Everyone Has Unproductive Days

Jake O'Callaghan
Sep 13, 2019 · 3 min read
Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Yesterday was awful. I typed frantically and paced around my office, but nothing significant got accomplished.

Sometimes, the day just gets away — despite our best efforts. Years ago, I’d get furious when I had an unproductive day, but now I know better. Everyone — even extremely productive people — have awful days. It’s par for the course, so it’s time to stop being hard on ourselves.

Humans aren’t designed for linear progress

A robot on an assembly line that isn’t consistently productive must be repaired.

But humans are different — nonlinear production is normal. We are neurotic, explosive, fluid. Our forward progression typically looks something like this:

As you can see from my professional graph, humans aren’t designed for unmitigated productivity. We go up and down depending on the day. With hard work, we creep forward over time, but the progression is unreliable and messy.

In other words, we’re humans, not robots.

I think we should celebrate this fact. Yeah, some days are miserable, but without uncertainty, drama, and frustration, there’d be no sense of accomplishment when things go well.

If we were robots on an assembly line, things would be pretty damn boring.

Inspiration comes from chaos

Here’s another reason why you shouldn’t stress over unproductive days — they often set the stage for inspired, hyper-productive days later.

All of my best breakthroughs came after miserable, fruitless days and weeks.

Every. Single. One.

For some reason, the muse only hits when you’ve paid your dues. In other words, you have to toil in frustration and get nowhere before you’re gifted intense productivity.

Maybe unproductive days are actually the most important days. Maybe what appears unproductive at a surface level is actually laying the groundwork for future success.

So, that turning point is likely closer than you think. Keep going. It doesn’t matter if today, tomorrow, or the entire week is fruitless; eventually, you’ll hit your stride, and you’ll be incredibly grateful that you didn’t quit.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

You are doing OK, I promise. You are moving forward, even when you think you’re moving backward.

I know, I know — there’s nothing worse than putting in a ton of effort and having little to show for it. But I promise, these “unproductive” days are far from a waste of time, they are a necessary part of moving forward.

In other words, unproductive days don’t exist when you’re thinking long-term.

So accept your bad days, hell, celebrate them. Be happy that you pushed through. You’ll be happier and more productive in the long-run.

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Jake O'Callaghan

Written by

I try to add color to the world. Full-time freelance writer/solopreneur. Have the autoimmune conditions IBD, RA, and IC. I win the battle against pain every day

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +788K followers.

Jake O'Callaghan

Written by

I try to add color to the world. Full-time freelance writer/solopreneur. Have the autoimmune conditions IBD, RA, and IC. I win the battle against pain every day

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +788K followers.

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