Productivity Hacks for the Unproductive

In a world of technology with all the information and entertainment we could ever want at our fingertips it can be so hard to focus, especially for those of us with executive dysfunction.

If you're anything like me, it's easy to get so thoroughly absorbed in something that interests you that you don't notice an hour, or five, slip by. Last night I went down a youtube rabbit hole with the children researching a topic. My husband came in and said it was probably time for the kids to go to bed. I thought it was about 4pm - it was actually nearly 10:30pm. Oops!

I'm normally pretty strict about bedtime, but once I get interested in something, I find it so hard to transition to the next thing - especially if that thing is a chore or something I'm less excited about. Whether it's a good book, a documentary or medical research journals (which are particularly tricky because they always link to other research and then I have to go and read all of that too!) once my brain fixes on something I enjoy, it's really difficult to move on from what I want to do, to what I need to do.

I recently learned some new tricks to help me with that, so I figured I'd share them with you in case this is something you struggle with too.

1. Pop the diffuser on

This is great because it literally takes seconds to do and then I can go back to what I was doing before. I can trick my brain into making that first step because I'm not saying I won't finish what I'm doing, I'm just taking a break for a few seconds.
Put something with citrus and mint (like motivate blend) or another oil known to combat apathy such as lemongrass, lime, or blue tansy. Then go back to what you were doing. Well done for getting one thing done!!! That little dopamine hit will help you want to do a bit more. As the aroma changes in the room, you'll notice yourself getting more ready for transition. You're using a change in environment to cue your brain that transitions are coming...

2. Give yourself a 5 minute task

If you're anything like me, you get overwhelmed when you see how much there is to be done. Break it down.You don't have to complete a project, just a five minute task.

Here are some ideas for you for 5 minute tasks that can bring you one step closer to achieving various projects:

Work/time management: 

  • Write a to do list and set priorities
  • organise emails for 5 mins
  • return a phone call or email
  • delegate one task that doesn't require your personal input
  • create a schedule for the week
  • set alerts in your calendar for important tasks
  • brain dump ideas for future projects
  • write out what the first step is for a project you've been procrastinating and plan when you can achieve that 
  • send chasing text/email to someone you're waiting for action to complete a project from 
  • check in with team members on collaborative projects


  • Empty bins around the house
  • Empty and re-organise one cupboard
  • Collect all the mugs and dishes from around the house
  • Clean the dishes (or unload/reload dishwasher)
  • Move one load of laundry alongVacuum one room
  • Clean windows in one room
  • Change bed linen
  • Go through clothes in wardrobe and pull out anything you don't wear to donate
  • Swipe broken toys and get rid of them whilst your kids aren't looking
  • Cull books you've read from your shelves
  • Clear your desk
  • Put away the pile of items on the stairs
  • Wipe the counters down

Self care:

  • Refill water bottle/drink water
  • Refill water filter
  • have a healthy snack
  • Stand up and stretch/take a walk
  • Wash your face and exfoliate
  • clip your nails
  • make a smoothie
  • Plan your meals for next week
  • Look up a few new recipes to add to your meal plan rota
  • Refill supplement/pill organiser for the week
  • Reorder any prescriptions you need
  • Refill any roller bottles/diffuser blend bottles you need
  • schedule that doctors appointment or wellness consultation that you never seem to find time for!

Reconnect with your kids:

  • Read a chapter of a book together
  • play a few hands of a card game
  • bounce on a trampoline together
  • wrestle 
  • have a dance party
  • follow an art/drawing tutorial on youtube
  • write a list of stuff you want to do together this week
  • ask them how their day was
  • have hot chocolate and cookies together
  • build a fire
  • ask them to help you feed pets/animals
  • plant some seeds together
  • do some weeding together
  • offer to help them sort out books/clothes/toys to donate
  • have them show you/tell you about a computer game/app/show/book they're enjoying.
There, now doesn't it feel good to have achieved one thing?
Give yourself a high five!

3. Decide if you can do another five minute task

You achieved one thing, and it wasn't that painful, right?
Just getting started is sometimes all you need to become absorbed in a task, so I often talk myself into doing five minutes and find two hours later I've achieved the whole project, but if that isn't the case, that's cool. Enjoy the feeling of having completed the five minute task and knowing that you are a productive person.

Now you have a choice. Would you like to do more?

It is a choice, by the way. 

It's a perfectly valid option to say, nope, I'm done. 

If that's the case, I recommend hanging out near the thing you need to do. Ultimately, if I'm sat near the washing up for long enough, I'll likely get bored and start washing up unconsciously whilst listening to the podcast, watching the documentary or whatever else I'm doing.
However, if I've done the first task, the little dopamine hit of being 'a productive person' might just be enough to make me want that to happen again. If that's the case, go for it! Be that productive person who get's another task done, and another, and another, but know that you can stop at any point.

Don't let your self-talk tell you you're lazy or that you can't do it. Give yourself baby steps and celebrate all the way.

Those are my top tips, have you got any more?
What works for you?

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