How to Forge Through a Funk

A few years ago I experienced a rough season. Literally every day for several months was filled with some new “issue” I had to deal with. Stress levels were high and relaxation times were low. It was a season that could only be described as a “funk.”

Maybe you’ve been there too. Sleep seems hard to come by. You’re already tired when the alarm goes off. You move like a zombie through the day. Your mind is somewhere else while people are talking to you. And getting things accomplished is just not happening.

How do you forge through a funk? You need to answer that question. Most employers may understand a day or two every so often. But you simply cannot go through a long period of time without some productivity before there are consequences.

Here are some steps that have helped me when I entered the funk:

  • Get up. Yes, that sounds pretty simple, but it’s the first step. (Literally and figuratively.) I remember a life skills seminar once where the speaker was asked by a college student: “How do you get out of bed every morning.”

The college student thought his life was difficult. And maybe it was. So the speaker looked at him and said, “Well, here’s what I do. When the alarm goes off I put one foot on the floor. And then I follow it with the other foot. Then I stand up. That’s how I get out of bed every morning.”

Simple? Yes. But it’s the only way to defeat the funk. Staying in bed will not help.

  • Finish something. Another speaker has suggested that the way to make a difference is to begin your day and immediately finish something. I’ve written about this here.  The example given is to make your bed. It may be that you sit down and complete a journal entry. Or maybe you make breakfast and clean your dishes when done. Whatever it is, start it and finish it.

And when you get to your workplace do the same. Find one thing that needs to be done and do it. Make it something simple and short. Once you’ve already knocked something off the list at home and something at work you will be encouraged to do more.

  • Make a list. “Funk” is defined as “a state of great fright or terror.” You can find yourself in a funk because of a dejected mood. But it may also be a sense of anxiety over the tasks ahead. One affects the other.

I’ve learned to talk to myself in those moments. When faced with a difficult task or one that I’d rather someone else have to deal with, I merely face it head on and remind myself, “It’s not going to go away. It will be here tomorrow. So I might as well get it over with. An unpleasant task today will not magically disappear overnight. Take care of it today and it will be gone tomorrow.”

One way to stay focused in a funk is to make a list. Break a bigger project into pieces and tackle it one bit at a time. When your mind wanders train yourself to come back to the list. As you complete each part write “done” to the side. Your progress will help you progress.

  • Take a break. Breaks are needed to help you keep going. The first time I hiked in the Rockies I learned that going uphill in direction and elevation is a huge contrast to hiking on flat land. Even if you are in good shape. When you are in a “don’t feel like doing anything” state it is even more difficult. When the climb is steep you have to set goal markers in the distance and tell yourself, “When I get to that spot I’ll sit down and catch my breath.” If you don’t you’ll have a tough time finishing the hike.

The same is true in your daily routine. So set yourself some “rewards” along the way. For example, do 50 minutes of work then take a 10-minute break. Get up and take a walk. Read an article for fun. Check in with a co-worker. But keep it under control and then after you are refreshed go back to your list. (see #3 bullet point)

  • Add accountability. Tell someone else what you need to get done and that you want them to ask you how you are doing on that task. Give them permission to hound you a bit. The added accountability will give you the extra nudge you might need to keep pressing forward.
  • Do More When You Feel More. When you feel the funk lifting a bit try to do a little extra. I recently had a day when the stars seemed to align. I needed to do some writing and when I began the words just came without effort. I finished one assignment in record time so I decided to move on to the next one. And, like the first, the sentences just flew across the page as quickly as I could type them on my laptop.

That spurt of productivity put me a week ahead on writing. You can do the same. Because there will be days you and I are in a funk. It’s unavoidable. And there are moments we need to be free to not be as productive. No one can push at near 100% 100% of the time. Build some free space into your schedule by doing more when the energy is there.

Don’t let the funk keep you down. Try these things to overcome it.

And if it helps, listen to funk music while you do.

One Big Secret to Help You When You’re Overwhelmed

It’s Monday. You slowly drag your body out of bed. You get weary just thinking about the mountain of work ahead of you this week: projects, deadlines, meetings, family events. You’re overwhelmed before you’ve even started.  So what do you do?

Start small.

I’ve coached many people over the years who have been worn down by a feeling of being overwhelmed. And often when I ask them to schedule out how they plan to accomplish what’s on their “To Do” list they have not written anything down. They have no real game plan for their week. That’s when I pull out my “start small” speech.

I think Naval Adm. William H. McRaven would agree. He spoke at Commencement for the University of Texas on May 17, 2014.You can watch the video here. He challenged the graduates to change their world. And the first thing he told them to do was something small.  He said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” (That’s from someone who has been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. You want to argue with him?)

He went on to say that “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”

It’s small. But it is an important start to your day. It can become your statement each morning that you are going to get up out of your bed and straighten out the wrinkles and the wads that await you. Just by accomplishing something small you will gather a sense of victory that will lead you to the next small thing.

It can even begin the night before. Get your coffee ready. Lay out your clothes. Pack your lunch. All small things that add up and when they aren’t prepared ahead of time can eat into your morning “get ready” time and make you feel defeated before you even begin. And while you’re at it take a look at your calendar before you go to bed.

That’s another small thing you can do. Take your calendar and block out when you will work on each task ahead. I find this is difficult for some. It forces you to think about your week and picture yourself getting the work done and when you will get it done. But it is important visualization and organizational work that is done before the actual work is done.

“But these are big assignments I have this week!” you say? Break them down. Effective people take each task and break it down into smaller tasks.

  • Need information? Make that phone call first or send an e-mail. You may not be able to go further without that.
  • Take your information and then share it with your team.
  • Or write the draft.
  • Or research possible solutions to the problem.

Whatever the task break it down into bite size pieces and begin devouring it one section at a time.

Sounds too simple, right? You’d be surprised how many people have not developed the discipline of starting small. You can drown in your sense of being overwhelmed. Or you can choose to gain control of your days, your week . . . your life.

W. Clement Stone said, “Big doors swing on little hinges.”  

You can open some big doors for your life today.

Instead of being overwhelmed, start. Start small.

Question: What do you do when you are overwhelmed?