Here’s How You Can Feel More Productive When It Seems Like Nothing’s Getting Done

by Caroline Burke

Every once in a while, you have one of those days when it seems like quite literally nothing is getting done, no matter how hard you feel like you're working. It might be due to some bureaucratic red tape, or it could just be the result of a gnarly hangover. Either way, you're stuck in the middle of a day that feels like it'll never end, and pretty soon, it becomes unbearable. When you're feeling mind-numbingly stagnant, the best way to jumpstart your motivation is to come up with little ways to feel productive that are doable, but not too intimidating.

Productivity is, what I like to call, an elusive mistress: The harder you try to catch her, the farther away she feels. But if you stop worrying about the end result, and instead, simply focus on the tiny little steps you should be taking to be productive in the present tense, then you'll start to see a chain effect, and you'll be reaping the benefits in no time.

Or, you won't. Honestly, some days turn out to be a wash, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to make little wins and gains along the way anyway, right? Here are five little ways to feel more productive, even if you're experiencing the least productive day in human history.

Make A List Of Everything You Need To Get Done

So you're not technically getting anything done here, and in fact, you might just find yourself adding something to your list of things to get done once you sit down to write it all out. But seriously, this will help you out in the long-run, I swear: Compiling a list of all the things you need to get done in the short-term is a great way to organize all of your flustered thoughts, and set the record straight on exactly what you need to do.

Once you write down the list, you can start moving through the bullets, even if you're moving at a verifiable snail's pace.

Eat A Healthy Meal

If you get absolutely nothing done for the day, at the very least, you can make it a point to eat a meal that you know will set you up for success, rather than leave you snoozing on your desk come 3 p.m.

For lunch, try to opt for a meal filled with veggies and lean protein, and try to avoid a carb-heavy meal at all costs, as this will only leave you feeling totally exhausted.

Get Your Inbox Down To Zero

OK, depending on what type of person you are, this task might either be totally attainable, or a nightmare you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy. But seriously, taking just 10 or 20 minutes out of your day to plug through some work emails will definitely make you feel a little bit more in control — or, at the very least, aware of what's going on in your universe.

According to Harvard Business Review, completing little tasks and racking up "small wins" can create psychological momentum for you to take on the bigger tasks. So, if you can get down to inbox zero, that's amazing. If you're up in the three or four digits of unread emails, maybe just read 10 and call it a day.

Take 10 Minutes To Do Nothing But Breathe

It might seem counterintuitive to start doing something by actively doing nothing, but according to a 2012 study done by researchers at the University of Washington, meditation can actually increase productivity.

Halfway through your day, when you're feeling like a total slug, you might want to take 10 minutes to just close your eyes and breathe, centering yourself and your mind.

Turn Your Phone Completely Off

If you're feeling totally overwhelmed, and yet, simultaneously, can't seem to get anything done anyway, you might want to consider the role your phone is playing: How often are you looking at it, checking through your news feeds, and otherwise bopping around on your apps?

The average person spends up to five hours a day on their phone, TechCrunch reports. If that sounds like you, try turning your device off for an hour or two at a time, and see how that improves your ability to get things done throughout the day.