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Depression sucks. Like smoke, it seeps into every part of your life, touches everything, and even when it’s gone you can still tell it was there. One of the things I’ve been asked about frequently is how to be productive while depressed. Is maintaining productivity even possible when you are in the lows of depression?
The following is how I maintain a level of productivity even during my lows. These tips may not work for everyone. Depression is a personal thing and how you manage it might be different than how I do. With some luck and openness though, some of these strategies may help.
Strategies for being productive while depressed
Make a plan for low energy days
Some days depression hits you hard but you still want to get something, anything, done. Plan ahead for these times and list out some low energy tasks you can complete to keep you moving forward towards your goals.
For me, that means working on this blog. While I might not have the mental energy required to draft a whole blog post, I usually have enough to create a basic outline with a couple of key points I want to include. On really bad days when I don’t feel creative enough for even that, I settle for pinning post ideas and inspiration on Pinterest that I can look back on when I’m feeling better.
Factor “zero” days into your timeline
When goal setting it is often suggested to give yourself a timeline of completion, or a reasonable estimation of how long you think it will take you. I have suggested before that if you struggle sometimes with anxiety over meeting deadlines (especially self-imposed ones) then you might be better off just not setting a strict deadline in the first place.
Related reading: How to Stick to Your Goals
If a timeline is required by outside forces (work projects and the like) and you have some measure of control in deciding the length of the timeline, do yourself a favor and factor in some “zero” days. These zero-days are low to no energy days that sometimes happen. So take however long you think the project will take you optimistically, and add a few days on to the end of it as a buffer. Best case scenario, you come in under projection, worst case you are still on time.
Focus on 3 things you want to do per day
Based on your energy level these could be big tasks or simpler things from your low energy task list.
The point of this is to not overwhelm yourself with a mile-long to-do list. It is tempting, especially when you’ve had a string of low-energy days, to try pack everything you can into your “good” days. Unfortunately, this usually leads to immediate burnout and feelings of guilt that you haven’t done more.
Purposely limit yourself to those 3 things. When you know you will only be doing 3 things that day will focus on the important and weed out what is not.
Related reading: Goal Mapping – Gamify Your Goals
Be kind to yourself
Last and most importantly, be kind to yourself. You are not unreliable, your health is. It serves no good to beat yourself up over unavoidable energy dips.
I understand that that is so much easier said than done but it is important to try and be kind. My rule of thumb? If I wouldn’t say it to a friend, I won’t say it to myself.
Related Reading: Breaking the Fear Cycle – Positive Affirmations
Depression can be a difficult thing to manage. With the right strategies that work for you, it can be managed though. Make a plan for things you can do while feeling low, add zero energy days as a buffer to your timeline projections, focus on only 3 things to accomplish in a day, and, over everything else, be kind to yourself. You CAN maintain a level of productivity while living with depression, even in hard times. You’re an incredible being and an amazing adventurer.