, but no matter how hard you try to get cracking, you can’t seem to get yourself to do it. You’re feeling unproductive. Your energy levels are at zero.

We’ve been there, too.

Being productive when you’re feeling unproductive can feel like a losing game. It’s not as simple as telling yourself to just do it, no matter what Shia LaBeouf says.

With that being said, there are a few things you can do to help get yourself off your sofa and tackle that to-do list ASAP! You might also find learning about the Getting Things Done method by David Allen beneficial as well!

10 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Unproductive

1. Find the root of the problem

While there are many ways to get you out of the slump of feeling unproductive, the first thing is to try to get to the root of your problem.

Are you stressed? Perhaps feeling uninspired? Or like you don’t have much time?

If you can identify the problem, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to find a solution. For instance, if it’s a matter of feeling stressed, you can try to work through meditation and see if that improves your mood.

Sometimes though, there’s no immediate cause for feeling unproductive. And that’s okay! These next few tips will help you get “up and at ‘em” in no time.

2. Start with a plan

Going into any task—or number of tasks—without a plan is a recipe for a disaster.

If you’re the type of person who can easily “wing it”, that’s great! But most of us will just get easily overwhelmed by the huge list of tasks and the lack of direction, and ultimately just give up. I know that I would!

The first step is to set out a plan for how you’re going to tackle your “to-do” list. Take a few minutes to map out your day and decide how you’re going to tackle the day. This can be either a quick list or a detailed game plan, using a planner.

Whether it’s work, school or chores, setting out a course of action is the best way to put your best foot forward. That way you know how to divide your work time and free time fairly.

3. Get outside

If you’re feeling sluggish, take a short, brisk walk outside.

You’d be surprised how much you can be influenced by stepping away from your computer for just a moment. You’re a human being, not a robot, and you’re meant to move around a bit.

While it may seem counter-productive to be stepping away from your work when you’re trying to actually do your work, remind yourself that you would probably be spending this time aimlessly scrolling through your social media feed…again.

By taking a quick walk, you’re fully separating yourself from distractions. This might be the perfect opportunity to clear your head and make some room for your next big idea!

4. Minimize distractions

Once you’re back at your workspace, distractions are your Achilles heel. Whatever you’re doing, TikTok certainly isn’t helping you to be productive!

When it comes to being productive, you’re going to have to say goodbye to your cell phone—at least temporarily! We promise, you’ll feel like you have extra time even though the amount of time you have hasn’t changed.

Turn off notifications, put your phone in another room—whatever it takes to keep you from absentmindedly picking it up and getting distracted from your tasks.

The new Apple iOS 15 software update includes a Focus Mode which allows you to customize your experience by blocking notifications, minimizing distractions, and even sending automated messages to friends to let them know you’re hard at work.

5. Do the most important tasks first

So, you sit down at your desk, look over the list of things you need to do… and the paralysis seeps in. Where do you even start?

The answer is simple: tackle the biggest or most important tasks first.

Not only will this immediately get you into the working zone, but it will also knock off the pressing items from your list so that once you’re done, you’re left with the smaller and easier to manage tasks.

There’s no better feeling than sitting back and realizing that you’re already that much further down on your list!

6. Optimize your workspace

For a lot of people, a disorganized workspace can lead to procrastination. So, it may be worthwhile to make your workspace somewhere that you feel comfortable to be working in!

For some, this might mean just creating a tidy, well-organized space with everything you need in arm’s reach. For others, this might mean lighting a scented candle that you love or putting on your favorite Spotify playlist.

Creating a workspace that makes you feel happy will boost your own morale and help you to get all your tasks done!

7. Get a change in scenery

This tip is universally useful, but especially so for our Work From Home friends!

Sitting in the same place for 8+ hours a day isn’t necessarily fostering the productivity you’re seeking. So, switch things up and find a new place to work!

This might be as extreme as getting in your car and physically moving your workspace to a new destination or as minor as moving from one room in your home to another.

8. Determine your goal

It can be even harder to motivate yourself to work if you aren’t sure of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

A task might seem pointless or easy to procrastinate on if you feel that it’s unimportant.

When you get started for the day, take a few minutes to determine what your goal is for the day. Why are you doing these tasks? Is it because you have an approaching deadline? Is it so that you can take some time off later in the week?

Knowing the motive will help you to determine why you need to be working, and it’ll get you up and working if you know that it’s important to do so!

9. Try out a productivity method

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, productivity just isn’t going to come naturally.

A lot of the time, this comes from not knowing the best techniques to apply in order to make the most of your time (especially helpful when you don’t have a lot of time for getting things done) and effectively check off your “to-do” list.

There are a whole host of productivity methods out there, but one of the most tried-and-true methods is the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique consists of working in timed intervals. You start by working on a task for 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break. Every four times you complete a 25-minute work period, you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

By working in intervals, you allow yourself distraction-free periods of work, combined with breaks where you can scroll through Twitter as much as your heart desires!

10. Take a break

Taking a break might seem extremely counterproductive. But in reality, if you’re feeling unproductive, it might be because you’re feeling overwhelmed or even burnout. It will help you protect your mental health and recharge.

In this case, the best course of action is to just pause and take a moment to yourself. You are allowed to have unproductive time.

As humans, we get caught up in wanting to be constantly productive and to accomplish as much as humanly possible. But it’s also important that we take time to take care of ourselves and our well-being. At the end of the day, we can only do so much, and we are allowed to rest. 

It’s ok to have unproductive days here and there. The important thing is that you’re trying, and small actions can help make a significant impact a lot of the time.

The next time you’re feeling unproductive, make sure to try one—or a few—of these tricks to motivate you to get stuff done! Making some of these simple changes may just help you get more done in less time, which will give you more time to rest and relax. All good things!

About the Author

Felicia Tarantino

Felicia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History. She currently works remotely as a Customer Support Specialist for a small, female-owned business and also writes reviews for her book blog. You'll find her enjoying buying too many books, relating to Taylor Swift songs, and getting emotionally invested in TV shows. When she was 10 years old, she presented her family with her first ever written novel. Since then, she has never put down the pen. She hopes to someday be able to share her stories with the world.