An unproductive day gives a feeling of disappointment, especially when you have tons of work to do. Nobody likes to miss deadlines or do less than their potential. But, such days are natural and not every day is going to be the same. Some tricks that help me with overcoming procrastination when I realize it is such a day are as follows:
1) Figure Out the Causes of Procrastination that Make You Unproductive and Act Accordingly
It could be that you are really exhausted and cannot focus. In this case, it makes sense to stop working and get some rest. There is nothing more unproductive than working without any focus. It could be that your mood just doesn’t let you work on a particular task. This is normal and you can combat this by coming back to the task later. Or, it could be any other reason that makes you procrastinate. You should find out why you are being unproductive and change your course/routine accordingly.
2) Procrastinate Productively
This is an oxymoron, but it really helps get many tasks done. As a PhD student, you will have much work, and each of your tasks will require different levels of mental concentration. For example, if you are feeling lazy to think about a problem, you can procrastinate by grading some papers that are due to be graded sometime later. If you do not feel like reading a paper for your research, you can procrastinate by typing out part of the paper that is due in a month. This way, you will get some work done during that time and may feel less guilty about procrastinating on the main task.
3) Force Yourself to Get into a Flow
On some days, I realize that the reason I am unproductive is because I do not start off on a particular task. Once I maintain the discipline to start that task and get into a state of so-called “flow”, then before I realize it, I have got a lot more work done than I initially thought I would do.
4) Just Take a Break and Do Something Else
Finally, there would be days where none of the above works. It is totally fine, as long as there aren’t too many days such as this. Once you realize it is one such day, the best thing is to get your mind out of all the tasks and go take a break. You will be fresh and more productive after a break rather than trying to force yourself to do any work without a break.