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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

The Best Ways to be Productive When Your Energy is Gone

Some days I wake up feeling more productive than others. But on those days when I get up and feel really lazy, I have to find some sort of stimulus to get my right brain and left brain active and producing. I realize that getting a solid caffeine buzz works for many, but somehow energy drink or coffee-induced work makes me feel more tired and drained when I am done.

Ironically, the thing that ultimately gets me feeling the most productive is actually accomplishing productive tasks. It’s the grinding have-to-do work that drains me and makes me want to go binge watch TV instead.

So when I really feel sluggish, I take five minutes and write down the two or tasks I have been most motivated about tackling. Then, I make a pact with myself to complete them both that day. Now here’s the trick. I start my day with one of those tasks agreeing that I don’t get to start the other one until I work through all the not-so-interesting work that I also have to complete. This way I get to start and finish the day with positive productive energy. Plus, I get a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day as well.

Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.

Hit the Sauce

My favorite productivity tool bar none is the Pomodoro Technique, which helps me write articles and columns much more efficiently. It starts from a simple principle: Work for 25 minutes on a single project without stopping. After 25 minutes, even if you’re in mid-sentence, you must stop for a five-minute break. Each 25-minute chunk is called a “pomodoro,” after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer the technique’s (Italian) inventor used. It’s also a good way to track and manage your time: You plan before you start a job how many pomodoros it will take to finish, and then compare the final results to your estimate.

Minda Zetlin, Start Me Up

Rock Out

When I’m feeling unproductive, I know it’s time to do something to shake things up—and fast. Sometimes the quickest solution is just to put away whatever work it is I’m doing at the time, and to switch to a different project. If that doesn’t do the trick, then I know it’s time to change the scenery. I’ll get up out of my chair and take a quick, five-minute walk to get my mind off whatever it was that was sapping my energy and productivity. When I return to my desk, I’m usually fresh and re-energized. When things get really bad, I’ll grab the guitar I keep in my office and pretend that I’m Jimmy Page or Pete Townshend for five or 10 minutes. That is always guaranteed to get my groove back.

Peter Economy, The Management Guy

Do a Little Dance

Sometimes it’s the unexpected that produces the best results. When I wake up to a busy schedule, thinking how nice it would be to snuggle up with a good book instead, I turn the table on my normal routine. I’ll toss on some old clothes and do a bit of gardening or crank up the music and bust a groove, which really gets the energy moving. A simple activity can change your energy as well as your attitude. What’s a little out of the norm for you? Break out your best moves and start the day with a bit of fun!

Marla Tabaka, The Successful Soloist

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