When things go wrong at work, it’s hard to keep them from spiraling out of control. And when one thing after another seems to break, you can’t help but wonder if all you’re good for anymore is messing up.
But even though you’ve had a tough go of it lately, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up to have more successful days at the office—even as soon as next week.
Here are a few things I found helpful in a recent rough patch:
1. Own Up to All of the Mistakes
For me, one of the most difficult things about being a professional is acknowledging that I missed a deadline or didn’t follow all the instructions I was given. It sucks knowing that you let people down—and it feels even worse when you know what impact your mistakes had.
But the first step I find helps me begin the comeback process is simply fessing up to everything I know I did (or didn’t do). Sometimes it’s an informal conversation with your boss. Other times it requires a sit-down meeting in which you lay it all out. (And if you’re not sure what to do, check out “the just right reaction” for when you mess up.)
This is a productive activity because not only do you get a chance to review everything that went wrong, but you also show your manager and your team that you’re not the type of person to hide behind your shortcomings.
Plus, being this transparent will tip those people off to the fact that you probably need a little help.
2. Identify the Things You Could’ve Done Differently
Unless you’re actively trying to get fired, I’m willing to bet that you’re not going out of your way to do a bad job. Sometimes work is overwhelming and you can’t focus on anything for too long before you start distracting yourself with cat memes on the internet .
Take the work you’ve done in the first step a little further by walking back all the circumstances that led to you dropping the ball. Was a project incomplete because you weren’t careful enough about the execution? Were you overwhelmed by all the things you said “yes” to? Did you actually not understand the project as well as you thought you did? Think about what happened to lead up to your rough week, because the chances are that it wasn’t just one thing that led to the ultimate result.
3. Create an Action Plan for Correcting Your Mistakes
Now that you know what you did and why those things happened, you can start to think about how to prevent them from occurring in the future. Of course, you’ll make more mistakes at work down the road—and you shouldn’t expect anything more of yourself. But this activity will help you grow in a few areas in which you know that you haven’t been awesome at lately.
If you weren’t careful enough about your project, make yourself a checklist to refer to in the future so that all of the details are addressed. If you were overwhelmed by everything you volunteered for, make a note of how long your to-do list was this time—then when it gets to that point again, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And if you didn’t understand the instructions as well as you thought, get clarity from the stakeholders you need it from to ensure that it’s crystal clear next time.
If you’re down on yourself after dropping the ball for the past week, don’t worry—most (if not all) of us have been there. There’s nothing you can do to erase those rough days from the record books, but you can bounce back faster than you might think.
It will take a little work—and a big dose of honesty with yourself—but you’re talented and resilient enough to get back on track. And trust me, if I can do it, you can pull it off, too.
Photo of person stressed courtesy of suedhang/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author