Productivity is the best.
The feeling of completing all of the tasks on your to-do lists feels absolutely incredible.
But that completion doesn’t always happen, does it?
Some days you’re feeling tired. Other days you’re stressed. Sometimes it’s just random things popping up that take away time from your schedule.
Still, you want to be as productive as possible for as long as possible. To constantly move forward in life and accomplish things.
There are ways to make it work, even on those off-days. The key is to be both smart and adaptable with how you spend your time. Read on to learn about the 3 best ways to stay productive even when you’re feeling tired. Be sure to pay special attention to the “practical application” sections for a step-by-step plan of how to apply each method.
1. Optimize for energy
The reality is that you’re not going to be productive at every single time of the day.
There will be times when you’re usually more tired than others. All people are different. It could be right after you wake up, right before you go to bed, or anywhere in-between.
One of the best ways to stay productive in the long-term is to optimize your day for energy. Figure out when your most productive, most energetic times of the day are and do your most important work during those times.
For example, my most productive time of the day is in the morning shortly after I wake up. I can usually bang out 1000 words for an article in under an hour.
You can do the same thing. Figure out the time of day that you feel most energetic. Always work on your most demanding tasks during that time.
By doing your important tasks at that optimal time, you’re ensuring that you get them done faster, with higher quality, and more consistently. Less time wasted, more time on productivity.
You should do this for your other lower-priority tasks too. For example, I’m usually more tired and less creative in the evening time. So instead of writing, I’ll do lighter work like editing or reading a book. That way, I’m still being productive.
Look through your list of tasks and think about how demanding they’ll be in terms of energy and creativity. Schedule each task for the time slot that matches the required energy level with the demand level of the task.
Finally, you may also find that certain times of the day are dead slow, where you consistently feel tired and not up to working at all, not even on low-energy tasks. For example, the half-hour immediately after dinner for me is usually the least productive.
The best thing to do there is to take it as a rest time. Don’t try to do any work or stress yourself out. You’re not going to be able to be productive by working during that time anyway.
But you can still take advantage of it in a different way. Rest so that you can recharge and use that energy for your next productive time. You are being productive in a sense there, in that you are getting back your energy for future use.
- Write down the list of things you have to do. Recurring tasks and the new ones for the day or week.
- Schedule each task in the time slot when you’ll be able to do it the most effectively. Usually, save your hardest and most demanding tasks for your highest-energy times. The opposite for lower-demand tasks.
- If there are any leftover time slots, use them to rest and recharge for future productivity, especially if the time slot is small (60 minutes or less). If it’s a bigger time slot like 3 hours, you can look to put in more valuable tasks if you want
2. Work on something else that’s also valuable
A lot of people fail at productivity because they’re not flexible. They make a schedule and then stick to it no matter what.
But that lack of flexibility creates a lack of productivity.
This is life people! There will be times when you have to change and mix things up.
You don’t HAVE to stay stuck on the same thing even if you made a schedule for it before. You can always work on something else that’s also valuable.
For example, as I mentioned I’m usually most productive with my writing in the morning. But that’s not the case 100% of the time. There are days when I’m just feeling tired and not up to writing a full article. If I were to keep trying to write, I’d get nowhere!
It’s totally normal to have those feelings. The human body is always changing and so is your day-to-day life. It’s okay if some days you’re tired, you don’t have to force it. All you have to do is adapt by maintaining your productivity in a different way.
Back to the example. When I’m feeling tired and not in the mood for writing, I plan my future articles and write some outlines for them. The planning of articles requires a lot less energy and creativity for me since I’m mainly just writing down ideas in point form. The work I’m doing will still be valuable since in the future those outlines help me write my articles faster and better.
If you ever feel like you’re hitting a wall while you’re working, don’t keep trying to go through it. Go around it. Do something else that’s different but also valuable. Think of any other thing you could work on that would move you forward while still being low energy. In the long-term, you’re going to be far more productive by changing things up than if you were to stay stuck trying to do the same thing.
- Begin your scheduled tasks as normal
- If you feel tired, like you really can’t work on it today, pick a different and lower energy task that’s also valuable. A lower energy task is simply one that requires less hard work and less creative effort
- Your first place to look for lower energy tasks is the list of other things you have to do for that day
- However, if you feel like you don’t want to do those or have already finished them, it’s helpful to have a “backlog” of other tasks, things that you wanted to complete in the future when you have time. You can throw those in here
- Or you can always just take this as an opportunity to rest and recharge for future productivity
3. Change your environment
Every once in a while there will be times when none of your work feels productive at all. You may already have the optimal schedule (method 1) but still felt tired after you started. Then you tried to switch tasks (method 2) but still weren’t really up to doing it. You’re just feeling stuck.
The reason that you get stuck is because you’ve been in the same environment for so long. You’re seeing the same thing in the same place in the same conditions every single day. There’s no stimulation, no variety.
You need to freshen things up. Something new to spark your productivity up again. The best way to do that is to change your environment.
For example, I usually do my work in the home office. But every once in awhile, I’m just not feeling it. So I go to my local book store, or a Starbucks, or just change rooms in the house. Anything to change up my environment.
Changing your environment gets the juices flowing. The new environment is energizing and gets you back in the flow. Simply because it’s new and different will bring back your energy to your work. Psychology studies back this, that change is what sparks creativity.
You can also do this with your breaks and rest time. Albert Einstein used to play the Violin to get away from his scientific research when he needed a boost. J.R.R Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings) used to take long multi-mile walks for his breaks.
You can do the same. Going for a walk, checking out a new event in town, read, playing music, or chatting with a friend. Just different. You’ll find that the newness of it gives you new energy for the future.
- Start your work in your regular spot
- If you ever feel tired or lacking in energy, move to a different room or location entirely for that session. You can even follow in the footsteps of Einstein and Tolkien, doing a different activity regularly
- Do the same thing for your breaks and leisure time. Change things up every once in a while to bring back your energy
All you need to know
Staying productive even when you feel tired is about planning smart, being adaptable, and mixing things up when needed. Do that by:
Optimizing for energy when making your schedule
Working on something else that’s also valuable if you’re not being productive with your current task
Changing your environment to spark your energy when you don’t feel like working