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How to Work Effectively When You're Having a Bad Day

How to Work Effectively When You're Having a Bad Day
By Mastering JS Weekly • Issue #60 • View online
Over the course of your career as a software developer, there will be days when you feel like you are truly crushing it. And there will be days when it seems like nothing is going right. Your laptop’s broken, the kids are crying, there’s a revolving door of noisy contractors fixing your home - how will you ever get anything done today?
How you handle the latter case is far more important. Often, the difference between a professional and an amateur is a professional shows up and does their best when things aren’t easy.

Essentials Only
“Do nothing which is of no use.” - Miyamoto Musashi
Multi-tasking is the productivity killer. And, when you’re stressed out, it’s harder to resist the allure of scrolling through Twitter, reading a bunch of clickbait, or going down the Wikipedia rabbit hole on underwater basket weaving.
Instead, pick 1 high value, low-to-moderate difficulty task. Avoid wasting your already limited time and energy on anything non-essential. Once that task is done, take the win and call it a day. If you run into a blocker, pick another task and try again, but limit yourself to 3 tries.
Conserve Your Energy and Lower Expectations
“Chewie this won’t help me! Hey! Save your strength. There’ll be another time.” - Han Solo
Being the kind of developer that drops off when the going gets tough is bad. So is being the kind of developer that pushes themselves too hard when they need a break. Biting off more than you can chew when you’re exhausted is a recipe for critical production bugs, or, even worse, total burnout. Remember: never too high, never too low.
We all have our off days. And those off days can be especially hard for overachievers who have a hard time accepting lackluster results. If that’s you, have some self compassion. Do what you can, but not at the expense of your health or happiness. That list of Trello cards or GitHub issues can wait.
Learn From The Experience
“Out of adversity comes opportunity.” - Benjamin Franklin
Don’t let one bad day grow into a chronic condition. Take some time to review what happened and see what you can do about it. Then get a good night’s sleep and try to do better tomorrow.
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