How I deal with getting back to work again after a setback

In the past a bad message good ruin my day. I would not do much useful work for the rest of the day. This does not happen any longer to me.

A bad message was for example, a potential client decided not to use my offer that took me lots of time to create. A client that decided to move on and cancelled my service. A big incident on the news. Somebody that placed a negative comment about me on the web.

When I got the message like this in a call or via an email lots of negative talk in my head would start. After that I would just drag myself through the day. Getting behind on other pressing projects.

Next to the mental things that were going on I would feel it in my stomach. Cramps. My body was letting me know there was something wrong.

What had I done wrong? How could I have done this differently? How does this impact my revenue? How does this impact my profit? What do I need to do to compensate this? What is wrong in my business? I am offering the right products? I am focusing on the wrong clients?

I would just fall into a spiral of negative talk.

Since a year or so this completely changed for me. After a similar message I am still effected but just a short time. Depending on the message I need 5–30 minutes to get back into action.

What did I change?

In short I changed the way I live. The things that I do mostly in the morning to start the day. My morning ritual is very relaxed and similar every morning.

Watch a TED talk in the TED app

When I get out of my bed I walk to my office and get dressed. My office is in my home, nice and convenient. The clothes that I will wear that day are in my office. I have prepared this the night before. So no stumbling and searching for my clothes in the dark bedroom and a chance to wake up my wife.

Then I go down to make a cup of thee. With the thee I am going back into my office and sit in the big chair.

Now it is time for some inspirational talk. In the TED app on my iPad I can always find a great TEDx talk to learn.


Then it is time to start my meditation. I turn on the Insight Timer app on my iPad and use a guided meditation for 20 minutes or so.

This was not the easiest thing to do but now that I have been doing it for over 200 days I really feel the difference. I have tried start a meditation routine a couple of times before, but found it difficult to sit still for more than 5 minutes.

Two years ago I downloaded the HeadSpace app on my phone and in 30 days I could sit still and focus on my breathing for 10 minutes.

The guided meditations in the Insight Timer app made it easy for me to expand that to 20 minutes. In one of the TEDx talks I learned that 12 minutes of daily meditation has a positive impact on your health.

Follow Stoic Philosophy

Listening to the podcast of Tim Ferris I learned about the Stoic philosophy. How it influenced Tim’s life and many other great leaders. I started reading The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday.

From there I got pulled more an more in this ancient, simple and inspiring philosophy. Now I read daily in the Daily Stoic also by Ryan Holiday and the Letters of a Stoic by Seneca.

The most important lessons I have learned and I use so far are:

  • see what it really is, remove the emotions
  • focus on today — yesterday is gone and you can’t change it anymore, tomorrow is not here yet no need to worry about it.
  • do good and be grateful for what is


Then I write in my journal. Not very long, half a page or so. In this writing I am focusing on the good things. The things I am looking forward to. The good things that happened.

I write down a list of at least 3 things that I am grateful for. Small things, big things. Whatever comes to mind. By doing this on a daily basis I can look back in the weekend and see what great things happened that week.

Help others

Everyday I try at least to help one other person without expecting anything in return.

A great way I found to do this is to help people with the knowledge that I have. On my website I published over 1,000 articles, many with tips on how to use Facebook, LinkedIn, a blog and newsletters.

These articles get about a 1,000 visitors per day. A couple of months ago I have added a message option on my website. People can ask a question using the Facebook message on my page. And they do.

Every day I get to answer a couple of questions. It costs me almost no time and I learn what people are struggling with. It is a great way to help people with little effort.


During the weekends I am an referee at football (soccer) for junior teams. On Sunday I am an assistant referee at the KNVB for senior teams.

For both matches I need to be fit and have a good sprinting capacity. In the first 2 years I just try to improve it, by running on my own occasionally and practice every Thursday night.

In these years I got comments about my sprinting capacity on my reports as an assistant referee. It was time to improve this. I always want to move forward. Get 1 % better every day.

To improve my sprint I joined a running group 18 months ago. Every Tuesday evening I practice and get tips from my trainer. Next to the two times per week practice and two matches in a weekend I run on my own.

This keeps me physically and mentally fit.

I used to take walks of about one hour during lunch time, but running made a big difference of how well I feel.

Do small work in the home

When I do get message that I don’t like and didn’t expect, I do some small work in our home. Doing some laundry. Vacuum my office. Clean my desk. That sort of work.

It helps me to get my mind of that message. Afterwards it feels good to start working again in a clean office.

These are the most important things that I changed that keeps me mentally fit. It helps me to kick back from a setback within minutes.

Next to the new daily routine that I use now, there were also some things that I needed to stop doing after a setback.

What Not to do

Sometimes I still fall into that trap and waste a couple of hours and don’t feel better afterwards. These time sucking habits are addictive.

This is a overview of the things I better not do or at least try not to do if I want to move on.

Watch video’s on YouTube

There are lots of funny, great, entertaining videos on YouTube. Some might even make me feel good like comedy and TED talks.

But when I am in that mood I will just watch one movie after another. It just doesn’t stop. Just a few more minutes. Before I know it another hour past.

Scroll through Facebook

After one more video on YouTube I switch to Facebook. Reading holiday stories, events or feel bad stories from my friends. These stories do not help me to feel better.

To avoid going down the Facebook rabbit hole I have removed the Facebook app from my iPad and phone.

The Facebook pages app helps me to focus on the questions I get on my Facebook page. I don’t need more Facebook.

Spend the day in my inbox

From the video on YouTube and half an hour on Facebook I will check for new messages in my inbox.

Delete the unimportant one. Read the other messages and mark it unread again when it is important to me. So I can answer it later on.

Checking my inbox every 10 minutes does not make me more effective. It just makes me super ineffective. But it feels good to delete a couple of messages.

I only check my inbox around noon and around 4pm.

It takes some willpower to not go in and check more often after a setback.

Read, watch or listen to the news on TV, radio and newspapers

Negative news in the past could also consume my day. With the focus on negative news by the media today there is always something that could take over my day.

Listening to the news and worrying about these things does not improve it.

To be less consumed by negative news I have stopped following the news by 95%. No newspapers, no news on tv, no news on the radio and no news sites on the internet. It is very refreshing and saves time.

The most important news will get to me through friends that I follow on Twitter for example.

Thank you for reading.

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Credit photo: Tom Pumford on Unsplash