4 Effortless Hacks to Overcome Anxiety and Guilt Feelings When You Have an Unproductive Day

Mar 11, 2021

We all have unproductive days.

No matter if:

  • You’re a productivity geek.
  • You’re committed to your goals.
  • You have everything scheduled.

There are always days in which:

  • You feel you’re not productive.
  • You don’t move forward towards your goals.
  • You feel you’re wasting your time.

That always means feelings of guilt, anxiety, frustration, sadness… those sensations in the stomach you and I know too well…

It’s a must to overcome those negative feelings to go back to your highest performance, the right pace you keep on doing things as the productivity machine you know you are.

As I’ve been there many times, I’ve developed some techniques, hacks, tips to quickly make use of them as soon as an unproductive day “catches me by surprise”.

Let’s dive in!

Hack #1: Think about the day after

I journal.

It is a practice that took me years to engage but, at least and fortunately, I made it.

Journaling makes me a more analytical person.

There’s nothing better than analysis to overcome negative feelings.

Analysis gives you data. It brings you objective thinking. It brings common sense to your life.

Analysis is the best tool for managing emotions.

Whenever I have an unproductive day, I write down all these things:

  • What happened.
  • How I feel.
  • What were the consequences of this unproductive day.

The day after, I wrote down these points:

  • How I perform.
  • How I feel.
  • What outcomes I produce.

You know what?

I can state this: “After an unproductive day always comes a productive day”.

This is so because:

  1. The day before was such “a disaster” that it’s not difficult to perform better the day after.
  2. The day after an unproductive day, I always do the same:
  • I look at my projects and tasks.
  • I set priorities.
  • I create a list of my 3 most important tasks, those I’m convinced they will make me move forward towards my big goals.
  • I define a “highlight of the day”, a task I have to finish without any excuse.
  • I focus on those 3 tasks.
  • I don’t finish my day until those 3 tasks are done.

After such a great day, feelings have been completely turned upside down, and then I feel:

  • Relief.
  • Joy.
  • Pride.
  • Satisfaction.

As I journal, I’ve checked this process, and it’s always the same. 10 out of 10 times, “after an unproductive day always comes a productive day”.

When I’m deep inside my unproductive day, I just think about how I will feel tomorrow. I visualize it. I feel it.

That gives me the power and energy to overcome the sensations I’m feeling while my unproductive day is knocking me down.

That’s how I quickly get up off the canvas and punch my unproductive day.

Hack #2: Think about what an unproductive day represents in your entire life

We can never lose perspective in life.

The branches and trees should not prevent us from seeing the forest.

What the hell represents a day within your all life?

Let’s be conservative and say you will live for 60 years. That equals almost 22.000 days. You name it: one day represents 0.0045% of your 60-year life.

Will you really get upset for 0.0045% of anything?

That’s a slight drop in a vast ocean.

Why don’t you think about the dozens of days you’re a productivity machine?

The bigger picture is so much more important than the piece you paint.

Whenever I’m inside an unproductive day, I always think of this perspective and tell myself: “Man, you cannot be so stupid”.

Hack #3: Think you have no choice.

Whenever you’re inside an unproductive day, did you really look for it?

I’m pretty sure you didn’t. It was produced because of external factors: unexpected events, things you don’t control…

We have to learn that life is that: anarchy, surprises, things that appear without calling them…

We have to accept our fate as Nietzsche says:

“Amor Fati – “Love Your Fate”, which is in fact your life.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

So, whenever you’re into an unproductive day, let it go, enjoy it, and make the best out of it because I’m pretty sure there’s something positive within that situation.

Any situation is the way we look at it.

You see things as your brain is telling you, as he draws it to you. Don’t let it lie to you. Convince yourself there’s always a positive way to look at things.

The sooner you look at that positive side of your unproductive day, the better you will feel, making all your negative feelings disappear.

Hack #4: Think you’re human

We have to be compassionate with ourselves.

We usually are very demanding, exigent, hard, tough with ourselves.

Sometimes I even think: “Hey man, you wouldn’t say this even to the worst of your enemies”.

Why is that we treat ourselves that way?

  • It’s self-destructive.
  • It won’t make you a better person.
  • It will ruin your performance.
  • It will undermine your mind.
  • It will take you nowhere.

We have to practice self-compassion every day but, especially, in our bad days, in those unproductive ones that remind us we’re humans.

We fail. Nothing matters. Life goes on. What’s the problem? There’s no problem at all.

I learned by myself how vital self-compassion is, especially those days I’m not happy with myself.

I look wider to all the things I’ve done throughout my life, all the things I’ve achieved, all the goals I’ve accomplished, how lucky I am for being in the position and situation I am. I cannot take that for granted.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
— Christopher K. Germer

That kind of thoughts will take you to a state of calm, pride, relaxation that overcomes any unproductive feeling immediately.


Whenever you’re inside a bad unproductive day, stop, give you a break, breathe, and let your analytical mind take control over your emotions.

Just think:

  1. About the day after. After an unproductive day always comes a productive day.
  2. What an unproductive day represents within your whole life: 0.0045%.
  3. You have no choice. Life is what it is.
  4. You’re human. Allow yourself to fail sometimes.

If you do so, you’ll avoid unnecessary suffering.

Life is to enjoy it. Day by day by day. Moment to moment to moment.

Photo at the top courtesy of Kim Carpenter on Unsplash.

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