5 Ways to Break Up a Bad Work Day

It’s one of those days. Maybe you have technical problems, or a project that isn’t going well, you couldn’t sleep last night, you’ve run into a writer’s block or thinker’s block or city block. Maybe you just lost a client. Or learned about a powerful new competitor. Or maybe it’s simply just a bad day. It happens.

These are things that help break up a bad day.

1. Clean up the clutter.

Put on some music you like. Throw things out. Find the desk space down at the bottom of all the papers, books, cables, envelopes, and so on. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel in just a few minutes.

Second prize: clean out your digital clutter. Start with email. Sort into categories (folders or tags) for things you should keep, and archive. Empty the inbox.

Grand prize: take an hour or two. Do both.

2. Do one of those nagging-annoying tasks you’ve been avoiding.

Your business life is full of small annoying tasks you put off. Most of us rationalize that we have other more important, or more urgent, things to do, and we let this go. It’s that list you promised, the research you wanted to do, maybe it’s a call or a letter or email task you’ve been avoiding. Get this one done and you’ll feel better about everything else.

3. Exercise. Take a walk. Or a run.

Break out of your routine. Exercise is funny because of what John Jantsch, the marketing guru, called the math of exercise: the time you take gives you more time later. Particularly when you’re in that droopy slump time. Break it up, get out, come back to it later, fresh.

4. Write. Sing. Draw. Do Something Creative.

Get alone somewhere and sing out loud to a song you really like. Write a haiku. Seriously, a haiku is a great mood changer: just three lines. Try this search for haiku on Twitter, and you’ll see. And if that’s too much, do whatever you do when you want to break the mood. Or, how about this: write an email to somebody you care about, not about business, just catching up with things.

5. Indulge somebody else.

My point 4 above reminded me: if the first thought is to go get yourself a chocolate and a hug somewhere, indulge yourself. But this is even better: indulge somebody else. Don’t get yourself a candy and a hug, give both to somebody else. Or call your mother or your sister or your spouse. Buy a kid you know a book you think they’d like.

There’s research I saw in the New York Times that shows spending money on somebody else is more likely to buy happiness than spending it on yourself. Here’s a quote:

“These experimental results,” the researchers conclude, “provide direct support for our causal argument that spending money on others promotes happiness more than spending money on oneself.”

So, seriously, have a good day.