In an ideal world I’d be working with pleasure and joy every day of my life and that would be amazing. In the real life though, things are a bit different. My work life is filled with phases and moods which, rather than being linear, are more like a spiral curling upwards. Below are three main stages I go through, the rest being just variations.

The “Everything is awesome” phase.

This is by far my favorite. When I’m here my productivity level is high, work feels less like something I have to do and more like love and things flow smoothly. In the awesome phase, everything is cool and fun, the world is filled with possibilities and everything I do is accompanied by a big smile on my face.

The “Crappy” phase.

This is when the shit cloud decides to pay me a visit and poops all over me. I hate this phase. Now I don’t even want to hear about work. Nothing helps, everything sucks. The things that once kept me going are now useless and I much rather do anything else. This is when I get angry and frustrated and nothing or very little gets done. This is when I move in circles around the house, feeling guilt and frustration and being unable to do anything else.

The “Commitment” phase.

This is the smart phase, the one that I should make permanent. When I’m here I choose to work even if I don’t like it. Here is where I accept that work doesn’t rely on inspiration and mood, but on discipline and perseverance. Here all the bad feelings go away because I know that even if I didn’t do my best I showed up.

What I’ve learnt so far

  • Resistance will do its best to keep me from working on a continuous basis.
  • Discipline will help me overcome it.
  • Creating the habit of working each day might be hard at first, but if I take small steps towards it things will work for the better.
  • Some days I just can’t do it and that’s ok.
  • When I find myself in the “Crappy” phase, the best way to work without actually working is to do something unrelated like meeting friends, going to a museum, getting out of the house, watching a movie, listening to a podcast or reading. This helps me relax, disconnect, get new ideas or let my brain process things in the background.
  • Switching between projects is good. If I’m not in the mood for a particular project, I can stop working on it and focus on a different one that seems more appealing. Afterwards I can go back to the first one with fresh eyes and more interest.
  • Getting enough sleep does wonders. Sometimes I can’t work at my best if I’m too tired.
  • Keeping a notebook where I record my work habits helps me to  better understand when and why I act the way I do.
  • It’s ok to follow what others do as long as I take from them what works for me.
  • Sometimes frustration and stress appear when I put too much pressure on myself. Taking things easier and doing small steps always helped.

Final thoughts

I used to (and still do, but I’m working on it) feel extremely guilty and frustrated whenever I thought I didn’t perform as much as I wanted. I tried to copy what other people did, but it didn’t always work out.

What actually helps is to pay more attention to myself and my behaviour. This gives me more control over my actions and my emotions and ultimately leads to a better and healthier work life.

What about you? Does any of this sound familiar?

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