How to save a wasted day in just four steps

The day is drawing to a close, and you haven’t gotten anything done? A four-step algorithm will help you cope with this problem.

An unforeseen fire alarm, a sudden meteorite fall, a burst pipe in the house… One thing is clear: “Today everything went wrong for me and seriously distracted me from my work. As a result, the food is not cooked, the apartment is not cleaned, the time I had set aside for myself to do my essay is over, and I didn’t get anything done.”

It’s 5:00 p.m., the day’s work is drawing to a close, and panic is slowly but surely creeping in. What should I tell my boss tomorrow? How do you get things done?

First, step away from your computer. If you can, leave your desk altogether. And then follow this algorithm.

1) Set a timer

It is important to fix the moment when the workday ceases to be productive. Ellison advises to take a pen, paper, grab a smartphone with a timer and set it for exactly seven minutes.

Remember: you have absolutely no time to develop a well-thought-out plan of action. The only right thing to do now is to simply try to work with as much concentration as possible. In those seven minutes, you must think of five things to do for the next day’s work.

The more time you spend trying to restore the lost fervor of work, the longer you will be in a state of irritation and dissatisfaction, not to mention blighted ambition. And this is not productive at all.

You should let yourself know from the very beginning that it will not be possible to get in the right direction, and cut off even the most timid hopes for it. Instead of vain regrets, it is better to direct energy toward the fulfillment of narrower goals.

2) Schedule five small tasks

So seven minutes have passed, and you have a list in front of you consisting of five items. These are the things you will be doing in the near future. You can spend no more than 20 minutes on each of them. That is how long our brain can concentrate on the task as efficiently as possible, and our attention is not dispersed by trivialities.

The beauty of this approach is that a large project or goal is deliberately divided into several stages, which include microtasks, i.e. subtasks needed to achieve the desired goal.

There is a very short period of time allocated to the microtask, and therefore it must be completed by you within this 20-minute window. It’s worth remembering that micro activities are very important, because they bring you one step closer to your goal. And that’s a pretty good incentive.

Note that if you have to make a phone call, get approval from someone, or go to a meeting before you start a task, it can’t be considered microactivity. For example, collecting statistics for the day is a microactivity, but defending a monthly report to your boss by prior arrangement is a whole project that can be broken down into sub-items.

3) Complete the scheduled tasks

The most important thing you have to do in the morning is fight the temptation to look through the endless stream of messages that come in your inbox or work chat. Instead, pull yesterday’s five-point to-do list closer to you. By completing them, you’ll provide yourself with a 100 percent safety cushion of things to do by about 11:00 a.m.

Even if you cross just one item off your to-do list after yesterday’s terribly unproductive day, your brain will already be grateful and will release dopamine, the pleasure hormone responsible for “feeling rewarded. This will be the impetus to get back on track and get into a work rhythm.

4) Make planning a daily habit

We have a habit of planning our time. But too often things don’t go at all according to the original scenario. When plans start to fall apart and you find yourself involved in a whirlwind of completely incomprehensible things, it’s really a great stress for the whole body. Unfortunately, in most cases there is nothing you can do about it.

Our brain has a very useful property called neuroplasticity. It helps to reshape habitual behavior based on new experiences, as well as to repair lost connections after damage. The brain knows how to adapt to everything, even everyday stress.

Old nerve cells may fail, but new ones will replace them. Typically, when an emergency occurs, the nervous system triggers this mechanism on its own. If something bad starts to happen with enviable consistency, a state of stress becomes habitual for our brain, and this is no good.