My Most Unproductive Work Day Ever (And Why I’m Not Letting it Get Me Down)

In my last post I talked about tech-related problems leading to distraction at work, especially when you freelance and you get to deal with most of those issues yourself. Today was unfortunately an even worse day for me productivity-wise. I'd say it might just be my most unproductive work day ever. And it too began with technology-related non-goodness.

Morning Upgrades

Things kicked off this morning with my desktop PC (I use both a desktop and laptop for work). I'd been having problems with the desktop for a while, so I stopped using it. And it was really affecting how much work I could get done in a day. So I had someone over this weekend, and they suggested upgrading the memory (and there was something else I needed to replace on the motherboard). So we made a trip to an area computer shop to pick things up. I got the wrong size of the one thing (fixed today though), and the memory upgrade went smoothly.

We did some updates and maintenance on that system (not something I'd usually do on the weekend), but I had more to deal with this morning. So I did. I had to fix the Internet connection, clean up the registry, and deal with a few other issues where primary programs I use weren't being recognized. Fun, fun.

I got through the tech maintenance by around 9 or 10am (keep in mind my work day ends at noon). I planned to spend the rest of the day writing. It didn't happen. That's because I had a business errand to run first -- needed to replace my office desk lamp because the lighting sucked and made it very difficult to work this morning. (The original one was broken over the weekend.)

Afternoon Running Around

I figured replacing the desk lamp would be an easy task. I bought my last one at the local Staples. So I went there. (I try to make it a point only to run business errands during business hours, so I didn't want to wait until later.)

The local Staples recently moved to a new location. Well, apparently they decided that when they moved they would no longer carry lamps. They suck.

So I tried Best Buy. No lamps. And then Target. Theirs sucked. Then Wal-mart. No luck. Then K-mart. Then Sears. Then Boscovs. Then Kohls. Then another Staples. Then Lowes and Home Depot.... At the end of the day, I hit up FOURTEEN different stores looking for a desk lamp, and I could not find any that looked even remotely decent. All anyone seems to have now is the cheap, crappy college-student-targeted variety for back to school time.

I don't think I'm that fussy. I had three basic requirements. First, it had to have a dimmer. I start work at 4-5am, and I don't like harsh lighting. I like easing into it. I also like dim lighting on the occasions when I do work overnight (like clearing up Thursday's work early so I can start my weekend early -- unless I really procrastinated and got behind on something I don't work late for other reasons these days).

Of all the stores I went to there was only one desk lamp with a dimmer on it. ONE. Last year I had my pick of plenty, so I'm not sure what the issue was with that today. The one I did find didn't meet my other two requirements (material it's made out of, and needing flexibility at the lamp's shade area and not solely in the middle of the neck). I finally broke down and decided I'd go home and find one online, even if it meant using my crappy spare lamp this week. But even online I haven't been able to find any lamps that meet my needs.

As frustrated as I am with the process, I'm not letting it get to me as much as I might have in the past. I won't go back out today to look anywhere else. And I won't waste my downtime running business errands. It'll wait until another work day. That's really the key to me. I used to push myself to the point of burning out just because I felt like I had to. I've since learned how silly that was.

Later this week I have a whole business day set aside for backing up important material on both of my work computers. In the past I would have stuck to client work during the week and then done my backups over the weekend. This time I thought about it. Then I had a "Hell no" moment. Work should be done during work time. The rest of my week is play time. And I've come to appreciate how important that play time really is in staying sane and productive during my work days.

How do you deal with unproductive days like this? Do you just eat the time and call it a day, like you might if you were in a typical employee position? Or do you then feel obligated to cut into your personal time to make up for it?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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21 thoughts on “My Most Unproductive Work Day Ever (And Why I’m Not Letting it Get Me Down)”

  1. If it’s a really bad day, I just give up and tackle another day, if I can. If I keep at it, I tend to just frustrate myself more and ultimately dig myself in further.

    Also, if I can’t find something at 2-3 stores, I quit looking for it. There’s no way I would’ve had the patience for that many stores looking for a lamp. Flip a few birds on my way out of the first couple and I’m done.

  2. Yeah, I agree with Wendy. There’s no way I would have been able to go to 14 stores for a lamp. But it sounds like this lamp is really important to you so I hope you find the right one.

    But I love that you took a work day to do these things. Because these are all work duties. I used to be that girl backing up computers and doing blog work on the weekends so I could “work”on the weekdays. I’d laugh at the idea now.

    • The only thing more annoying than the trek around town (two towns actually) was having really crappy lighting this morning. Because it’s pitch dark, I need a lamp to work in the morning. But at the same time, I can’t stand harsh light at 4am. The dimmers are the only thing that let me ease into the day. Not having that is about twice as bad as me not being caffeinated to get through those early morning hours. So yeah, unfortunately finding the right kind of lamp really is important in my case, and I can’t figure out how there were so many last year and none now!

  3. At the risk of going Mr. Electrician on you, you could also solve the problem with a lamp dimmer cord–that way, you can buy any lamp you like. Go to your local Ace Hardware and they can probably hook you up with a solution that would avoid any more running around!

