Getting Productivity Out of a Wasted Day


Don’t quit just yet! Make the most of your day even if it’s almost over; productivity can start at 8am, 5pm, 11pm. Here’s how…


“I’ll write off today as a ‘lazy day’ and start afresh tomorrow.” I think, looking out the window at the darkening evening sky and then at all the unchecked boxes next to items on my to-do list. Maybe a particular task ran over time or I found myself unexpectedly overwhelmed with something that needed immediate attention. Whatever the reason, when the structure I had planned for the day spirals out of control, it’s so easy for me to think that I’m doing myself a favour by making the decision to quit while I’m behind and put in extra effort tomorrow.

But I’m not doing myself a favour at all. When- feeling disappointed and unfulfilled- I disregard a day as a ‘wasted day’ before it’s even over, I end up piling more tasks onto the next day and the next. One of the most rewarding lessons I’ve had to teach myself is that every second of every day is valuable if you make it so. So here are my tips of how to make the most out of a day that’s almost over.

Be Realistic

The first couple of tips are for before you’ve wasted any time. You’ve got to be real with yourself when setting your goals for the day. Think on past experiences as a reference for how long certain tasks have taken you before. There’s no use giving yourself an hour to clear out the garage when you know that last time you did it, it took all day.


Each item you have planned should have enough emergency cushion space around it to factor in an unexpected delay. Maybe you’re planning on making an apple pie before taking pictures of it for a blog post you’ve scheduled for the evening. Consider the possibility of burning the pie or having to run out and get a forgotten ingredient.

Bit of a random example I know, I’m kind of in the mood for dessert.

Do The Hardest Stuff First

You’ve probably heard this tip before when it comes to productivity. People love to bring up that Mark Twain quote about the frog. But it’s so true!

Eat your breakfast (preferably not a frog), have a shower, get dressed and then get started. If you get the most difficult or the biggest/most time-consuming task out of the way first, not only does everything else seem a doddle in comparison, but you’ll actually find that the sense of accomplishment you get from achieving the hard bit spurs you on for the tasks to come. This means you put more effort in while you’re still on that high of success rather than plodding through your tasks with average input and then getting to the hard one and thinking… you know what… maybe tomorrow.

Never Label A Day As Unproductive

We know about lazy days, we know about cheat days, and those are fine (and totally necessary in my opinion) if you previously designated your day as such. But if you’re halfway through what was supposed to be a normal, productive day, it’s so important that you stick it out to the end.

Once you’ve said to yourself ‘I quit, today just isn’t gonna work’, you’re saying goodbye to valuable time that could have been used effectively.

And I’m not saying you need to sit at your desk and write essays until midnight because you’re HAVING A PRODUCTIVE DAY. Get creative with your productivity. Maybe it is too late in the day to get something done that’s on your to-do list, but surely there’s something else you can do to help you keep taking steps forward. Tidy your space or plan your meals for the week. Do little things to free up some of tomorrow’s time so you can spend it on today’s undone tasks. A day isn’t a write off until you make it so. Every achievement adds to a bigger picture. Even the littlest achievement counts.

Plan For Tomorrow

Let’s talk about that apple pie again. I liked that analogy. I mentioned having to run out to the shop to get some baking powder or whatever ingredient you forgot. If you had done that the day before (maybe as one of your little things to add to the bigger picture) you would be saving yourself valuable time today.


I personally write a full week of to-do lists with each of the tasks that I’ll be doing mapped out on each day. Before I put on my PJ’s and turn my productive brain off and my ‘let’s watch Netflix’ brain on, I skim through the tasks I have coming up in the week and think about whether there’s anything I can do now to prepare myself for then. Plan, plan, plan. Make sure you’re aware of all things you need to do tomorrow and how much time each will take. You want to go to bed knowing you did as much as you could.


If you literally have a couple of minutes left of your day…

Take a second to at least acknowledge what you’ve learned in the last 24 hours. And I don’t just mean ‘I need to manage my time better’. You should think about whatever you’ve experienced, no matter how small and unremarkable it might have been and let each experience sink in and enrich you.


I know this sounds silly but really reflect. Are there any stories or people or lessons that could translate into the work you have to do tomorrow? Maybe something has shifted your perspective a little, explore new ideas and project them into the week ahead.


Also, never forget to take a moment to be grateful for the things you did get done that day. That sense of reward will help to motivate you to get started with a positive attitude tomorrow, rather than going to bed feeling like you’ve failed, then waking up feeling useless and then, maybe deciding that you might as well give up on your to-do list only a few hours after starting on it because you’re just going through this cycle of… blah! Lift yourself up by being grateful not only for the fact that you got things done, but also the little things that we all forget about that make us capable of doing those things.


Remember, a lot of productivity comes from positivity.


So I thought I’d finish off with a little story. Yesterday, after a trip to IKEA with my sister overran and sloped into a day of chit-chat and eating popcorn and shopping that didn’t end until 10pm, out of the seven main things I had scheduled for the, I had only achieved one; ‘Go to IKEA.’


My entire day was a write off. Right? As a knock on effect, my entire week would be thrown off rhythm. So lying in bed in the dark that night, almost drifting off, I decided; ‘No! The day isn’t over until I say it’s over. I got a sudden burst of inspiration. I grabbed my iPad and- after letting my squinting eyes adjust to the light of the screen- I drafted a quick, typo-ridden, structure-less, blog post in the notes. After an hour or so of editing the next day, this is that blog post.


Thanks for reading!


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