We've all had those days -- when no matter how much you try to focus on the task at hand, you just can't seem to make any progress.
You type just one sentence of that important email, only to spend the next five minutes perusing one of your social media accounts. After just a little bit of work, you find yourself sidetracked by a friendly, yet lengthy, conversation with a colleague.
Despite your best efforts, you just can't motivate yourself to be productive.
That's frustrating enough in and of itself. But it becomes even more disheartening when it turns into a trend that carries over into your next workday.
For that reason, the best thing you can do is stop that unmotivated spell right in its tracks and make sure tomorrow is far more productive. Here's how to do just that.
1. Take a Break
When you didn't manage to accomplish much during your workday, it can be tempting to force yourself to work well into the evening. You're convinced that you need to make up for lost time.
That desire is understandable. However, it can also end up backfiring on you. If you were unable to focus throughout the majority of your day, that's likely your mind's way of telling you that you're feeling a little burnt out.
So, the smarter strategy is to resist that temptation to work into the wee hours and instead give yourself a break to clear your mind and approach tomorrow with a totally refreshed and reset perspective.
2. Jot Down Your Priorities
It's far too easy to get wrapped up in the menial tasks that have a sneaky way of filling your workday. Needing to answer email after email or put out one fire after another rips your attention away from your important tasks and depletes your mental resources.
When this happens, you need to take a step back and get a renewed grasp on your priorities. You need to see the forest, and not just the trees.
To start your day, take a Post-it note or a sheet of paper and jot down just a couple of the big things that you need to accomplish during that workday.
Having those important action items quite literally in front of you will serve as your inspiration to buckle down and get work done. Think of it as the professional version of taping a photo to the fridge when you're on a diet.
3. Work Off the Same To-Do List
This is a different mental trick I like to use when I'm attempting to rebound from a wildly unproductive workday.
I'll follow the rules of the above step and list out my major priorities. However, instead of writing an entirely new to-do list after that, I'll work off the one I made the previous day (since I wasn't efficient and effective the day before, my priorities typically carry over anyway).
I find that this helps for a few reasons. First and foremost, having even just a couple of things already crossed off that daunting list boosts my motivation.
Second, being stared in the face by all of the loose ends I didn't take care of yesterday serves as even more inspiration to really crank out work today. And, as an added bonus, I don't need to waste time making a brand-new list of tasks.
4. Switch Up Your Scenery
Returning to the exact same spot where your productivity fell apart might not be helpful. Sitting at that same desk, in that same chair, staring at the same cubicle wall can have a way of instantly depleting whatever motivation you've managed to muster up for yourself.
When that happens, consider changing up your scenery -- even for just an hour or two. Head to a coffee shop or even a conference room within your same office.
Getting away from the space that seemed to suck the life out of you yesterday will help you approach your to-do list with a much fresher attitude.
We all have unproductive days. And, while there's no sure-fire way to prevent them entirely, it's important that you know how to rebound from them. Use these four tips, and you're far more likely to make tomorrow better.