Today you feel terrible, but you have a laundry list of things you need to get done. So how do you go from not wanting to even get out of bed to sending emails, drafting documents, cleaning your house, or whatever you need to do today? I’ve been in this position more often than not. I’ve found a few things that have helped to still be productive while having a low mood:
1) Activating behavior - Get out of bed. Turn on your computer. Open your inbox. Read one email. I talked about activating behavior when I discussed social anxiety, but it can apply here as well. A great trick to getting started is the 5-minute rule— try working on something for five minutes. If after five minutes you still don’t have the mojo to continue, take a break and move on to something else. You can buy an hourglass as a visual aid to track those five minutes. Just taking little steps toward being more productive will make you, well, more productive. In his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson says that ”action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.”
2) Distress tolerance - If your low mood seems to be triggered by distress or anxiety, practicing distress tolerance will be a lifesaver in getting you to a place where you can be more productive. Distress tolerance can include anything from finding healthy, time-limited distractions to practicing mindfulness and meditation. It can also include listening to music that will soothe or motivate. This isn’t the time to bring out your “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” 90s grunge playlist.
3) Exercise - Moving around is probably the last thing you want to do when you are depressed. However, exercise has been shown time and time again to be a way to feel better mentally and also work up the motivation to be productive. Even small actions like taking a walk around the block or doing some jumping jacks in the living room will go a long way toward getting you in the mood to tackle your task list.
4) Getting Outside - One productivity tip I got from a friend is to go out and be in nature. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, but if you can, go outside and walk around. You can go sit in the park and absorb some Vitamin D. Your to-do list will thank you.
5) Emotional supports - If you are feeling pretty terrible and the above methods are not working for you, call up an emotional support. This can be a good friend or even your therapist. Talking with someone who can provide support and a compassionate ear can make you feel better. They can also offer an extra boost of motivation you need to get things done.
6) List making - When you’re depressed, it is overwhelming to think about all the things you need to work on. This is when list making can come in handy. Make a list of three things that would make you happy. Make a list of two things that you could do today to feel productive. Name one thing you are grateful for today. Making lists can pull you out of your head and into the day and present moment. They can also be used to prioritize what you need to get done to have a productive day.
I’m not promising that you won’t be depressed if you do the above things, and your mood may not change today. What I can guarantee is that you will be more productive, and that will be the first step in getting well.
If you are looking for more ways to boost your productivity, The Mood and Productivity Journal is available now. The Mood and Productivity Journal is a journal for those who understand that a better mood leads to better productivity.