What to Do If You Feel Unproductive and Why

We'll examine the reasons why people are unproductive and provide concrete strategies you can do to take back control of your time and boost your productivity. Whether you're a busy professional or just someone who wants to make the most of every day, you'll discover insightful advice and practical tips to help you get past the obstacles that are keeping you back.

It’s all too usual to feel unproductive, and this can make you feel angry and guilty. You feel as though you are trapped in quicksand because the more you try to escape, the farther you sink. You have a nagging sense of regret as the day draws to a close, wondering where the time went and why you weren’t able to do more.

However, it goes beyond simply feeling unproductive. The cycle of time poverty that lack of productivity causes is its real risk. Being unproductive makes it challenging to efficiently manage your time, which creates a condition of ongoing overwhelm. You’re left with a sense of urgency since there seem to be too many things to get done in not enough time.

The average office worker is barely productive for two hours and 23 minutes each day, according to VoucherCloud research. Office workers waste an average of five hours and 37 minutes per day, or more than half of the working hour, assuming an eight-hour job. This amounts to a considerable daily time loss!

You’re not the only one who is sick of feeling stuck in this fruitless rut.

In this post, we’ll examine the reasons why people are unproductive and provide concrete strategies you can do to take back control of your time and boost your productivity. Whether you’re a busy professional or just someone who wants to make the most of every day, you’ll discover insightful advice and practical tips to help you get past the obstacles that are keeping you back.

1. What Makes You Feel Ineffective?
a. Having Too Many Tasks

One of the biggest causes of people feeling unproductive is the overpowering perception of having too much to do. When you have a long list of things to do and your to-do list is growing by the minute, it’s simple to feel overburdened. This feeling of overwhelm may result in decision fatigue, which may cause you to put off taking action or become paralysed by analysis. Multiple tasking’s mental toll can cause emotions of helplessness and decreased productivity.

b. Lack of Distraction Management Knowledge

The overwhelming sense of having too much to accomplish is one of the main reasons why individuals feel unproductive. It’s easy to feel overburdened when you have a big list of tasks to complete and your to-do list is becoming longer by the minute. This sense of overwhelm could lead to decision fatigue, which could make you put off taking action or make you freeze in place with thought. The mental strain of performing many tasks might result in feelings of helplessness and diminished productivity.

c. wishing to be in total control

Productivity can be stifled by perfectionism and the desire for total control over every aspect. The pursuit of perfection can lead to spending too much time on insignificant details, which ultimately delays completion and obstructs development. For instance, a writer who is compelled to meticulously edit and rework each sentence can find it difficult to complete a draft, miss deadlines, and feel unproductive as a result. You might need to let go of the demand for complete control in order to take effective action.

d. lack of explicit guidance

Without a clear sense of direction or particular goals, it can be challenging to stay motivated and focused. Ambiguity regarding the intended result might lead to ineffective efforts and disengagement. Even though one of our editors was continuously looking up new content ideas, rewriting articles, and corresponding with writers, he told me he was feeling unproductive at the time. It turns out that he was unclear about his role’s goals in light of our new content strategy. He was working on several projects at once, but none of them were moving forward much.

By giving you a sense of direction and a plan to follow, clearly stated goals help you remain on course and save time and energy.

e. Without Prioritization

Poor task prioritization can result in unproductive actions. When everything is equally important, you could find yourself switching between tasks without really moving forward on any of them.

Consider a salesperson who neglects high-value activities like cultivating client connections in favor of spending excessive time on administrative tasks. They can find it difficult to reach their sales goals.

f. Lacking Energy

It takes time and energy to do something worthwhile. If you are drained when you go to work, you won’t be able to do your best work, which will lead to frustration as you try to make up time. However, you’ll be able to work more productively and successfully if you’re energised and awake. Therefore, it is harder to focus and work at your best when you’re exhausted, burned out, or under constant stress.

Long shifts nowadays without sufficient relaxation and self-care are one factor that contributes to burnout in healthcare professionals, which impairs their capacity to concentrate and provide high-quality care and even results in medical blunders.

g. Motivation Loss

When you lack motivation, it might be tough to remain focused and committed to your responsibilities. In addition to internal elements like goal clarity and energy level, the following external influences might affect your motivation: 

Lack of appreciation: Are your contributions and efforts ignored or undervalued? Engagement and effort might decline when one feels undervalued.
Compensation is an external reward, and when it is seen to be inadequate or unfair, it might lower one’s incentive to perform well.

Limited possibilities for progress: Since we are frequently motivated by the potential of reaching our career goals and developing professionally, a lack of opportunities for job advancement, skill development, or personal improvement might result in lower motivation.

2. How to Deal with Feeling Unproductive

It might be difficult to feel unproductive, but there are doable things you can do to feel productive again and get back on track.

It’s time to reflect and decide whether you should keep doing what you’re doing if you think that your lack of productivity is being driven by issues related to external motivation. You could find the following article useful: Symptoms of a Career Change. But if you think there are additional causes for your lack of productivity, the following 7 techniques can help you break the cycle:

a. Consider Your Objective

Consider your objective or what you wish to accomplish for a while. Your motivation and productivity may suffer from a lack of clarity. Think about your motivations and what matters most to you. Then, decide on a precise, quantifiable objective that is consistent with your values and objectives.

For instance, consider your long-term goals if you’re a freelance writer. Do you wish to create a successful blog, a book, or a writing career for a well-known publication? Having a clear understanding of your final objective can provide you focus and motivation as you work towards it.

