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Why you feel unproductive and what to do

Why you feel unproductive and what to do

Unproductiveness can be a frustrating and guilt-inducing experience. It’s as if you’re stuck in quicksand—the more you try to get out, the deeper you sink. As the day comes to an end, you’re left with a nagging sense of regret, wondering where all the time went and why you weren’t able to accomplish more.

But it’s not just about feeling unproductive. Unproductivity can lead to a cycle of time poverty. When you’re unproductive, it’s difficult to manage your time effectively, resulting in a state of constant overwhelm. With seemingly too many things to do in too little time, you’re left with a sense of urgency that never quite goes away.

VoucherCloud’s research shows that VoucherCloud is a great way to save money.[1] The average office worker only works for 2 hours 23 minutes per day. If you assume an eight-hour day at the office, workers waste five hours, 37 minutes, or more than half an hour. This is a huge daily loss!

If you’re tired of feeling stuck in this unproductive rut, you’re not alone.

In this article, we’ll look at the causes of unproductivity and offer actionable steps you can take to reclaim your time and increase your productivity. You’ll find valuable insights and strategies to help you overcome the barriers that are holding you back, whether you’re a busy professional or simply someone looking to make the most of each day.

Why do you feel unproductive?

Feeling unproductive can be a complex feeling that is affected by many factors. Let’s look at some of the most common reasons why you might be feeling unproductive and what might be contributing to this difficult state:

Overwhelmed with Tasks

One of the most common reasons for feeling unproductive is that people have too much work to do.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when your to-do list grows by the minute and you have a plethora of responsibilities to juggle. This can lead to a feeling of overwhelm, which may cause you to delay taking action or get stuck in analysis-paralysis.

Mental strain from juggling many tasks can cause feelings of helplessness, and lower productivity.

Distraction Management Skills are lacking

Distractions are everywhere in today’s hyper-connected world, from smartphones and social media to emails and notifications.

Without a strategy for dealing with distractions, it’s easy to become sidetracked from your intended tasks, resulting in fragmented focus and decreased efficiency. If you’re constantly being bombarded with emails, instant messages and impromptu business meetings, it can be difficult to focus on your core task and result in a decrease in productivity.

Wanting Complete Control

Perfectionism, and the desire to be in complete control of every detail, can reduce productivity. In the pursuit of perfection, you may spend too much time on small details. This can delay completion and stop progress.

A writer who is obsessive in revising and rewriting every sentence might struggle to complete a draft. They may miss deadlines, and feel unproductive.

You may need to let yourself go of total control in order to take meaningful action.

There is no clear direction

It is hard to maintain motivation and focus without a sense of direction. Ambiguity can lead to ineffective efforts or disengagement.

One of our editors told me that he felt unproductive, despite constantly researching and editing new content, communicating with writers, and editing articles. It turns out he wasn’t clear on his role’s objective with our new content direction. He was working on multiple projects at once without making much progress.

You can avoid unnecessary effort by setting clear goals.

Prioritization is not being done

Prioritizing tasks incorrectly can lead to ineffective behaviors. You may jump from one task or another without completing any of them if you feel that everything is equally important.

Imagine a salesperson spending too much time doing administrative tasks and ignoring more important activities, such as developing client relationships. These salespeople may find it difficult to meet their targets.

Short of Energy

Time and energy are both needed to accomplish anything worthwhile. Arriving at work tired will prevent you from performing to your potential. You may also end up frustrating yourself trying to make up lost time. However, if you’re energized and alert, you’ll be able to work more efficiently and effectively.

So when you’re tired, burned out, or under chronic stress, your ability to concentrate and perform at your best suffers.

Today’s long shifts without adequate rest and self-care are an example of what leads to burnout in healthcare workers, which affects their ability to focus and deliver high-quality care and even results in medical errors.

Loss of Motivation

Lack of motivation can make it difficult to commit to your work. These external factors can impact your motivation, in addition to internal factors such as goal clarity and energy levels.

  • Your efforts and contributions are not acknowledged or recognized? Unappreciated feelings can cause a decrease in engagement and effort.
  • Inadequate or unfair compensation: Compensation is an external reward, and when it is perceived to be lacking, it may reduce one’s motivation to perform well.
  • Lack of growth opportunities: We are motivated by our professional goals and growth.

How to Feel Productive When you’re Unproductive

Unproductiveness can be frustrating. But there are steps you can do to get your productivity back.

