January 27, 2012

getting the job done on a tough day

I’m sure some of us are made of steel and never allow a tough personal day to influence our performance at work, but I just have to say that I am not one of those! It might be a girl-thing, or even something to do with my personality type, but the truth is that when I have some personal problem on my mind it’s really hard for me to put on a brave face and focus on my work. How about you?

It might not even be a big issue, but just knowing that I have to spend 8 hours at work before being able to resolve it feels a little gruelling sometimes. Telling the whole office how fragile I’m feeling might not be the best option because I don’t want to send the message that I am incapable of coping with personal stress. But on the other hand just ignoring the fact that you are human might burn you out in the long run. So I have tried the following ways to still get the work done despite my tough personal day.

  • Try using your work to distract yourself: Even though I really prefer to sort things out as soon as possible, the fact is that I need to plant myself in front of my computer for 8 hours, so I might as well try focusing on the work instead of the issue at hand. Time usually seems to fly when I’m focused and working hard, so it’s actually a good way to take my mind off the problem for a while, and very often it helps me cool off and see the issue from a different perspective.
  • Be honest: Trying to hide that you’re not feeling 100% yourself may just make the day harder. If you have a friend or trusted colleague at work, why not tell them not to worry if they see you isolating yourself a little during the day, you just have some things on your mind that you don’t really want to talk about. If they know you’re having a tough day they are likely to understand and give you some space. No need to tell them all the gory details, just let them know you'll be fine and you would like to focus on work.
  • Figure out what works for you: Some find it helpful to put on their earphones and listen to music while working and others need to call their moms before the working day starts to blow off a little steam J. Many people recommend chocolate (I wonder why) while others take a walk outside during their lunch breaks to get some fresh air. Knowing what works for you will allow you to manage your emotions instead of lashing out at a colleague or being rude around the office all day.
  • Embrace the challenge: I try to see a day like this as a challenge to my resilience. I know I don’t need to be made of steel, but being able to cope and perform well while dealing with challenging emotions reminds me that I can be strong and mature under fire. Also, being known for performing poorly because of your personal problems is not something you want to be known for around the office (see more about personal branding here).

We will all have those days when we just can’t seem to get our minds off things happening in our private lives. But, like any other challenge, you can see them as opportunities to practice and show your inner strength. There is no shame in shedding a tear or two at work, but try to keep it from interfering with your productivity (and that of others) as far as possible.

What works for you on a tough day at the office?

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