Skip to main content

It’s A Bad Day Today

| November 3, 2015

by Jim Bruce

Who hasn’t had one?  No milk for the cereal.  A tanker truck cut you off as you were driving to work.  Joe wasn’t prepared for the meeting.  Sam’s presentation wasn’t aligned to the audience.  Stuff happens, and it usually leads to a foul mood.

And, as I’ve been told many times, you have to learn how to turn lemons into lemonade.

Today’s Tuesday Reading, It’s A Bad Day Today, draws on the essay, “How to Turn a Bad Day Around,” by Amy Gallo, contributing editor at the Harvard Business Review, which recently appeared on the HBR website.

It’s normal to have some days that are bad.  However, the experts tell us that it’s really possible to turn bad days into good ones, that happiness is a choice.  Even when bad things are happening to us, it is possible and important to focus on the positive things that are also happening.  Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage, says “Studies show that when you’re positive, you’re 31% more productive, you’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion, you have 23% fewer health-related effects from stress, and your creativity rates triple.  Annie McKee, in her book Primal Leadership, wrote “It’s worth changing your mood, not just to make your day more pleasant and productive but to spare those around you.”

Here are six suggestions for what you might do:

  1. Pinpoint the issue.  The quicker you identify the problem, the easier it will be to do something about it.  So, make it a practice to regularly check your emotional state.  Are you being snappy, not smiling, have a headache?  Identify the impact and the cause.
  2. Take a moment to be grateful.  One of the fastest ways to restore your focus on the positive is to think about what you are grateful for.  Achor says that “There are neuroimaging studies that show it’s almost impossible to be in a depressed state and grateful at the same time.”  McKee suggests that you short circuit the negative mood by naming three good things that are going on in your life.  Make them real to you by writing them down.
  3. Take action.  Stop what you are doing and do something that you will see as a positive victory.  It doesn’t need to be big, just positive.  For example, you’ve got a to do on your list to write a note to one of your staff who did a terrific job yesterday in a presentation.  Pick up pen and paper and write that note telling her about the great job she did and what you’ve heard from others about her presentation.  It will change your mood and lift hers as well.
  4. Change your routine.  By all means, don’t just sit at your desk and try to plow through your negative mood.  Take a walk, put yourself in a different physical location, prevent the amygdala hijack by doing something that positively engages your frontal lobe.
  5. Reset realistic expectations.  What we expect has a huge impact on our mood.  Earlier this week, I sat down to edit an essay for a future Tuesday Reading.  The hour I thought the task would take expanded into more like eight over three days.  Clearly, my expectations were unrealistic.  It was necessary for me to acknowledge two things:  I did make progress on that first day, and I needed to be more careful in estimating the time required to complete tasks on my calendar.
  6. Learn from your bad days to prevent future ones.  As I noted in the prior suggestion, I need to be more realistic when I estimate the time I need for a task on the calendar.  More generally, by noting what went wrong and created a “bad day,” you can identify your triggers and, in many cases identify what to do to prevent the situation.  As noted earlier, I have to be more realistic in planning my work.  If one of your team members comes to a meeting unprepared, you can give corrective feedback in the meeting if it is a one-on-one, or privately immediately after the meeting if the meeting involves others.  The key point here is that “something going wrong” is a learning opportunity for you that will enable you to prevent or at least make less depressing when it ours in the future.

Bad stuff does happen.  Keeping these six suggestions in mind will help you navigate those that come your way.

Make it a great week.  .  .  .     jim