5 Steps to Get Back On Track When Your Day Derails

When you crawled into bed last night you had high hopes for today. You even had the spark of satisfaction starting to glow because you knew today was going to be productive. Today, things would get done. Fast forward a few hours to when you’re sitting at your desk feeling overwhelmed. You’re wondering when things went off track and how you’re going to manage to hit your deadlines when the tasks that should have been completed an hour ago are still waiting for your attention. It doesn’t take much to shake things up. Maybe you hit the snooze bar one too many times. Your commute was complicated by snarled traffic. Your first meeting was delayed because your client was having an equally rough start. You had to put aside your planned to-do list to deal with some small fire brewing in your email inbox. It’s one thing to stay focused when you’re feeling distracted, but how do you get back on track when you’ve been completely derailed?

Reevaluate today’s priorities

First things first. Take a deep breath and sit down with that to-do list. What really must be completed today and what can be rescheduled? There is a limit on the hours available to you, not to mention you only have so much personal bandwidth to stretch across those hours. Identify your true priorities and focus on those tasks. The other items can be completed at another time or can be delegated to other team members.

Reposition yourself

Shake things up with a new view. If sitting at your desk with the email alerts dinging and the phone buzzing are contributing to the overwhelm, get up and move. Set-up a temporary camp in a conference room. Take your laptop and a notebook with you to the local coffee house. Work at home. Just shake things up a little.

Re-start the day

It’s counterintuitive, I know, but if your day is starting off rocky and your daily list is in danger of imploding, take a coffee break. Take a walk around the parking lot. Take a deep breath and try a little office yoga. Just separate yourself from that moment and get centered. When you’re a little closer to Zen than you were before, head back to the desk and get started on your reprioritized list of tasks.

Remove extraneous distractions

Log out of your email. Close the window on your web browser that’s got your social media account running as background material. Turn the ringer off on your phone. Pluck that top priority off your list and focus on it.

Give yourself permission

Bad days happen. Unproductive, unfocused, chaotic days happen to us and sometimes, let’s be honest, because of us. That’s okay. Don’t waste time or energy berating yourself for what’s gone wrong. Deep breath. Reevaluate, reposition, restart and remove. Then let it go. Tomorrow is a new day.