What to Do When You’ve Failed to Be Productive

When you work from home, and unexpected situations come up.

Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash

It’s happened to all of us.

You create a to-do list, plan a productive day, and manage to complete one or two items on the agenda. Then, the phone rings. Someone knocks. Your sister decides to tell you a long, funny story. Your kid starts crying. You go on Twitter to promote an article and get sidetracked by the trending stories.

You can schedule every minute of every day, but you’re still bound to end up doing a task you hadn’t planned.

Your organized day will never be perfect. Life will happen, and you’ll need to tend to it.

Afterward, you’ll likely be stuck stumbling through the rest of your duties as though your boss gave you an impossible deadline. So, the question is: What do you do when your productive day doesn’t go as planned?

Always do the most important tasks first

You never know how your day will take a turn, which is why you should always begin with the jobs you need to complete by that night. (There should be one to three.)

Don’t misuse your time checking social media, texts, or email. Get to work as soon as possible.

You’ll be tempted to tackle the most straightforward task first, but when the inevitable interruption happens, you’ll regret it. When you work on your most urgent responsibilities first, you won’t have to worry about them later when, for example, your dog escapes through the gate you left open.

Even if you don’t get around to the rest of your work, it won’t matter because they’re not priorities. There might be a smart reason to manage them, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.

Don’t get angry and give up

After your sister and her child have left your apartment after a three-hour surprise visit, you’ll look at your long schedule and want to scream. Stress and worry will follow because you don’t know how you’ll finish the rest of your duties.

Most likely, you’ll be so mad that you say screw it and close your planner before heading to the living room to watch Netflix. (Trust me. I’ve been there.) This is not the way to go.

Keep calm, and figure out how you can perform your last responsibilities before your daughter returns from her after school program.

How to plan the rest of your day (post-distraction)

After you’ve taken a breath, figure out how you’ll make the best out of the rest of your time.

“It is not how you start the race or where you are during the race-it is how you cross the finish line that will matter.” — Robert D. Hales

Remember, you completed the more significant tasks. The rest of them won’t be as necessary. You should be able to go through them and move some to tomorrow’s to-do list, eliminate them, or adjust them.

Let’s assume you have five items remaining on your list.

  1. Schedule Facebook posts
  2. Edit another article
  3. Read for one hour
  4. Workout
  5. Write 500 words of my book

First, find out how much time you have left before your workday ends. Second, erase the tasks you realize you don’t care to achieve today or adjust them.

Now your to-do looks like this:

  1. Write 300 words of my book
  2. Read for twenty minutes
  3. Workout

Organizing a new plan will relieve your stress and worry. Plus, you’ll feel more confident you can accomplish them. Now that you’ve gotten clear on what steps to take, you can start tackling them.

Eliminate distractions

Turn off your phone, go someplace that helps you get in the zone, like a coffee shop, and download a website-blocking app like Focus.

If you only have a couple of hours to be productive, use them wisely. Don’t become the reason you don’t reach your daily goals.

Final words

Your days won’t always go the way you imagined. Random events will appear to deter you, but it’s up to you how you deal with them after.

Remember, always start with the most pressing tasks first. If, by then, you don’t have enough time to get through the rest of your work, then reduce and modify your goals.

It doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Not an expert. Not a guru. Just a self-help writer trying to be as honest as possible and hoping to make a few people feel less alone along the way.

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