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3 ways to save an unproductive day

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in Office Management,Time Management

It’s easy enough to reach the midpoint of a workday and realize that you haven’t accomplished what you’d hoped. But you can still salvage the day.

Three strategies for making progress on a critical project:

1.  Schedule a 20-minute “time oasis.” If you can find just 20 uninterrupted minutes in your afternoon schedule, that’s enough to make serious progress on an important project.

Move other obligations forward by a day or a few hours. If nec­­­es­­sary, stay at the office an additional 20 minutes. Turn off your cellphone and quit email. Duck in­­to an empty meeting room. Do what­­ever it takes to force yourself to focus.

2.  Take stock. Maybe you’re fo­­cused on what you haven’t accomplished, rather than what you have achieved. Set up a work diary to track what you’ve done in a day. It’s much like a personal diary, where you can write about hopes, events, plans and feelings.

The benefit: You’ll feel a boost of happiness by taking stock of any meaningful work you’ve done.

And, over time, you may start to see themes emerging in your posts. As one work diarist commented, “I saw that my comments seemed to re­­flect a pessimistic tone which, in retro­­spect, may have been unwarranted. I now try to approach projects with a more optimistic frame of mind.”

3.  Set yourself up for a better tomorrow. Stop work on an important project while you’re still in the middle. If you’re writing something, for example, leave off midsentence or midparagraph. Even Ernest Hemingway used this trick. Somehow, it’s easier to slide back into the work.

— Adapted from “How to Save an Unproductive Day in 25 Minutes,” Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, The Wall Street Journal; “Four Reasons to Keep a Work Diary,” Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer, Harvard Business Review.

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