Learning skills to increase self-awareness is always the starting point for developing your emotional intelligence (EQ).

Last week, I had some minor surgery. I had a general anaesthetic for the procedure and then had to do the whole recovery thing under medical supervision. All up I was in hospital for 2 days. Later in the week I had a few light client free days scheduled for recovery time. I planned to be ready to fire up Monday morning and get back to work. After all, I have just had a long holiday, and my mind is clear, and my energy levels have been good. However, I noticed yesterday, Sunday, that I was not bounding with energy. And today I feel emotionally flat. Fortunately, two clients cancelled on me this morning (both sick) and I have a lighter day and the gift of some time to reflect. 

Reflecting this morning on my current situation and more generally on my life, I am aware of 9 reasons why I can sometimes feel emotionally flat.  

1. Tired physically – This is after I have been pushing through, working long hours, with lots happening at work and around my personal life. This is the most basic reason I can feel emotionally flat. As I became more self-aware in my late 30’s I learned to check myself when things felt hard some days and often, I would realise that I was just tired. Nothing was wrong, I was just tired and needed a break.

Action: Knock off early, do something you love other than work, and have a good sleep. Or get away for a long weekend and relax and unwind a bit.

2. Unclear priorities – This is when there are so many things going on that it is easy to be overwhelmed with the ever-growing ‘to do’ list. Out of all the things I could do today, it is not always easy to know what MUST be done next. This can lead to paralysis and inaction.

Action:  Take some time out of your business to set your longer-term business goals and create effective 90-day plans to ensure you achieve those goals. The clear bigger picture makes it much easier to know what must be done each day.

3. Ineffective daily routine – So many businesspeople struggle with this. The lack of an effective daily routine can make you ineffective and unproductive. A sluggish morning routine, often linked to late nights and poor disciplines around nutrition, will make it difficult to move into your day with energy.

Action: Create a powerful morning routine that helps you move your body and stir your mind. E.g. Go for a fast walk or a run and listen to music or a motivational podcast while you do it. This is a great way to start the day. Such a routine will bring consistency to your mood and to your energy levels and increase productivity.

4. Serving other people’s agendas – This is when you start the day checking your email, and always take calls even when you are trying to get important work done. Dermot Crowley, in his book Smart Work, labels this as having an Input rather than outcome focus. The day is full of interruptions with other people’s agendas being given priority over you achieving your goals. If you need to work back late often to get your main work done, this could be an issue for you.

Action: Start the day by carving out an hour or two every day in which you do not answer the phone and do not tolerate interruptions of any kind. Turn off your email alerts and check them 2 or 3 times per day when it works for you. Take back control of your workday.

5. Anxiety overload – When my focus becomes locked onto the problems or the potential problems in my business, it is not helpful. It is good to be aware of my problems, but I have learned I must stay focused on my vision, not my problems. I learned this when mountain bike riding – if I focus on the tree roots and rocks, I would often hit them, and crash; whereas when I focused on the track, I usually managed to have an incident free ride.

Action: Focus more on the vision and strategic plan of your business and let that inform your concerns about cash flow, and the marketing pipeline, or staff issues. It is vital to fight to keep the larger perspective clear during the daily challenges of business.  

6. Conflicts – Internal – This becomes an issue that can lead me to feel emotionally flat when I compromise my values. Like when I took on a client that was not a good fit for me, because I needed the money. In those times it rarely works out well, and I lose respect for myself. This can also occur when I do not respect myself enough to say ‘No’ to people or meetings that mean I am going to break a promise to my family.

Action: Clarify values and make a fresh commitment, with accountability, to not give into those baser fears that lead to compromise.

7. Conflicts – External – This is the people conflict that we all must deal with at some level. Whether it is with a staff member, supplier or client, unresolved conflict eats away at you on the inside. It becomes a huge emotional drain. Many people prefer to avoid conflicts. Some will resign their job rather than work through a stressful relationship issue.

Action: It is always best to seek to resolve a conflict for your own inner peace, if not for the sake of the relationship. Involve a mediator if needed. Work on your relationship skills so that conflicts are minimised in your life. Learn to encourage, learn to apologise, and learn to be assertive when someone is seeking to cause you a problem.

8. Distracted – 90% of the issues that sabotage business success come from neglected issues in our personal life. Often the reason we cannot focus well at work is that we are thinking about our child who is out of sorts, or the argument we had with our partner, or the fact that it is months since we have done any real physical exercise and you can feel the impact.

Action: Create a ‘whole of life’ approach to goal setting and planning to help you focus and take consistent action on the important people and things across your life.

9. Tired emotionally – This is different to physical tiredness. A good sleep does not always fix it. Like me after surgery, there is an emotional aspect to everything. In our fast-paced lives we want everything to be fast. My recovery from surgery is happening, but I am glad I get the chance to reflect and deal with why I feel emotionally flat today.

If I did not acknowledge it, and just pushed through, it could hurt me in other less obvious ways in days to come. I used to be a person who always just pushed through everything and had a huge work capacity. The consequence of that was a disastrous burnout experience 12 years ago. It did not happen in a day, or in a year, or even years. For me it was over 20 years. Burnout accumulates, and it is destructive in too many lives.

Action: Take some regular time to reflect, especially when you feel emotionally flat, to understand what the issue is that is affecting you. Keep a journal, engage a mentor, and become more self-aware. And if one issue continues to affect you, get specific help to work it through. 


There are at least 9 reasons why I can feel emotionally flat. I have experienced all of these. I am grateful for the capacity to grow my self-awareness so that I can read myself more quickly and accurately to understand what is going on. This has enabled me to better manage myself and become more aware of how my emotional issues affect others around me.  None of us has this all together. The important thing is that we agree to be on a growth journey in which we are learning. Increased self-awareness of these issues will make you a much more effective leader of yourself and others in your world.


INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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