How to deal with one hell of a slow day at work

Vector imge for a slow day at work - image of CeeKay holding his head in his hands and feeling bogged down

Conrad has had one of those days where nothing gets done. Here, he explains how on earth you deal a slow day at work.

Today, to say the least, has been one of those days.

If you’re like me, you like to have something to show for your working day.

I come from a journalistic background and I have been spoiled on that front – every day we used to see our work go out to about 80,000 people in print. Talk about a payoff.

But then I learned, after I went onto pastures new, that this is not how the rest of the world works. There is a thing called a “slow day at work.”

Instead of breaking down doors and taking names, you’re firing off emails and hoping the person at the other end can – frankly – be slightly arsed about what you need. It’s about waiting for other people to sign stuff off. It’s about sometimes having nothing to show for your day.

And guess what? It’s still just as bad if you work for yourself.

Today’s slow day at work hell

As you may or may not know, I do all of my illustrations for this site – bar one or two re-appropriated photos that I used on my Monday Motivation stuff. Even then I do all of the Photoshop work.

So, when I wanted to make you a special, very free thing – which WILL be awesome, I promise – I came a bit unstuck.

One of my problems is overthinking. Not procrastinating: in fact, its the opposite. Once I have an idea in my head I go for it.

This time, for this awesome thing I was going to make, I decided I was going to use 3D CG stuff. I’m pretty good at it, actually. I’ve done photoreal things before, like the main illustration for this post (not the Photoshopped images IN the article, but the main one with the orange chair. The orange chair and the mug are not real. I made them in a programme called Blender). It looks great, and I like it. So I went on a massive mission to add human models into 3D stuff and … well nine hours later I’m no further along.

I imagine you’ve had days like that too. People not getting back to you, things not panning out. All the good intentions in the world backfiring.

So what shall we do about our slow day at work, then?

Let’s fix our maddening slow day at work

So here’s how we’re going to fix it.

Job 1 – step away from the scene

Step back. Get ten minutes. Often you realise that the day is not going THAT slow – it’s more that your brain is running far faster than everything else.


Repeat – no coffee.

Coffee just makes you more on edge. If you thought your day was slow, wait till you get to the bottom of that mug. You’ll bust a blood vessel, and I don’t want that.

Job 3 – List what you have achieved

When you come back, list the things you have done. NOT achieved: done. You’ll see that you have to write quite a few things down.

Job 4 – A quick gratefulness exercise

We need to re-calibrate your brain. The best way to do this is to list a bunch of things you are grateful for. It could simply be things in your life, things that have been done today (now you know you have been trying) or things coming up in the future. Write them down. Take plenty of time to think about them. Once it starts to work, you’ll actually feel the change in your brain. It’s really good for you – so much so, this has its own article here.

Job 5 – Do something quick

If you are still sure that you have not achieved anything look at your list of tasks. Is there one small thing you can do? Even if it is not perfect? Do it. Allow yourself only ten minutes to do the job. Time it.

Job 6 – Plan out tomorrow

Everything that hasn’t finished today can be used to supercharge tomorrow. Power up a list of tasks. Time your tasks tomorrow, giving yourself no more than half an hour to do them.

Final thoughts on dealing with a slow day at work

Sometimes you just have to be fatalistic about it. Maybe things were not meant to pan out the way that you wanted them to. Maybe I’m not meant to do 3D stuff for this free thing – or maybe I’ll have a breakthrough whilst working on the next task. Who knows. The main thing is you have to appreciate the effort you go to. A slow day at work is often about ticking boxes. This is not a healthy thing at all. Boxes are made in an anticipation of a result. A result we cannot control. Remember to treat you to-do list not as the rantings of a dictator, but as a roadmap of the kinds of things you hope to achieve. We can never truly control outcomes, only effort.