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How to turn unproductive into productive

You wake up feeling blah. Not sick … just a bit slow. It’s a struggle but you get to work, grab your cuppa and settle in at your desk. The reality, however, is that you’re feeling unproductive, unmotivated and even overwhelmed.

The challenge is how to switch from feeling unproductive to productive, so you do the right thing by your team and your organisation.

This expert article, inspired by a piece that ran in the PS News, has 8 practical tips for changing matters around.

Don’t punish yourself

You might be feeling bad that you’ve got a bad case of the blahs but, let’s face it, we can’t all be switched on 100 per cent of the time. We’re humans. It’s normal for employees to sometimes feel the need to re-energise. This is no excuse for being unproductive, however, so keep reading …

Set the priorities

Check your to-do list and your calendar. List your top priorities and determine which items you must complete or progress by close of business. Start by actioning the first priority. Then move to the second and third. Hopefully, you’ll even get further down your list. The key is to not feel you must tackle everything. See final tips below for the Eisenhower Matrix technique, a helpful tool.

Tidy your desk

Without going overboard, a quick tidy of your workspace can help you breathe, and breathing is good when you need more energy. You won’t want to take half the day for a huge clean or re-organisation, but getting rid of clutter can be invigorating.

Schedule your lunch

Nourishing your body, nourishes your soul and makes you happier. Make sure you schedule in a healthy lunch and eat away from your desk. Also take a quick walk around the block afterward, for fresh air.

Apply the Pomodoro Technique

PS News recommends applying the Pomodoro Technique when you’re not on top of your game, because it helps you gain a sense of achievement. Use a timer and set it for 25 minutes. Work on one task, and one task only, for no more than 25 minutes – with no distractions.

Take a 5-minute break when the alarm goes off and repeat the process 3 times. Then take a 30-minute break and start over. You can find heaps of information on this proven technique online.

Avoid multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is a valuable skill, but when you’re not 100 per cent it can stress you out, cause you to lose focus and lead to mistakes and inefficiencies. Instead of juggling multiple tasks, stay focused on the smaller number of top priorities you’ve set.

Switch your phone off or put it on silent

You know how distracting your mobile is, with calls constantly coming in, texts tumbling through and social media going off the dial. It’s too tempting to get distracted, which is what you need to avoid when dealing with your unproductive day. You can check your calls several times a day but schedule these times to control matters.

Pat yourself on the back

While you may not have been entirely productive today, pat yourself on the back for pushing through some priorities, and important ones at that. Go home and rest. Tomorrow is another day.


If you feel unproductive for several days in a row, you may be facing other issues. Think about what these could be and don’t hesitate to talk to your manager, or someone in human resources, or even your doctor. Describing your feelings out loud can help shed light on what else might be going on. Your issues might relate to work-life balance, for example.

Final tip

The PS News says to work with the Eisenhower Matrix technique when you’re feeling unproductive, to focus on achieving more. Also called the ‘Urgent-Important Matrix’, it helps you decide on and prioritise tasks by urgency and importance.

Check out the video on this information page for more insight. It only takes a couple of minutes and following it can kickstart productivity. While the Eisenhower Matrix isn’t the only technique around to help set priorities, it’s a sensible one.

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