Bring your derailed day back on track

Tiring commute, unexpected news, an argument with a colleague or technical glitches, there are a thousand things that can rob us of our energy in the morning. End result – low productivity, irritability, and distractedness. It is a vicious loop.

Why does this matter? Because mornings are the most productive time of the day. A study conducted in the Los Angeles School District showed that when Math is taught in the first two hours of school, students’ overall GPA increased by 0.72. Similarly, when it comes to our work, tackling the biggest chunk in the morning, or one that’s higher up in priority, helps us be more effective. Thus, if our mornings are derailed, so is our entire day.

The good news is that we can turn such mornings around.  Ask yourself the following questions:

Is there anything that’s working? Neuroimaging studies show that it’s almost impossible to be in a sad/ low state and feel grateful at the same time. Thus, shifting our focus to something that is working in our favor, diffuses the anxious energy we feel. You may have missed an important work call, but did you get recognized for good teamwork?

A recent study shows that just a few minutes of consuming negative news can cause a bad day. However, when we’re positive, we’re 31% more productive, 40% more likely to receive a promotion, have 23% fewer health-related effects from stress. Worth making the shift, right?

What immediate action can I take? Once derailed, our day can feel out of control. Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, recommends taking single concrete action. It could be responding to an email or setting up a meeting. Doing so helps our brain register small victories. Prof. Mogilner of UPenn Wharton School suggests giving away time, when we feel pressed for it. Sounds counterintuitive? Actions like congratulating an employee on their success, or offering to help someone, makes us feel more time-affluent, capable and confident.

Has this happened to me before? According to Annie McKee, co-author of Primal Leadership, “learn what your triggers are so you know how you’re likely to react if you come across it again.” This helps us turn them around by doing what serves us best. Maybe not everyone can take action when feeling overwhelmed. But will a break work better? Or a quick pep chat with a friend?

When bad days are a constant, there probably is a larger issue at play. Long hours, toxic relationships, or intense workloads, each of them impacts our day. Reflecting on our triggers will lead us to identify the exact issue. Instead of ‘having a ridiculously crazy day’, you might just realize your day feels so because you have four deliverables to complete. You can take concrete action on this understanding.

It’s true that morning shows the day. It’s also true that we can change it. How do you win over your bad days?

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