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On some days I am not able to finish what I had planned or hoped for, or I am just not satisfied with the work I have done. One such days, at the end of the day I feel guilty. In such cases, should I continue working late at night to get more work done, and go to sleep, and continue on the next day. My sleep on such days won't be very sound, and probably not as effective.

What are other ways to cope with the guilt of not getting enough done.

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4 Answers

Some days are better than others. Some days we find ourselves in a flow state for hours at a stretch getting incredible things done and other days we can't seem to get dressed without spilling our coffee, waking up the baby and stepping on the dog (who then barks and wakes up your spouse).

You have to learn and accept that we can't be over-achieving supermen (and women) every day. You do the best you can and keep your eye on the big picture. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them. For instance, maybe it's better to leave that coffee cup in the kitchen instead of carrying it around with you while you get ready in the morning.

Sleep is such an important requirement for being productive I can't imagine you getting a net gain out of working late on a regular basis.

Your goal here shouldn't be to "cope with the guilt" but to not feel any guilt at all. If you did your best then you did your best, there is no one to gainsay you but yourself. Comparing yourself and your accomplishments against some unrealistic preconceived notion of who you should be and what you should be doing usually doesn't work out very well.

Set yourself some realistic goals and when you meet them acknowledge that you did very well, take pride in accomplishing these realistic levels of tasks.

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I put a set limit on my maximum work time. It's 12 Pomodoros/day for me, 40 Pomodoros/week, with 8 Pomodoros/week dedicated to training (reading books, doing courses, practicing). Write a report on what you spent that time on. The training bit really helps in the long run.

With white collar work, you'll find that you're only really working 200 minutes out of 8 hours or something. The report helps you identify these issues.

I also have this policy never to work past 10 PM. I've failed a course simply for working until morning on it. Fatigue kills creativity and motivation, which will hurt your chances in the long run. A hard deadline also keeps you from burning out and focusing on the parts which matter the most, rather than perfecting little things with what little time you have.

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Thanks! This is really good advice. +1 –  ramanujan_dirac Jan 18 at 4:46
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Break down your work to pieces. Make one step at a time. Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable. We all have limits. If you are trying to eat an elephant at once, you'll surely fail and then everything falls apart like the domino effect.

I have been struggling myself with several kinds of GTD and other methodologies. Nothing gets your work done If you doesn't shape it "to your style". Taking a course in project management will also help you for sure. You said "finish what I had planned or hoped for" which sounds like you are expecting way too much from yourself.

Finally, make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.

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Sleep--and the enhanced productivity that's possible when having sound, regular sleep is--more important than the short term gains of staying up late. "Finishing" something is just one measure of success. How you plan for continuation is another.

Perhaps you can find some measure of satisfaction and increase productivity by a) planning for longer-term gains and b) how you close your day and prepare for the next. For b), I mean consider having some routine that helps you put the day's work "to bed" that involves planning for the next day by making adjustments for the progress you've made and setting up, in whatever way you can, the context and process for getting rolling the next day.

In our work focusing we sometimes forget that our brains need times focused on other things--and sometimes nothing--so that our subconscious and creative processes can work. Doing something fun or relaxing so you can be more powerful the next day is a positive step toward getting things done, not an excuse or a weakness.

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