You know the feeling. You’re sitting at your computer watching the cursor blink. You haven’t gotten a single thing done. You’ve worried about an important client project, all of the phone calls you need to return and have made mental notes about the errands that you need to run. You just can’t seem to stay focused long enough to complete any of the critical tasks in front of you.

Take a break and try these counterintuitive ways to get back on track and knock tasks off your to do list:

  1. Get some exercise. Exercise not only does the body good, it helps the mind as well.  Exercise increases the blood flow to your brain and supports problem solving. Endorphins released by vigorous exercise will improve your mood.
  2. Play some music. High energy dance music will help you feel upbeat and get you pumped up to tackle the task at hand. If you feel jittery and anxious, try more mellow music to help you relax and focus.
  3. Set a timer. Commit to working on a particular task for five minutes. (Because really, you can do just about anything for five minutes.) When the timer goes off, you may surprise yourself and find that you want to keep going. If not, take a short break and set the timer again. Projects you dread rarely take as much time as you think. You can accomplish a lot in just five minutes.
  4. Baby step your way to success. Think of one task that will get you closer to your goal or closer to completing a project. Break it down into the smallest possible task, ideally something that you can do in five minutes or less, something that’s easier to complete than to leave on your to-do list. Need to make a phone call that you’re dreading? The first baby step is to find the number. Avoiding recording a video? Tweet your followers for a recommendation for video editing software.
  5. Take a walk. Even a short walk around the block will shift your thinking and get you moving.
  6. Chat with a colleague. This is the equivalent of the corporate water cooler. Take a break in your day to just feel good and connect with another human for 10 minutes. Don’t talk about work; chit chat on an unrelated topic.
  7. Take a vacation. Even a weekend getaway will get you out of your element and allow you to clear your mind, get refocused and see possibilities. If you can’t get away for a whole weekend, take a “micro-vacation.” Take an afternoon off. Two or three hours are enough to reset. The only rules are that you have to go somewhere you don’t usually go. See a new part of town or go to another city. Don’t think about the project you’ve been avoiding. Do something purely for pleasure. Fretting, worrying and checking email are not allowed.

When you’ve been procrastinating, the answer isn’t always to buckle down and try harder. Sometimes, the best solution is to allow yourself to take a break and do something else. Allow yourself a short break with the intention of recharging, resetting and renewing your resolve to accomplish the task you’ve been avoiding. When you return to your desk, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you’re ready to move full steam ahead.

Do you use any of these techniques? Do you have some other ones that work for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.