The Bad Day Guilt
Long-term wellbeing isn’t that hard to figure out. Exercise to stay in shape. Eat healthy food to feel better. Meditate to calm your thoughts, and journal to bring order to your mind. Avoid alcohol and tobacco to live longer. Stay hydrated. Save money by learning how to cook instead of ordering a takeaway. Avoid sugar. Work on skills currently in demand. Plan your budget. Invest your income. Save for retirement. Learn the seven habits of highly effective people. Cut down on social media. Get things done. Build habits. Happiness is a choice. Be like water. Work hard. Buy gadgets. Study philosophy. Welcome change.
Be grateful. Be better. Be happy. Be more.
Stop. Enough is enough.
I had a lousy day today. Not too bad, but not good either. Just your regular lousy Monday. I woke up, noticed something felt off, but went to my desk anyway. I start each day with two questions: What do I want to do? What challenges must I face? It’s a useful Stoic technique that the tech industry dressed up and called the daily scrum.
I planned my day, and then, not sure why, procured a blanket. Before I knew it, I found myself curled under it, in one of the big chairs in our living room. I didn’t dare approach my desk again because work felt like one big blergh that I didn’t want to be anywhere near.
This wasn’t what I had in mind for the day. Like each day, I was supposed to wake up, review my todos, and then write, write, write. Find new clients. Go for a walk. Listen to an audiobook. Exercise. Shower. Cook something healthy. Learn German. Spend some quality time with my wife. In short, live the day as if it could be our last — which, by the way, is highly overrated and stressful once you really find yourself in that situation.
This hiding under a blanket wasn’t a part of the plan. It wasn’t good, or optimal and I knew it.
I respect the research that went into books like Atomic Habits, The Happiness Advantage, Flow, Outliers, Peak, Get Things Done, Deep Work, or any other self-help based on fact and science that doesn’t read like the religious ravings of a cult leader. But I also found, through experience, that when life comes crashing down, all those carefully designed productivity systems are worth next to nothing. Worse yet, when taken at face value, they’re so obviously correct that any failure to follow the rules for a better life makes you feel like a stupid, useless failure of a human being.
Undeniably, we’d be better off if we functioned like walking talking algorithms. Like the self-driving cars on the highway. Safer, faster, more efficient. But sadly, we’re made of flesh and blood, have quirky brains, and lead inefficient lives that leave us prone to accidents.
It’s a truth of life that when you’re down, none of it works. There are no productivity hacks for when you don’t have the energy to be productive.
Instead of tricking myself out of feeling bad, I learned not to question my inner weather.
Today, I let the lousiness run its course. I read The Spy and the Traitor, and then re-watched The Mask on Netflix. I tried watching Mortal Kombat too, but boy, that one aged badly. I prefer the old Jackie Chan movies.
I’m at ease feeling bad.
On days like this, I try to let myself off the hook and remember that feeling guilty is no answer to a bad day.
Originally published at https://www.sebastianhetman.com on February 9, 2021.