5 Tasks That Seem Impossible When You’re Having a Bad Day

Whenever I was having a bad day as a kid and was starting to get riled up, my mom would say, “Don’t drive angry”—a line from one of our favorite movies, Groundhog Day, that always got me to crack a smile.

Obviously, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car when you’re upset (if you can help it), but this advice applies to just about anything. When you’re in a funk, you probably shouldn’t be making big decisions or taking on important tasks—because doing so will lead to a worse outcome than if you’d just waited until you’d cleared your head.

I like to follow this motto at work, too. I’ll put off things I know I want to take seriously and are better handled when I’m in a decent mood. Of course, this isn’t always an option.

To help you out on your worst days, here are five things you probably shouldn’t tackle, as well as tips for how you can put them off (politely and professionally, of course). If that’s not an option? I also have some advice for how you can keep your chin up and get through them as best as you can.

1. Take an Important Call

A client wants to chat about their upcoming renewal or a prospective partner wants to talk through some ideas. The thing is, you’ve woken up on the wrong side of bed, spilled coffee all over yourself, and are about to scream out of frustration—and it’s only 9 AM.

If You Can Put it Off

If it’s not urgent—in other words, it’s a conversation you’re expected to have sometime this week but not necessarily today—try using this tactic or these.

The key isn’t to cancel on them, but to explain that you’re busy (a small white lie for the greater gain of a more productive conversation later on) and would prefer to move the time if possible.

If You Have to Get Through It

Particularly when you work with clients, it’s difficult to simply ask to move the time or have the conversation over email.

So, you’re going to have to go through with it.

Step one: Give yourself time to go through your notes and key talking points. Step two: Try to keep the conversation short and sweet if you can.

2. Have a Tough Conversation

Maybe delivering some hard feedback to your co-worker is on your to-do list for today. If you’re already in a bad mood, it becomes practically impossible to contain your anger or resentment and approach that conversation appropriately.

If You Can Put it Off

OK, putting something like this off won’t be easy, nor do I necessarily suggest it. But in some instances it’s in your—and the other person’s—best interest to push a meeting so you’re prepared mentally and emotionally.

Try the following:

Hey, I know we have it on the calendar to discuss [topic] today, but to be honest I’m not sure I’m in the best headspace to talk through this. I want to ensure you’re getting the best feedback, so I wanted to see if you’re OK pushing our chat to [new suggested day and time]? Let me know if there’s anything you might need in the interim.

Or this:

I really want to talk about this with you. However, it’s been a kind of hectic day and I want to give you my full attention. I know it’s not ideal, but could we set a time [tomorrow/this week] to tackle this properly?

If You Have to Get Through It

The reality of the working world is that sometimes you can’t put off the difficult stuff, even on a bad day—and, in some circumstances, doing so will only hurt you and the other person involved in the long term.

To make it through this tough chat, take a look at this article and this one to best handle the exchange—even if you’re feeling a little off.

3. Respond to an Email That Gets on Your Nerves

Just when things couldn’t get worse, Jerry from legal shoots you an email that sends you into a tailspin. The icing on the cake? Your boss just got back to you about that report you sent over, and their delayed and curt response hits a nerve.

If You Can Put it Off

Lucky for you, most emails aren’t that urgent. If they were, the person probably would have said it out loud or scheduled an emergency meeting.

So, maybe give yourself a day (or even just a few hours) to cool off. If you’re not sure how long you can wait to respond, read this.

If you feel the need to send them something back before fully responding, use these lines.

If You Have to Get Through It

Let’s say it is urgent. Again, the beauty of email is you don’t have one shot at getting it right.

First, take your best crack at crafting an appropriate response. Then, leave it as a draft and come back to it a few minutes later and see if it sounds OK. You can also run it by a friend or colleague to review and make sure it doesn’t sound too bitter before hitting send.

4. Make a Decision

Someone’s waiting for you to decide on your monthly budget or which initiative to move forward with. How can you possible make that kind of choice now?

If You Can Put it Off

Again, when something’s not urgent it’s probably smart to extend your deadline so you make the best decision for everyone involved. If you do this, you’ll want to let any waiting parties know that you’re on it and promise to get back to them on a specific day at a specific time so that everybody has the same expectations.

If You Have to Get Through It

This article and this one can help you get better at making snap decisions. But when in doubt, run your idea by a third party to get some outside perspective.

5. Submit or Complete a Key Assignment

By end of day today, your manager expects an important written proposal from you. But with your day in a steady nosedive, you’re convinced you won’t make it until then—and certainly not with a stellar product in hand.

If You Can Put it Off

If you need a deadline extension (and feel comfortable asking for one), read this and give as much of a heads up as you possibly can.

If You Have to Get Through It

You may have to do as much as you can and hope for the best. Having another set of eyes on it may help, as well as taking breaks and coming back to it with a fresh perspective.

It may make sense to tell your boss that while it’s done, it’s not your best work. Your manager might respond by granting you a little more time—without you having to explicitly ask for it.

Remember: This assignment may not be your pride and joy, but it’s one blip—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to redeem yourself and produce something great in the future (and you should plan on doing so).

Getting through a particularly bad day isn’t a cake walk, especially when you have to confront one of these brutal situations. The important thing to keep in mind is that these days (hopefully) don’t happen too often—which means you can have confidence that most of the time, these kinds of issues will be easier to handle.

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