Just Start: How To Keep Going On Off-days

There’s this popular image shared on social media depicting an iceberg and having it explain success. The visible part  of the iceberg (what people see) is labelled “Success.”  The part under the water is labelled “What really happens.” : Hard work, struggles, discipline, sacrifices, late nights, persistence, failures, and many more.

We often take the surface impression as the whole thing, and not look at the years of work and struggle behind the success stories that make the front-pages.  Even with ourselves, we tend to do this. What’s worse, we can be much harsher on ourselves than necessary. We have this image of what we should be and have to be, and measure ourselves by those images. And when we have bad days or off days, we can make it even worse by feeling disappointed in ourselves for not measuring up.

For entrepreneurs who have built themselves strong habits and put good support systems in place, it can be much easier to get through those off days. What follows are simple things you can do to ensure that you get through days like those without unnecessarily having to suffer more that the situation would warrant.

When you encounter days when everything seems to be working except you: Work on automatic—whatever needs doing gets done.

This is where a well-planned work schedule, To-Do lists,  and a solid work routine helps very much.
There are always the things that you do on such a regular basis they sort of become muscle memory. Whatever you practice becomes familiar. When you practice diligence, it becomes automatic.  The same way with paying attention to detail, and checking for mistakes. When you’re practiced, even when your head isn’t in the game, you still know what to do.

With that kind of ‘muscle memory’, a good work schedule helps  you keep stable, and the To-do list keeps you on track within your work routine. It’s that blandly simple.

Good, responsive schedules are made in advance:  Plan your work week the week before. For example, taking a specific block of time on Saturday or Sunday so you can ID and  lay out the important tasks, must-close ‘loops’, targeted productivity goals, and other  notable stuff for the week ahead, helps make  a tighter schedule. You  identify and place on top of the page what’s important for each day.

Mental dust and fluff contributes to slow reaction times and difficulty making choices — we get so much information thrown at us each day through our technology, the side effects of this are unavoidable. There’s too much information to sort effectively or to respond to consciously.

It’s not that people are slow, it’s that we are bogged down in minutiae and slowed by the sheer amount of information we are inundated with each day — there can hardly be enough time or mental space to make the deep decisions on the things that merit them. Handling things on a case to  case basis is okay, but when cases pile up the a bottleneck occurs — then a logjam can follow

Then there’s the fact that we have limited willpower and experience decision fatigue. Remove the stress from the small decisions so you have a reserve for when you need all your processing power and focus on an important matter.  Just like in email, you can pre-screen by filter according to subject and priorities

A straight physical option: Plant your butt, activate the timer.
Make it a habit to regularly optimize your workplace so you have no impediments of distractions to working — nothing to harsh your flow. A clean desk and uncluttered brain helps dampen mental distraction and re-affirm organization.

Go and sit down, start anything to get the ball rolling on your number one work priority for today — open the spreadsheet, review the documents pending carried over from yesterday,  check the report or the mock-up, etc. Just move. Do something that  gives your brain  the trigger that it’s time to start working.

Distracted?
The war may be with discomfort — a buzzy anxious feeling that there could be something you’re not doing that is equally vital and important. Again, plant your butt and start, and push through that achey jittery buzz. Set pen and paper aside to catch anything that mentally pops up as important while you’re starting the first thing — that way you get it out of the way, out of your head, off your radar and you record it for later.

The world will not explode in a fireball of failure if you don’t check you email first thing. Remember your most valuable priorities for this day, for your energy and for your attention span.

A To-Do list in its best version  is a list ordered by priority and time and energy.

  • This list is responsive — it changes each day but the top items should always be at the top.
  • A checklist is a lifesaver in the periods where you forget or can’t recall the exact steps or details needed to start and finish a certain task.
  • Making good checklists in work related tasks is a very great help.
    Gather information on how a task is done, from start to finish, and description of time span, of good acceptable results, and of prep and any clean-up necessary.
  • Arrange this in logical linear order and make a listing, print it out and use it for a business reference. Your business, your reference.

Work with people you trust and are reliable and accountable for their responsibilities.
We can’t do everything that needs doing for a business. In some areas it is better for everyone and easier to outsource certain areas: for example, unless you a lawyer or an accountant, taxes and important business contracts are better of in the hands of licensed, certified professionals.  Sometimes hard to find good people –so when you do, keep them by treating them fairly, whether they’re  virtual personal assistants, outsourced production (company material, content, design, etc.) or people you see in person.

If and when you’re slammed by a mental absence day, you have these people on speed-dial so you can alert them — and they can alert you of anything that really needs your personal attention.

We are human beings, meat-bodies and wet-ware with arcane and deeply involved biochemical processes that our best doctors and researchers have spent years studying, and haven’t fully explored yet. You may pull the “I think therefore I can,” but some days you just— can’t. You. Just. Can’t.

On days like those, ask for help. On days like those, do what you can where you are, and don’t beat yourself up for being not as productive, efficient or as stellar as you were on your best days. Our bodies have cycles or restoration, growth,  and even elimination, (aside from Number 1 and 2, stress chemicals like cortisol do a number on your internal systems if you keep burning the candle at both ends).

Helpful links:

There are days when it’s all you can do to get started, and that’s it. Just commit to start— start something and get the ball running, even if you have worries and misgivings about where you think you may end up, but just get started. Use your environment, your tools and your support systems to keep you on track, and keep the small momentum going. Do what you can in that off-day and rest. You got this.

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