If you believe that your unproductivity is being caused by external motivation factors, it’s time to reflect and consider whether you should continue doing what you’re doing. This article might be helpful: Signs you need a career change

If you think you’re unproductive because of other factors, then here are seven strategies that will help you break the cycle.

1. Consider Your Goal

Reflect on what you are trying to achieve or your goal. Lack of clarity can negatively impact your motivation and productivity.

Think about what you value most. Set a specific and measurable goal in line with your aspirations and values.

For instance, if you’re a freelance writer, think about your long-term objectives. Are you looking to publish a book in a big publication? Or do you want a successful blog that is popular with readers? Clarifying your goal will give you a sense of direction and purpose. It will also help you stay motivated.

Set a weekly or daily goal if setting long-term goals seems too hard for you at the moment. These goals can help you get motivated to work on something meaningful.

The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting & Goal Achieving will teach you how to get back on track.

Consider Your Goal


What is important to you?
If you are having trouble deciding on a long-term objective, try setting a weekly or daily goal.
Read The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting & Goal Achieving and learn how to set a SMARTer goal.

2. Break down your goal into smaller tasks

Procrastination can occur when large and difficult tasks are intimidating. Divide your goal into smaller and more manageable steps that you can achieve one at a time. You can gain momentum by focusing on smaller, more manageable tasks.

To effectively break down tasks, I use the Rewind & Reduce Method. Here’s how I used the Rewind & Reduce Method when I launched a new online course on productivity:

Step 1. Step 1.

I began by determining the project’s ultimate goal: Launch an online productivity course with at least 1,000 enrolled students within the first month.

This goal was my starting point and I then worked backwards to identify the major milestones needed to achieve it.

  • Milestone 1 – Develop the course curriculum.
  • Milestone 2: Produce course videos and materials of high quality.
  • Milestone 3 – Market the course to students and promote it.
  • Milestone 4: Monitor course enrollment and collect feedback to improve the course.

Step 2. Step 2.

Then, I divided each milestone into small tasks that could be accomplished in one hour.

Milestone 1 is an example:

  • Work 1: Research key topics and outline them for the curriculum.
  • Task 2: Develop detailed lesson plans to accompany each module.

Step 3. Step 3.

Finaly, I added all my estimates to get a fairly accurate timeline.

Milestone 1 would take four hours to complete, Milestone 2, five hours and so on. The estimated times for each milestone helped me to create a clear project timeline.

I was able, by using the Rewind & Reduce Method, to break my project down into manageable tasks. This allowed me to create a realistic time frame to reach my goal.

You can learn more about how to use the Rewind & Reduce Method here.

Break down your goal into small tasks


Your goal can be broken down into smaller tasks.
Concentrate on small tasks to gain momentum.
Read How to Break Down a Large Project into Manageable Tasks to learn how to apply the Rewind & Reduce Method further.

3. Prioritize your work with the Superstructure Method

Prioritization helps you to stay focused on the most important tasks. Use the Superstructure Method for intelligently prioritizing tasks.

The Superstructure Method allows you to categorize tasks as “Must-Haves,” “Should-Haves,” or “Good-to-Haves,” and then schedule them based on their alignment with your goal.

I will show you how to use the Superstructure Method.

Imagine that you are a manager of a large project. You must balance a lot of tasks. Using the Superstructure Method you can categorize tasks like this:

  • Must-Haves: Securing stakeholder approvals, finalizing the project plan.
  • Should-Haves : Schedule team meetings, update project management tool
  • Good-to Haves: Organising team-building exercises, exploring additional resources.

To ensure the project’s success, prioritize the “Must-Haves.” This is how you avoid becoming overwhelmed by multiple tasks.



Use the Superstructure Method for categorizing tasks into three groups: must-haves, should-haves, and good-to-haves.
Schedule other tasks according to your goals and prioritize the must-haves.
Click here to read more: Simplify decision-making with the Superstructure Method

4. Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique involves working for 25 minutes (a “Pomodoro” session) followed by a 5-minute break. This technique helps you maintain your mental energy because it keeps you focused throughout each session, while still allowing you regular breaks.

