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Summary:

We’ve all had them: days when, no matter how hard you try, nothing seems to get done. Fortunately, independent web workers tend to have more flexibility than some other job holders. When you pounding your head against the productivity wall doesn’t work, try one of these ways to get the juices flowing again.

We’ve all had them: days when, no matter how hard you try, nothing seems to get done. Fortunately, independent web workers tend to have more flexibility than some other job holders. When you pounding your head against the productivity wall doesn’t work, try one of these ways to get the juices flowing again.

1. Cherry-pick some success. Sometimes the issue is just that you have too many big projects competing for your attention, with goals that are unattainable in a single day. While it’s great to be fully-employed, this situation can deprive you of the feeling of forward progress. Take a look over your task list and pick out something that you can accomplish in 15-30 minutes, then do it. The resulting high of being able to cross something off may propel you back into working mode. Check out some of our advice on organizing your task list, too.

2. Crank up the music. If you can’t get into the zone, you may just be suffering from too many interruptions. Help for this problem is as close as your headphones and your music player. We’ve talked before about using music for productivity; in addition to the benefits of music to helping get your own head into a working mood, the headphones can be a useful signal to co-workers that you want some time without being bothered.

3. Get away from the computer. If you’re just staring at the screen without accomplishing anything, pull yourself away for a bit. Go work in the garden for fifteen minutes, or do some exercises, or brew yourself another cup of coffee. Just being away from the computer for a short time may be enough to let your subconscious come up with the step to get you past your block.

4. Bribe yourself. Faced with ten tasks and not wanting to do any of them? Try making a deal with yourself: a game of Bejeweled for each completed task, or a few M&Ms, or time catching up on your RSS feeds. The trick is to take what you’d rather be doing and make it contingent on finishing what you should be doing.

5. Take the day off. Sometimes, no matter what you do, the work just won’t flow. If you’ve got the flexibility, just give up and let it wait for tomorrow. Declare an impromptu midweekend and head for the beach (take your Blackberry or iPhone with you if you must), knowing that your mental and emotional batteries will be recharged tomorrow.

What tips do you have for getting something done on a hopeless-seeming day?

  1. Better yet, on #5, leave the phone at home and completely disconnect. Works wonders.

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  2. It’s kind of weird, but I found that during college, at least, running off and helping somebody else with their work got me a little more motivated about doing my own. Occasionally, I’d learned something new and of course, helped somebody else out in the process! :D

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  3. Also tell yourself, no matter how much you procrastinate…the work just ain’t a’gonna’ disappear…and might as well destroy it now.

    Other times, I just tell myself that 2:30am is Do or Die time, and get up with one idea in mind – finish the blasted task and return to bed! ‘Course, 4 minutes after waking up, I’m fully charged and outdo myself. Works every time.

    Data points, Barbara

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  4. #6 Do the Yoda trick – seat comfortably, close your eyes, take 5 deep breaths and think about your first week at the job – the learning, new people, doing something with passion. Think about all the reasons why you loved what you did then. Keep that feeling of excitement. Make 20 long breaths. Slowly open your eyes. Pick a short task to set momentum. Go ;)

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  5. Close eyes and watch breathing for 2 minutes.

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