Tapping into the reason why changes to your routine or challenges you encounter knock you off course, is key to managing your energy and your focus at work.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll set out for the week ahead with lots of good intentions and positive energy. Perhaps your to-do list is neatly written or typed out. Your calendar is scheduled and time-blocked to enable progress on your priorities.

Monday hits. And it hits the fan.

You spend all day dealing with little fires everywhere. You race from meeting to meeting and drink too much coffee. That fuels your sugar consumption. Your carefully scheduled time blocks for “quiet work” or “critical priority 1” get scribbled all over with urgent emails and pulls on your time.

You get home, late. You push aside your beautifully prepared cut vegetables and salad with whole grains that you lovingly made in advance on Sunday. You grab a ready meal or order takeaway, even though it’s Monday.

You collapse on the sofa and watch TV blankly.

Sound familiar? It certainly does to me. I’ve done this too many times in my working life.

I can beat myself up for days about my self-sabotage. And listen, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional wallow. We all need it from time to time.

But if the odd wallow becomes a regular plunge into the abyss, then it’s time for change.

This is how I tackle self-sabotage and three tips for creating good habits that stick.

The first thing I always think about is the big WHY…

Why am I feeling like this? Why do I want the sugar/chocolate/wine/add your own adventure that’s bad for you here? Why did today not go as planned?

And the most important one – why does that upset me so much?

Tapping into the reason why changes to your routine or challenges you encounter knock you off course, is key to managing your energy and your focus more effectively in the future.

For instance, you may think of yourself as a planner – your to-do list rules the day – and consider it a failure if you don’t tick everything off. But here’s what you need to think instead – what did you achieve that perhaps wasn’t on the list, but added real value, or was the right decision within the circumstances you faced at the time?

You may consider the day a washout – in my world, this often meant dealing with a crisis or an unexpected event or announcement that we had to respond to in the Corporate Communications world – but consider the benefit of you pushing your to-dos aside to handle it with your unique expertise. Where would your organisation have been without that? And how does that make you feel instead?

Reflection is always a great starting point when you face challenges.

Here are three more quick tips on handling self-sabotage: 


1. Take care of yourself as priority number one.

If you know you might be facing a challenging day or week, make sure your health and wellbeing is at the forefront. I know I get jittery when I drink too much coffee or don’t have enough protein at breakfast. If you know these things too, make a conscious choice to fuel your energy in the right way, setting up physically and mentally to handle what might coming at you. This you can do before you even crack open your phone to see what horrors await!

2. Learn to delegate effectively.

Get comfortable with asking for help and handing tasks to others if your day goes pear-shaped. Remember, you have a unique skill and set of strengths as a leader, not easily replicable, which is probably why you get called on in a crisis. But most emails can probably wait, and non-unique tasks can be delegated. You don’t have to tackle everything and you need to go where you can provide the most value on any given day.

3. Be honest about where you are spending your time and why.

Setting time aside to deal with a crisis is one thing – spending the day racing from little fire here to bunch of emails there, is another. Could it be that you are comfortable “dealing with stuff” so that you don’t have to tackle the big scary priority? I can get in my comfort zone of admin, replying to emails, tackling small fires (that I should have delegated) in favour of the huge goal that will make the most difference to my business. We all do it! The trick is to catch yourself doing it and make a choice to push that stuff aside to push yourself and your business forward. Not easy, but so important.

I hope you’ve found some value in these tips and that they help you this week, whatever comes your way.

Louise is a leadership coach focused on supporting professional women navigate their careers with confidence and clarity. Her experience as a senior leader in the NHS and within industry lends her a valuable insight into the challenges that women face in leadership roles.

This article was written by Louise Thompson, one of our partner coaches who works with first time female leaders, supporting them to communicate and lead effectively and giving them the confidence to “take their seat” at the table. You can get in touch via her profile page.