For example, a marketer working on an advertising campaign proposal could structure their workday in focused intervals such as this:

  • Pomodoro 1: Write down the campaign goals and target audience.
    Pause: Stretch, stand up and refill the water bottle.
  • Pomodoro # 2: List potential marketing tactics and channels.
    Break: Go for a short walk around the workplace or go outside to get some fresh air.
  • Pomodoro #3. Develop the budget and timeline of the campaign.
    Break: Take some time to relax. Do some deep breathing exercises.
  • Pomodoro 4 – Review and edit your proposal for clarity and consistency.

Continue to follow this pattern in order stay focused, boost productivity and avoid burnout. After completing four Pomodoros, take a longer rest.

I go over how to use the Pomodoro Technique in more detail in The Pomodoro Technique: What It Is & How It Boosts Productivity

Pomodoro Technique


Structure your workday info focused intervals with different Pomodor sessions: work for 25 minutes (a “Pomodoro” session), then followed by a 5-minute break.
After completing four Pomodoros consecutively, take a longer rest.
Read The Pomodoro Technique: What It Is & How It Boosts Productivity to learn more.

5. Eliminate Distractions

Distraction is the number one killer of productivity. Internal distractions and external distractions are the two main types of distractions.

Internal distractions can be negative emotions and thoughts that are brought on by a difficult task. You may want to avoid the current task and focus on something else to make yourself feel better. This type of distraction can be dealt with by breaking down a difficult job. Simply go over the second strategy again “Break Down Your Goal Into Smaller Tasks” for details.

Distractions that are external to us, however, can be a problem. They include phone calls, notifications, noise, social media and other distractions. If you want to concentrate, turn off your notifications on your phone, close all social media tabs, or wear noise-cancelling headsets.

It is also possible to remain productive over the long term by strengthening your focus muscles. Here’s how it’s done: How to Focus & Stay Sharp – A Comprehensive Guide

Eliminate Distractions


Reduce internal distractions and overwhelm by dividing tasks into manageable pieces.
When you need to concentrate, remove yourself from distractions like social media and phone notifications.
Read How to Focus & Stay Sharp – A Comprehensive Guide and learn how to boost your focus.

6. Learn to Calm your Mind

Meditation and mindfulness techniques can calm a mind that is overactive, improve focus, and reduce stress. Make daily meditation part of your everyday routine. You can use guided mediation apps or just do deep breathing for 10-15 minutes every day.

Also, learn to let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can. My team member, for example, was concerned over a late shipment. I encouraged her instead to focus on finding solutions and communicating with customers, rather than dwelling on that delay. The article How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control will inspire you.

Calm your Mind


Make daily meditation part of your everyday routine.
Use guided meditation apps, or deep breathing techniques for 10-15 minutes every day
Read How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control and learn how to let go.

7. Balance Your Energy Meter

Our energy levels fluctuate during the day. Certain activities can increase or decrease them. A proposal, for instance, takes more mental energy to write than an email.

It’s ideal to group together all of the important tasks, such as brainstorming ideas, writing proposals, and preparing for a presentation. With all these energy-draining activities crammed into one day, we’ll all be exhausted, and our productivity may suffer.

To maintain an even energy level, schedule tasks and activities based on how much energy they will require. You should also take frequent breaks to recharge yourself with activities such as reading, exercising, or being outside.

Learn more about how to maintain your energy by reading Why Am I So Tired & How To Boost My Energy.

You can improve performance, focus and efficiency by implementing these strategies.

Balance Your Energy Meter


Find out which activities you enjoy and which ones drain your energy.
Plan your activities and tasks according to the energy required and maintain a balanced energy level.
Exercise, reading or time spent outside are all great ways to recharge yourself.
Read Why Am I So Tired & How To Boost My Energy for more energy boosting tips.

Final Thoughts

Unproductivity can be a problem that we all face, but it’s not insurmountable.

Understanding the underlying causes of unproductivity—from feeling overwhelmed by tasks to external distractions, lack of motivation, and burnout—allows us to take proactive steps to address these barriers and reclaim our productivity.

Remember that productivity is an ongoing journey. Small, consistent changes can add up to big gains over time. Although it is common to experience periods where you are not productive, don’t let this define your life. Use them instead to reassess and recalibrate your time and effort.

As you move forward, I urge you to put into action the strategies described in this article. You can achieve your full potential with a positive outlook and a commitment to self-improvement.

Featured photo credit: Remy_Loz via unsplash.com

You can also refer to this page

[1] Voucher cloud: How many productive hours in a work day? Just 2 Hours, 23 Minutes…

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