THE BLOG
01/29/2015 12:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

From Blah to Rah: Turning Around a Bad Day at Work

2015-01-28-MP900431819.JPGNo matter how confident and competent you feel, or how dedicated you are to producing for the benefit of your organization and yourself, there are days when you just go off the tracks.

Sometimes unexpected emergencies push you off your path. You might discover that management has axed a project you've worked hard on, or that a promotion you expected has gone to someone else, and you're crushed. It may just be a matter of not getting enough sleep lately or dealing with the aftereffects of an illness. Or perhaps you're trying valiantly to work with an arrogant or lazy team member. Whatever the case, you're not firing on all cylinders, and these situations are sucking the productivity right out of you!

You can't afford to wallow in negativity. So what do you do?

If you're feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated or generally out of sorts, perhaps you can visualize yourself out of the blahs. One of my friends closes his eyes and sees the emotional barrier as a stone dome or wall separating him from the sunshine of productivity. Using the sledgehammers of confidence and competence, he batters his way against the barrier until it falls, and he's able to move forward. I also remember an amusing TV commercial where a woman practicing her tennis swing visualized the faces of people who annoyed her in the balls she whacked.

If visualization doesn't work for you, then you might want to take a five-minute vacation with The Far Side or Calvin and Hobbes, run up and down a few flights of stairs, or go through the ritual of making yourself a nice cup of tea.

Whatever you do, stop long enough to take stock of the situation. Stifle any negative self-talk, then decide how best to proceed. Ask yourself: Are things really so bad? What if I changed my definitions of good and bad? What good can I recover from this ill wind? What will this matter in two days, two weeks, two months or two years? You don't have to let a sour mood or an unproductive morning stop you from excelling for the rest of the day.

To some extent, all the feel-gooders have it right: you can choose how to feel.

Once you've done your visualization, taken your sanity break or had your tea, find something on your to-do list you feel capable of tackling -- and get to work. Maybe that will warm you up for another, more important item on your list.

Normally, I would recommend against what some people might perceive as time-wasting behaviors, or handling less-important items before the "frogs" you're supposed to swallow (to use Brian Tracy's witty terminology). But that assumes you're already on an even emotional keel. Sometimes you need little comforts and small successes to turn around a bad workday -- in the same way a pint of ice cream seems to help in other situations.

What's your favorite way to turn a bad day into a better one?