So you're feeling unproductive again?

It happens to all of us. We have days where we feel like we can’t be stopped, that the work is flying by, and the checkmarks on the to do list are just popping like popcorn. Then again, we also have days where we’re in the quagmire and can’t get moving. It’s not that there isn’t work to do, it’s that we either don’t know what direction to head, what’s most important, or just “aren’t feeling it.” How do you get over this?

When I find myself in this position, most often when a milestone has been completed on each of my active projects so I have more than one place I can resume working, I’ve found that adopting one of the strategies from David Allen’s Getting Things Done works well. (I don’t use many of his strategies, but this one’s a good one for me.) I keep a list of next actions for each project with next actions, or what I refer to as “on-ramps.” These are easy tasks that give me a quick (under 30 minute) successful completion and act as a natural bridge to more tasks on the project.

For example, “Review notes for action items” is a good on-ramp task. It provides you the rationale to go back through your notes and identify action items you may have missed. However for this to work you have to accept once you are done reviewing for action items, you are going to begin working on one of those found items. You may discover multiple items in your notes, but for now just capture them for later and pick one to get working.

Remember that productivity is as tied to energy as it is to planning. Be aware of your high energy and low energy times and plan your work accordingly to ride the highs and glide through the lows. As has been said with so many things, when it comes to feeling unproductive, “This too shall pass.”