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23rd February 2023

21 years in business lesson 5: If you’re not being productive, stop pretending to work and go and do something else instead

We all have off days. Days when our head just isn’t in the right place or we can’t find our mojo or get into our groove. Days when we just can’t get started or can’t get something finished. Maybe we’re not feeling 100%, maybe we’re tired or maybe we’re distracted. Or perhaps today just isn’t our day.

Surely I’m not the only one?

Sitting at your desk, pretending (to yourself) that you’re working. If you’re at your desk, you’re at work, right? But you’re getting nothing done – or at least nothing of value. It’s depressing and easily becomes a downward spiral. Even if you do get stuff done, it’s likely to be of poor quality, lacking in creativity and far from your best work.

What I’ve learned (slowly) over the last 21 years, though, is that those days happen – and they’re OK. As long as you’re not on deadline or about to go in front of a client with something (and personally those things are enough to keep me productive and focused) I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to recognise that you’re being unproductive – and to go and do something else instead.

Yes, that could be a completely different work task but it can be much better for us, long term, to go and do something completely un-related to work, even if just for a few minutes. Go for a walk/run/swim/workout. Go shopping. Go and sit in a coffee shop and read or people-watch for a few minutes. Don’t just sit at your desk and stare at the screen or find distractions to pass the time. Get up, move away from your desk and reset yourself.

If you’re self-employed, take advantage of the fact and take the rest of the day off. You’ve got a boss (i.e., YOU) who only wants you to be at your desk when you’re being productive, so take a duvet day. See yesterday’s lesson earlier on my profile for my thoughts on how bad self-employed people are at taking days off – this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the fact that you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck and expecting you to work to the clock. Clock off.

I don’t think having an unproductive day is about procrastination, either. It’s about acknowledging that sometimes we’re just not able to bring our ‘A’ game – or just not in the mood. As long as clients aren’t going to suffer, that’s just being human. Accept it and go and do something else for the day. Your business will be better off in the long term and you’ll feel better in the short term.


Posted: 23rd February 2023 by Steve Bustin Back to Useful Stuff

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