3 Mantras to Help You Recover from a Bad Day at Work

Even if you’re  passionate about your job, get energy from the people you work with, and believe in your company’s mission, you can experience a bad day. Maybe your morning starts off with a handful of hiccups and your productivity and focus are disrupted. Or, maybe you had to deal with a frustrated client or customer that says something that made you angry.

No matter the cause, let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Yet, what differentiates having a bad day from being in a full-blown funk are the tools to help you move forward. For me, the secret to recovering from a bad day are these three, simple mantras: 

You can do anything, but not everything.

This quote is a David Allen gem, and was my computer background for three years. Especially at this time of year, there’s a tendency to try and cram a year’s worth of work into just one quarter. People feel that they have to take on more to prove their impact and exceed goal expectations while simultaneously planning for the next year.

Truth is, you’ll make more of an impact and avoid losing focus if you shorten the list. My colleague Sam is a pro at this and had our entire leadership team complete an exercise documenting our “Short List.” It’s a list of five things you’re focusing your time and attention on, three omissions, and at least one thing that’s bringing you joy. If it’s not on that list, then it’s not getting done, because if everything is important, then nothing is important. My guess is your list is too long–shorten it and deepen your focus, you’ll be less stressed already. 

Progress, not perfection.

We recently had a virtual event for our women leaders at HubSpot around growth and gratitude. One of the most impactful takeaways was the notion that strengths sometimes end up being your Achilles heel.

Sound familiar to any fellow perfectionists? I have high standards of myself and others, and sometimes that desire to do exceptional work can create undue pressure and stress.

So if you’re at all like me, take a step back. Ask what balls you can actually afford to drop so you can give yourself permission to drop the need to perfection. If you’re stuck, make time in your calendar to celebrate progress against the small wins–doing so will ensure you focus on the good stuff, not just all the work yet to be done on the way. 

Control the controllable. 

2020 was the year of the uncontrollable. Truthfully, 2021 hasn’t looked much different. When you have a bad day, it can be really easy to focus on the things you can’t control–be it a global pandemic, weather, other people’s behavior, you name it.

Given that, one of my mantras to get out of a tough patch is to ask what elements of a solution I have control over. Often that includes my response, resources at my disposal, or even just setting expectations on when or how something will get done. Instead of focusing on the countless things you can’t control, remind yourself of what you can, even if that starts with a nice deep yoga breath. 

I was a big fan of the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day growing up. In it, upon having a tough day, the protagonist suggests the best solution might be to move to Australia. I won’t lie, I’ve thought about following his advice a few times in the last few years. But escaping a bad day can be as easy as acknowledging its toughness and changing your mindset, here’s hoping a sunny outlook for you is just a mantra and deep breath away.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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An open minded personality.. fun to be with, because of my positive vibes. God fearing, for without God I am nothing.. Moved with compassion when dealing with you, not selfish or self-centered...

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