When You Have an Off-Day

We generally don’t allow machines to have an “off” day. But we humans can’t avoid them.

There will be days when you will feel ill, upset, sluggish, or in a funk. You may be injured or suffering from a difficult experience. You may simply have woken up “on the wrong side of the bed.”

For a wide variety of reasons, people’s intelligence, feelings, and performance in their work and their life can fluctuate wildly. That’s why it’s important to recognize what’s going on, and deal with it effectively.

Here are some suggestions for what to do the next time you have an “off” day:

Recognize It

You can’t solve a problem until you know you have it, right? So the first step in dealing with an “off” day is to recognize you’re having one.

Some signposts of an “off” day include:

  • You don’t feel as smart, energetic, or upbeat as you normally do.
  • Tasks are taking you longer than usual.
  • Others are reacting to you with less tolerance and good will.
  • You’re treating other people in ways you wouldn’t want to be treated.
  • The words and ideas coming out of your mouth seem uncharacteristic.

If you have any inkling you may be having an “off” day but you aren’t sure, feel free to ask someone you trust who knows you well. Although they may not have already noticed you being out of sorts, asking their opinion will generally help them evaluate your mood and performance with heightened sensitivity.

Revert to Simpler Times

“Off” days are not suitable for attempting difficult, complex, or challenging tasks, projects, or goals. Instead, you should back off, dial things down, and step away from such efforts in favor of relatively small, simple, easy opportunities.

One good idea is to “unplug” from technology for a while. Sit with an interesting book or other reading matter. Listen to music you enjoy. Commune with nature. You can plug back in when you feel more like your normal self again.

Another good choice for an “off” day would be to spend quality time with someone you care about. You don’t need to have an agenda; just immersing yourself in the warmth of a heartfelt relationship will soothe your soul and speed your return to normalcy.

Clear the Decks for Action

During the age of wooden war ships, the lower decks were divided by temporary walls into various rooms for day-to-day living and working. When it came time for a battle, however, those walls were taken down to provide full and easy access to the ship’s cannons and other fighting equipment.

Today, the phrase implies removing minor obstructions and annoying impediments that might block meaningful, full-bore efforts toward completing important tasks, projects, and goals.

In practical terms, your “off” days provide good opportunities to:

  • Declutter your workspace and living area,
  • Prepare and “tune up” your productivity tools for heavy usage,
  • Rearrange your schedule to concentrate some larger blocks of time in which to make dedicated efforts on important tasks, projects, and goals,
  • Complete any simple, routine, or support items on your “to do” list you may have been thinking about but not working on for too long.

The goal is to use your “off” days in ways that will make room for and facilitate your more important work, as soon as you feel back “on.”

Plan For a Better Day

Although you shouldn’t expect to accomplish much that’s vital when you’re having an “off” day, one valuable task you can tackle is to plan your time and effort in the future.

For example, you can make a list of your important, upcoming tasks, projects, and goals, and map them onto your working schedule for the days, weeks, and months to come.

You can put these items into a meaningful, effective sequence: laying out which ones you must accomplish sooner and which you can safely or sensibly leave for later.

You can also try to itemize the supplies, assistance, tools, and so forth you will need for each task, project, and goal, and begin taking steps to acquire any resources you don’t already have.

When other people are involved, you can also use your “off” day to communicate with them, sharing your plans and helping them understand their responsibilities and commitments. (Note, however, that if this communication with others would be problematic, difficult, or challenging, you may want to leave it for a time when you’re feeling “on,” rather than “off.”)

Working on these suggestions during an “off” day can be highly beneficial, giving you a sense of control and accomplishment that would otherwise – at that moment – be unattainable. These ideas can also help you to make meaningful progress, even when you’re not feeling anywhere near your best.

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