All sunshine makes a desert.
You’re going to have bad days. There’s no way around it. Something big will go wrong, a bunch of little things will go wrong, or you just won’t be able to summon any motivation.
When you’re having a bad day, it’s tempting to bail: “Well, I’m not going to get anything worthwhile done today. This day is shot.” Trust me, I’ve been there. But with a few strategies up your sleeve, you can salvage some productivity from a lousy day and feel a little better in the process.
Here are four approaches you might find useful!
1. Expect bad days
Consider two very different reactions to an unfolding bad day.
- “Aaaaargh, I had so much planned for today, and nothing’s working out! What a disaster.”
- “Okay, this is frustrating. But I’ve been on a roll lately, and I guess I’m due for a little misfortune. Let’s not make this worse than it is.”
One of the myths of personal development is that if you just work hard enough, you’ll stop having bad days. A few self-help gurus tread dangerously close to this idea, and it’s neither true nor helpful.
Expect some bad days, and don’t be disillusioned by them. They’re part of the deal.
2. Adjust your expectations on the fly
Say it’s 10:30 AM, and you’ve had an awful morning. You planned to be working on a big project from 8:30-10:30, but you had to take your sick dog to the vet instead. Upon returning home, your dog barfed up his $50 doggie medication all over the living room floor. You cleaned that up, and now you’re finally settling down to get some work done.
Your original plan for the day probably needs adjusting. It’s tempting to try to make up for lost time, but cramming 8 hours of work into 6 hours is rarely realistic.
Write off the lost time. It’s not the end of the world.
3. Catch up on minor tasks
One of the best productivity strategies out there is prioritizing important tasks over easy ones. It should be your default approach, if you ask me.
But it’s okay to compromise from time to time. If your morning’s been a disaster and you just can’t summon the energy to draft that daunting report, just tidy up your office instead.
Plus, knocking out a few easy tasks may turn things around and give you enough momentum to draft that report. As always, flexibility is key.
4. Focus on others
One of the best ways out of a bad day is to turn your attention outward.
Do a favor for someone, write a thank-you note, donate $20 to a charity, or go for a walk and pick up trash with a plastic bag.
This is something I’ve started doing recently, and I’ve found it super helpful. Much of our day-to-day happiness hinges on where we direct our focus, and a lousy day can be a cue to focus on something other than our own problems.
How do you deal with bad days? I’d love to add a few ideas to my own bag of tricks, so please leave a comment below!