24 hours is a long time…

How to turn around your worst day ever …

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Have you ever come home from work (whether you work from home or not), and wanted to just throw something? Like it was the worst day ever! And “worst day ever” was not an exaggeration. It was THE Worst. Day. Ever! (WDE)

Now, have you ever come home from the same job, 24 hours later, thinking the exact opposite? As in, Best. Day. Ever!

I have, and it’s both a pain in the ass and a revelation. They say a week is a long time in politics. Twenty four hours can be a long time in a job. 

So, want happened in the twenty four hours between worst and best?

In my experience, (and this is not a peer reviewed, double blind study of thousands, this n=1), a bad day is just a bad day.But we catastrophise it.

My WDE was working in finance and I had deadlines that needed to be met and things just went awry. Then a deal was declined and I had to break the bad news to the client. I took it as a personal affront. I felt I had lost credibility with the client and my manager and they both thought less of me. And, while dealing with that, I still had to charge ahead on the deals that were falling more and more behind. And then I thought: “I should be better than this!” See? Worst. Day. Ever!

Here’s my evaluation, yours may differ with that minimal amount of information. 

The problem wasn’t really in missing or delaying the deadlines. Everyone knew we were short staffed, over worked and had way more on our plate than was feasible. The executive didn’t really care as it was money in the door, profits increasing and happier shareholders. (Until later, when we literally ran out of money to lend!) It was backs to the wall stuff.

The deal that got declined wasn’t really an issue. Was I the first person in history to have a deal declined. The first person ever to miss an element in financial management? No. Hardly. Shit happens. (But I do tend to be down on myself for mistakes I make. Again, I’m probably not the only one who does this).

The real problem here was my … perspective!

I had taken it way too personally! I know, people getting a deal declined can be demoralising and hard on the client when they can’t achieve their goal. But I can’t help them in that moment. Sometimes I feel I should. 

So what happened in the 24 hours after that WDE (Worst Day Ever!)?

Because of the WDE, I took stock to get control back, or at least a little more control. I looked at what was within my sphere of influence and took steps to manage my workload. 

I literally piled up the files on my desk (it was a very high pile!). I ordered them by deadline and worked though them one by one. No deal got looked at until the deal I was working on was finished with for the day. If a client rang up asking for an update I gave them the briefest (but nicest) update and then back to the pile.

The productivity and progress made that day went through the roof!

Best Day Ever!

Two things I (re)learned:

  1. Perspective – how am I thinking about my circumstances and how am I responding? Am I improving my circumstances or adding to the chaos? What steps can I take to regain order and control? Is it really as bad as it seems or am I catastrophising again?
  2. Processes/Procedures – I love these. Develop a process or a procedure to follow to ensure the steps I am taking cover the end to end process. And then iterate as I go. Is there a step I can add or remove? Keep it simple. This is from experience but the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is an also must read!
    1. in addition to this, particularly if you work in an organisation where people can override you, it is invaluable to be able to articulate your thinking and demonstrate your process. Sometimes a manager will not care about your discipline to work effectively and pronounce “just get it done!” This can be a challenge when trying to become better and stressing less by doing what you need to keep to the plan. I had this challenge last week. Here is the outcome …

Summary

In order to reduce stress, look at how you are looking at things. What perspective are you taking? Are you making it worse than what it is? This can be hard in the moment. But that thought (it can be hard in the moment) is also a realisation to help us move forward. You may need to think, “This is hard…”, but then follow it up with “… but not pointless.”

Processes. What can you put in place to help you stay on course? Is it a checklist or simply write out for today what you’d like to achieve? Perhaps add what will you do if you get off track. What about people who can, due to their role, overrule what you are trying to achieve? Is that a personal development opportunity → “How to deal with people who try to overrule you (unnecessarily)”. Sometimes being overruled is necessary. A wise person will know or learn the difference.

And then, be kind to yourself. It may not happen at the first try. It may take a few goes to get it right. 

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