If creating long-term goals is currently too challenging for you, try creating daily or weekly goals instead. These objectives may inspire you to get started on a worthwhile project.

b. Divide Your Goal Into More Manageable Tasks

Procrastination is often the result of being intimidated by big, challenging jobs. As a result, divide your goal into smaller, easier-to-handle activities that you can finish one at a time. You can build momentum and advance by concentrating on little tasks.

I employ the Rewind & Reduce Method to efficiently divide work. I’ll demonstrate how I applied it when I introduced a new online productivity course:

I started by deciding what the project’s ultimate objective was: to launch an online productivity course during the first month with at least 1,000 students registered.

I started with this objective in mind and worked backward to determine the crucial checkpoints needed to achieve it:

Milestone 1: Create the course material and curriculum.
Milestone 2: Make excellent instructional films and resources.
Milestone 3: To draw students, advertise and market the course.
Milestone 4: Track enrollment and collect student comments to enhance the course.

I then divided each milestone into manageable tasks that could be finished in an hour:

For Milestone 1, as an illustration:

Task 1: Research the course curriculum’s main topics and create an outline of them.
Task 2: Create thorough lesson plans for each course module.


I arrived at a relatively accurate timeline by adding up all of my estimates for each milestone.

Milestones 1 and 2 were anticipated to take four hours, five hours, and so forth. After including the projected times for each milestone, I had a clear timeline for the project. I was able to divide my project into doable pieces utilizing the Rewind and Reduce Method and come up with a timeframe that would allow me to complete my assignment.

c. Use the Superstructure Method to assign priorities.

Setting priorities is crucial to preventing overwhelm when several jobs vie for your attention. The Superstructure Method can be used to wisely prioritise jobs. By classifying tasks as “Must-Haves,” “Should-Haves,” or “Good-to-Haves,” you may use the Superstructure Method to plan them according to how closely they relate to your goal. I’ll demonstrate how the Superstructure Method functions now:

Consider yourself a project manager juggling a variety of duties. You could group jobs using the Superstructure Method as follows:

Must-Haves: Finalizing the project strategy, and gaining stakeholder approvals.
Meetings with the team should be scheduled, and the project management tool should be updated. Planning team-building exercises and looking into more resources are good to have. Give the “Must-Haves” top priority to ensure the project’s success. You can prevent being overburdened with work by doing this.

d. Utilize the Pomodoro Technique (4)

A “Pomodoro” session, or 25 minutes of work, is followed by a 5-minute break while using the Pomodoro Technique. This method keeps you concentrated during each session while allowing you regular breaks, helping you to preserve mental vitality.

For instance, a marketer working on a campaign proposal can divide their workday into concentrated blocks using the following format:

Pomodoro 1: Draft the campaign’s goals and target market. Take a break, get up, move around, and refill their water bottle.
Pomodoro 2: Make a list of potential marketing channels and strategies during the second Pomodoro. Break: Go for a quick office stroll or go outside for some fresh air.
Pomodoro 3: Create the campaign’s budget and schedule. Pause: Take a time to unwind and do some deep breathing.

Pomodoro 4: Check the proposal for cohesion and clarity before editing it.

Follow this routine to maintain focus, boost output, and prevent burnout. Whenever you finish four Pomodoros in a row, don’t forget to take a long pause.

e. Do Not Allow Distractions

The number one productivity killer is distraction. There are two categories of distractions: internal distractions and external distractions.

Internal distractions are unfavorable ideas and feelings that arise as a result of a challenging or stressful undertaking. You may feel like avoiding the activity at hand and doing something else to make you feel better because of these unpleasant feelings. This kind of distraction can be managed by breaking a challenging work down into smaller components. For further information, simply review the second approach, “Break Down Your Goal Into Smaller Tasks.”

On the other hand, external diversion originates from a source outside of oneself. They include noise, social media, notifications, and phone calls. Turn off your smartphone’s notifications, close any open social media tabs, and put on noise-canceling headphones when you need to concentrate.

f. Develop Your Mental Calmness

Meditation and mindfulness exercises can assist to reduce stress, enhance focus, and calm an overworked mind. Make it a habit to meditate every day. Use guided meditation apps or just practice deep breathing for 10 to 15 minutes per day.

Learn to let go of the things you can’t change so you can concentrate on the things you can. For instance, I advised one of my team members to avoid obsessing on a shipping delay when she was worried about it and to instead concentrate on talking to clients and coming up with alternatives. You’ll find inspiration in the article How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control.

g. Make your energy meter balanced

Throughout the day, our energy levels change, and different activities can either boost or deplete it. For instance, writing a proposal involves more mental effort than answering emails.

It’s best to gather together all of the crucial processes, including concept generation, proposal drafting, and presentation preparation. We will all be worn out and less productive as a result of the overload of these energy-sucking jobs, though.

Try to plan activities and tasks based on the energy they demand to keep a balanced energy level throughout. Additionally, take regular pauses and participate in rejuvenating activities like exercise, reading, or outside time.

By putting the aforementioned tactics into practice, you can overcome inefficiencies, sharpen your attention, and perform better as a whole.

Final Reflections

Many of us occasionally struggle with being unproductive, but it is not an insurmountable obstacle. When we are aware of the root causes of our lack of productivity, such as feeling overburdened by our to-do list, outside distractions, a loss of inspiration, and burnout, we may take proactive measures to remove these obstacles and regain our productivity.

Keep in mind that increasing productivity takes time, and that making little, regular improvements can have a big impact. While it is normal to experience periods of inactivity, the important thing is to avoid letting these times define who you are. Utilize them instead to reevaluate, calibrate, and recover control over how you spend your time and energy.

Therefore, I urge you to act and put the ideas presented in this essay into practise as you move forward. You may get over productivity obstacles and reach your maximum potential with a positive outlook and a commitment to self-improvement.

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