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Why You Should Check Your Emotions Before Doing Any Work

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Why You Should Check Your Emotions Before Doing Any Work

Has it ever happened to you that you were on a roll at work, everything was flowing, you ticked off one task after the other and then suddenly something disheartening happened?

Perhaps you received a phone call from a demanding client, or an email informing you that you’ve missed out on an important business opportunity. Or maybe you found yourself in an argument with someone or received some stressful news from home.

You then tried to regain your composure and get back to your work, but you noticed that it was just not happening. Not only did you lose focus and momentum, but somehow you became a different person. The work that had energised you just moments ago suddenly meant very little. While your thoughts had been flowing effortlessly beforehand, after the incident your mind was blank, and your sense of control had vanished.

You kept working nonetheless, doing ‘your best’, but later you noticed that you’d made a real mess of your work, and perhaps created more problems than you’d had before.

Ups and downs.

As clichéd as it sounds, life and business can be unpredictable, and it’s often difficult to shelter ourselves from unpleasant situations and news. (Interestingly, the way we feel also naturally changes during the day. Most of us start the day relatively upbeat, start to feel a bit more low in the afternoon, and then find that our mood elevates again in the evening.)

Well, there’s no shortage of good advice on how to manage our emotional states and let go of negative thoughts. You can practice mindfulness, focus on something positive, talk to a friend, go for a walk, do some exercise … the list is long.

But let’s face it, sometimes those low moods linger on. We may feel so deflated that we can’t even be bothered doing anything about it or simply don’t want to. Well, I don’t think that’s always a problem. As I’ve touched on in a previous article, A high acheiver’s dilemma: To kill or not to kill emotional pain?, sometimes it can be beneficial to stay with unsettling emotions for a little while. However, we certainly don’t want them to create problems for our business.

It’s therefore useful to understand how low moods can influence different aspects of our work, especially because while we are consumed by emotions, we often don’t even notice the damage we may cause.

Emotions at play.

Here are just 10 of the many ways our emotions impact our work:

  1. It’s nearly impossible to think creatively and originally when feeling down.
  2. We become worse at communicating, including making sales.
  3. Our writing can become more cynical and critical than we intend it to be.
  4. We may accidentally hurt or lash out at people.
  5. We perceive risks to be greater than they actually are when feeling upset.
  6. We tend to make more mistakes and also make worse decisions.
  7. It’s very difficult to learn new skills or information in a negative state.
  8. It’s unlikely that we can handle complicated situations and challenges well.
  9. We struggle with self-discipline and thus become more likely to procrastinate.
  10. When feeling sad, some people seem to adhere to a different ethical code than otherwise.

There’s a good reason for all this. Our physiology and brain chemistry change when we’re in a negative emotional state, and parts of our brain, including those assisting with creative thinking, shut down.

Extensive research on happiness has revealed that “Happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%”, which is of course great news. But this also means that unhappiness can present great disadvantages in business, if we are not careful.

How to remain productive.

So, what can you do when you feel down, and you’ve got work to do?

First and foremost, acknowledge to yourself how you feel. You might also want to share with those you work with that you are not quite yourself at the moment. But don’t criticise yourself for the state you’re in, I can’t think of a single reason how that could be useful.

Choose work activities that you’re capable of doing well, tasks that require little creativity and emotional investment. Avoid making big decisions, initiating difficult conversations, and perhaps even giving feedback. Once you’ve completed your work, ask someone to review it carefully. In situations like this, a thorough check is more needed than ever.

If you handle your emotions intelligently and organise your tasks well, your work will keep rolling without a major hiccup. You’ll probably bounce back faster, and have less reasons to be worried later on.

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