Embracing Off Days

This past week I hit a mental wall. Working from home and being under a stay-at-home order for four weeks definitely were the root causes this time. But even before the pandemic, every so often I—like everyone, I imagine—have had days when it’s noticeably more challenging to operate at peak productivity.

Over the years, I’ve become more self-aware and have noticed patterns in my work style. For example, I’ve usually been more productive and better able to concentrate for extended periods early in the morning. And I’ve identified the types of tasks at which I excel—and at which I don’t. I’m very good at identifying opportunities for improvement, finding the root causes of problems, and crafting creative ways to reach a goal when it seems impossible. I’m not as great at generating a ton of new ideas rapidly or moving from thing to thing in rapid-fire succession.

Even with all this self-awareness, there are still days when I’m just not as productive as usual. Over time, I’ve learned to embrace those days rather than fight them. No matter how much I want to operate at my peak, I’m only human. Earlier in my career, I would keep pushing myself and beating myself up all day. That didn’t work. Now, I acknowledge that I’m having an off day and adjust my expectations for the day. This usually means doing more check-the-box things, ending my workday earlier, and starting over the next day. I also take a moment to consider why I’m off. Sometimes it’s because of physical or mental exhaustion. Other times nonwork things are all I can think about.

Sometimes entrepreneurs are portrayed as machines who can accomplish impossible things. While it’s true that entrepreneurs make the impossible possible, we are far from being machines. The next time you’re struggling, consider embracing your off day. Think a bit about why it’s occurring. It could be nothing to worry about, or (especially if it’s not a one-off) it could be an indicator that something important is amiss that you need to pay attention to. (You’re steering your business down the wrong path? Your marriage is foundering?) Regardless, know that you’re not alone—everyone has off days.

What’s your approach to handling off days?