What to do when you lose your mojo at work

Let me start with a true story. This happened to a friend of mine (no really a friend, not a … ahem … friend). She had just lost her job

But she has her 20+ years of experience and she has her contacts. So she took off to Australia for a couple of weeks. Came back, launched a website, got her LinkedIn profile up and running and really started her drive for new business.

And then, she lost it. She woke up in the morning and didn’t quite know what was wrong. She couldn’t seem to get down to it. Doubt set in. Was she really cut out for this? Should she just go and get a job instead (but there were only dead-end opportunities available)? Was she really worth anything at all?

When we work for ourselves, we seem to think that we shouldn’t have these thoughts. We can’t let ourselves become distracted. If we take a break – or even a deep breath – we might never reclaim what we had. We fight against our own moods.

I don’t want to sound like I condone mood swings. I do live with two teenagers. I’m aware what it’s like to be in the company of people who have a black cloud hanging over them. But we all do it. Sometimes we might be better at hiding it. I know I always turn to filing and clearing up when I’m having a bad day.

And I do have them. In fact I’m having one today which is why I started this blog post and why my friend came to mind.

So here are a few thoughts of mine. These are not a magic cure or pill. And you can’t overdose on them. So if one doesn’t work, try the others – and add in some of your own.

When you work for yourself, there’s no one to give you permission to have a bad day. That’s what I’m doing now. Giving you permission to give up, just for a bit, a little while until your mojo comes back.

Go for a coffee

A while ago I would have said step outside for a cigarette but that’s just bad business now. So before caffeine becomes the next health-scare, grab a coffee and grab a table. Just hang back. Let the thoughts go. People watch. Commiserate with those who look as miserable as you. Smile when you see genuine happiness.

Go for a swim

Or a run, or hula hooping - something to get those endorphins going. When I swim for the first 15 lengths, my mind is turning. It’s busy. Then as I get out of breath, it becomes painful and I have to push through. Finally, my mind clears. The rhythm returns and I become focussed.

Turn up the music

A wonderful hypnotist always speaks about disrupting our thoughts. Music is a great way to do this. You can either find music that fits with your mood (mine might be quiet and just slightly depressed) if you feel the need to sink deeper, or switch it up and put on music that brings back fantastic memories where you can’t help singing. Working alone definitely helps for this, alternatively, take yourself off in the car and sing it out - loud.

Think back on what you’ve achieved

It’s easy to feel that life is flying by and that we’re never achieving enough. That might be true. As I say to the teenagers, there’s always someone who can run faster and jump higher. We must just do the best we can. And when it’s not our best, take a break. Give yourself a big pat on the back for all those great bits of work. Revel in the kind words on your profiles. Remember those who value what you do.

Be curious

I love to be stimulated intellectually by new thoughts. So sometimes turning to TEDx to watch presentations, downloading a podcast, switching on Radio 4 (only if it’s a favourite programme) will turn on that curious side of my brain. And it’s far better to come back from work talking about an interesting thing you’ve heard, seen or read, than regaling your partner or friends with just how depressed you’ve been.

Get connected

Social media has its uses, but when you’re feeling a bit down scrolling through people’s seemingly perfect lives will only make you bluer. Instead, skip to those groups that you’re part of. And if they’re really, really supportive, reach out and post. If you’re not that brave – and I’m often not – listen to other people wallowing, complaining. See, other people get it to.

When I think work can’t get worse, I turn to a favourite site of mine http://clientsfromhell.net/. It might be for those in graphics, but there’s always something there to make me laugh and lightens the mood.

Take a break

Go on. I fully give you permission. If it’s just one of those days when you feel you’re toxic and if you did anything, or spoke to anyone, it would totally infect everyone, then down tools. Switch off the phone (or give it to a partner or friend). Take yourself away. Really far away. Go somewhere special. Treat yourself. Because you do deserve it. We all do.

PS: If you can’t get it on, fake it

Sometimes we just have to push through. There are too many pressing deadlines (although oddly, I don’t tend to feel like this when I’m busy. See PPS). So ditch the jeans and wear something great. Put your shoulders back. Tip your chin up and stride with purpose and confidence into your meeting. It’s amazing. It can work and make you feel a million dollars. If it doesn’t and just saps more energy from you, clear your diary and start from the top of the list.

PPS: Get busy

This has just occurred to me but I don’t tend to feel down when I’m busy. In fact, I feel the opposite. So perhaps return to all those things that you’ve been putting off. You might just need a pressing deadline to get you motivated.