Have you ever had one of those days when absolutely everything went wrong? When it felt like the universe was not only against you—but actually laughing in the face of your misfortune?
Sigh. We all have, and those workdays can be paralyzing. You’re afraid to check your inbox, complete a project, or even so much as sneeze, because you’re convinced that it will only end in misery for you.
In those moments, you (and your ego) need some easy wins. You need some productive and beneficial things you can do that have little to no chance of backfiring on you.
Where do you start? Well, I’ve pulled together some different tasks you can complete, depending on the amount of disposable time you currently have. Don’t worry—these all have a very low risk of regret.
What to Do If You Have Five Minutes
1. Grab Your Co-worker a Coffee
Doing something thoughtful hardly ever works against you. Heading to the breakroom for a coffee refill or a mid-morning treat? Snag something for your colleague or deskmate too. It’s a small gesture that’s sure to be appreciated.
2. Send a Networking Note
When our workdays get so busy, nurturing our professional relationships is often pushed to the back burner. Take a few minutes to send a LinkedIn message, an email, or even a handwritten note to a contact you haven’t reached out to in a while. You’ll keep that connection strong (and maybe even open some new doors for yourself), with very little effort.
3. Get Some Fresh Air
It’s easy to feel cooped up when you’re spending hour after hour working away in your office. Even just a couple minutes of some time outdoors can work wonders. Heading outside for just a brief break and a change of scenery can quickly refresh your attitude—particularly when you’re having a bad day.
4. Pay Someone a Compliment
Compliments have a way of making people’s days—and offering them sometimes feels just as good as receiving them. So, tell your co-worker that she did a solid job on her presentation or that you love the homemade cookies he brought in to share with the team. Spreading a little positivity never hurts.
What to Do If You Have 20 Minutes
5. Disinfect Your Phone and Computer
Are you ready to hear something disgusting? Your phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. And, it’s probably not something you think about cleaning all that often. Grab some disinfecting wipes and give that thing a good scrubbing. You might as well get the germs off of your keyboard, mouse, and computer monitor while you’re at it.
6. Clean Off Your Desk
Speaking of cleaning, I’m willing to bet your desk isn’t exactly in tip-top shape right now. Clear off all of the mugs and glasses that have taken permanent residency on various corners of your workspace. Toss out the junk mail and random Post-its that are contributing to your clutter. Straighten up the piles of papers that you actually need. Even just a few minutes spent tidying things up can make a huge difference.
7. Unsubscribe From Unwanted Emails
Never-ending emails are probably only adding to your stress. Unsubscribe from all of those sales messages and lists that you were mysteriously added to. It’s cathartic and can give you a greater sense of control on those days when it feels like you can’t make anything go right.
8. Read a Couple of Articles You’ve Been Saving
If you’re anything like me, you have an ever-growing list of things you eventually want to read saved or bookmarked. Take a quick time out to actually consume some of those articles. You’ll probably learn something, while still giving yourself a little breathing room on a tough day.
What to Do If You Have an Hour
9. Organize Your Computer Files
Take a quick look at your desktop. Is it a disaster? If not, maybe you’re someone who’s just sneakily stashing things in a bunch of different folders that you can never actually navigate. Either way, I’m willing to bet your computer organization could use a little sprucing up. Take some time to delete anything you don’t need anymore and attempt to bring a little order to the chaos of your computer.
10. Clean Up Your Inbox
Similarly, our inboxes can quickly spiral out of control. Guilty as charged? Spending an hour or so deleting, replying, and organizing those messages will pretty much never end poorly for you.
11. Get Lunch With a Colleague
Like I said earlier, our connections with other people can fall by the wayside when our workdays get hectic. But, those professional bonds are still super important. Invite a co-worker out for an hour-long lunch break where you can chat and get to know each other a little better outside the confines of your office. Bonus points if that colleague is someone you haven’t previously spent a lot of time with.
12. Make a Plan
Do you know that dreaded project that you’re consistently pushing off until “tomorrow?” You know, the one you’ve written on your to-do list so many times, it’s sort of become like an unwanted piece of furniture that you just operate around? Give yourself a major confidence and productivity boost by sitting down and finally outlining a plan and timeline for that assignment. Sometimes getting started is all you need to do to spark your motivation.
Nobody likes those workdays when they feel like they’re walking on eggshells—like one more wrong move will send things permanently snowballing downhill.
So, if you’re currently stuck in one of those bad days where nothing seems to be going right, turn to one or even a few of these quick and easy wins to turn your attitude (not to mention your entire day) around. You’ve got this!
Photo of person in office courtesy of Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author