    • I’ll only use halogen or the natural spectrum bulbs (ideal, but not sure I’ll find a dim-able option for that type). Unfortunately, even when looking at some halogens and such that didn’t have the dimmer, I didn’t find a single one that met both of my other two requirements. I really just wish I could get the same lamp. It has its own faults, but seems to be the only one that can give me the main things I’m looking for.

  4. What about getting your original lamp fixed?

    And re unproductive days, it really does depend on where I am in the month. Early on I’ll tend to call it a day and just do more work later on. If it’s coming towards the end of the month, though, I’ll just keep working until I’m done, no matter if it’s work time or personal time.

    That’s actually arguably my biggest downfall, not stopping working once ‘work’ is over.

    • I actually did try that first. Unfortunately it’s not something I can just fix. The only option was a strong glue, and given the heat that halogen lamps put off, not only did it not hold b/c something’s missing and the pieces wouldn’t line up correctly, but I’m also not comfortable having a glue under that kind of heat.

    • As for not stopping work at the end of the work day, don’t worry too much about it. A lot of freelancers do it, especially early on or when they’re trying to go from part-time to full-time. For me though, I actually get more done when I work fewer hours, and tend to make significantly more money. It’s about the balance. If I’m working all the time it leads to frustration and procrastination, whereas when I’m rested and have that balance in my life between work and play I’m (usually) incredibly productive during my working hours.

  5. This is officially going from an unproductive day to an unproductive week. Most of tomorrow will now be spent doing final backups on my hosting account tied to this blog (pretty much just used for one set of blogs I run). HostGator has given me nothing but grief for months with problem after problem and excuse after excuse. The site was down earlier tonight because of a resource issue (which would not have been an issue if I could have upgraded my account or split off into several new ones as I’ve been trying to do for months — couldn’t do it because it’s taken them that long to sort out stats issues across all servers, and as soon as it looked like they had, there was another one which I have yet another ticket open on).

    So that’s kind of the last straw. I’ll be moving to a new hosting company — maybe several with different sites to test them out for a while. It’s just sad b/c I’ve been a HostGator customer for about 5 years, adored them, and recommended them actively to just about everyone I knew who was looking for a host. But for the last several months it’s seemed they just can’t get their heads out of their asses and get things working properly (I’ve been told numerous times things were fixed and then — whoops! — they forgot to protect a file or something so things reverted to the problem settings — *sigh*).

    I’m almost tempted to just call this whole week a wash. I’m hoping to at least get a few blog posts drafted for clients tomorrow. *crossing fingers*

  6. Maybe Amazon has your elusive Ark of the Covenant? I mean, lamp? I know it’d suck to go without a lamp for awhile but at least you get precisely what you need.

    I hear your frustration though. I live in a city where apparently you can buy anything BUT precisely what it is you need to buy at that moment. Like my quest to find the ever-elusive wall mirror.

    • Unfortunately Amazon didn’t have a decent one either. I swear there were a ton of them when I bought the last one. But it seems I’m just not meant to have one. Fortunately I was up until after 2am last night dealing with host / server drama, so I wasn’t working at 4am today. Natural lighting this morning will do (although I don’t even get much of that given that all of my windows are north-facing here, and sheltered by a bit of an overhang from the roof). Joyous day.

      • Unfortunately not. That was the one I saw in one of the Staples stores yesterday actually — the only one that even had the dimmer. While it looks like the head is flexible in the image, there’s actually a large bolt-style configuration making that portion unmovable. I need to be able to point it to the ceiling in the mornings (I do the dimly lit thing). But more importantly, where I keep the lamps, I need that flexibility so I can control the center of gravity. Without it, they tip over, and that’s very unpleasant with the halogen lamps.

        Thank you though. 🙂 I’ll find one eventually. I don’t give up that easily. 🙂

  7. Sometimes it’s good to take a day to “chill out” and go shopping for a lamp. It’s better to get what you want than settling for something that you don’t.

    • That’s a possibility. I’ll have to take a look. I’m hesitant to order one online though, because a lot of the natural spectrum lamps are incredibly dim. So I like being able to get a feel for them in the store first. But we do have a nice little art shop nearby, so I’ll check there first. 🙂

  8. So I FINALLY bought a new desk lamp for my office space. It’s the dimmable one I found earlier that I wasn’t crazy about. Sadly it really was the only option even remotely close to what I wanted. I’m not happy about the flexibility I lose with it, but I have to admit this morning was the first morning in a while when I was able to just sit down and work productively. Of course I had more server issues pop up to deal with, so the tech woes aren’t beyond me just yet. But at least I know next week will be a less-crappy one as I’ll have the right work lighting (and yes… it really does make that big of a difference for me).

  9. I really admire your determination. You can go to 14 stores searching for a lamp. For me, I think it would be at most 2 or 3 and I’ll call it a day. However, I do read that in your case, you really need a table lamp.

    Furthermore, after all that searching, you still get back to writing. It would be great if I can stick to my timetable like you!

    I still working on my website and so didn’t include it it. Hopefully I will be proud to share it the next time round I comment!

    • lol I guess that’s a good word for it. I tend to think of it as stubbornness. 😉 I don’t get like that with many things. The lighting where I work is just extremely important to me. I combine light-blocking curtains and a dimmable desk lamp to get exactly the right lighting combination at any hour of the day, so I can work productively when I need to.

      Good luck with your website btw! 🙂


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