Keeping productive and motivated during depression is a tall task. Depression wants to suck all of the productivity and motivation out of you to the point where you become nothing but a lump on your couch. I know all about this. I work from home and for myself, and so without a boss or yearly reviews, depression really has a leg up when it comes to causing a lack of productivity. That’s why I have to take productivity and motivation very seriously. Here are a few techniques to maintain productivity and motivation during depression.
Motivation During a Depression May Not Exist
Truth be told, I pretty much have no intrinsic motivation when seriously depressed. There is nothing inside me that wants to do anything. Ever. (Well, except sleep, and it only wants that because it’s an escape from the depression.) I feel my self has been hollowed out with a spoon (because it hurts more).
This is very different from your average person. Sometimes your average person doesn’t want to work. Sometimes your average person just wants to sleep. Sometimes your average person has no motivation. For me with depression, it’s an all-day, all-the-time phenomenon. As I always say, bipolar disorder is an issue of degrees. (We feel what others feel just to a much greater degree.)
And I have not found a way to drum up actual motivation. That’s a chemical thing. That’s a brain thing. And my brain is sick. It just doesn’t do that. Therefore I have to override my sick brain.
Productivity During Depression
On the other hand, if you need to make money to survive, then you do care about productivity, and if you’re reading this post right now, I can assume productivity matters to you.
As I said above, I haven’t found a way to create motivation such that productivity is easier. I haven’t found a way to create intrinsic motivation such that productivity is the outcome. Nonetheless, I have ideas for how to be productive during depression anyway.
Being Productive and Faking Motivation During Depression
The first thing I should say is that I live a very rules-based life. I’m committed to making rules and following rules, almost without question. This is really important if you’re going to force yourself to do things that your depression is trying to stop you from doing. My rules include all sorts of things like always going to bed at the same time and always eating breakfast. Call those things habits, if you like, but for me, they are rules that I made up and now follow.
The same type of thing works when it comes to productivity and motivation during depression. Consider these logical thoughts:
- I have no motivation because of depression.
- I still need to get things done.
- I can fake motivation by following a series of rules.
- I can make rules that will create productivity even in the absence of motivation.
Here’s how logic fits into the picture of getting this done when you’re depressed:
Now, I realize that some people will bristle against the idea of following rules so staunchly but remember, you’re doing this for a reason. You’re doing this to keep your life moving forward.
Rules to Fake Motivation and Create Productivity
Of course, any rule is up to you. You need to make them, so you feel comfortable following them. Here are some of mine with regards to my workday:
- Start work within one hour of getting up.
- Do whatever it takes to facilitate work (this might be listening to music, turning off the phone, etc.)
- Do not answer the phone for the first two hours or when “in the zone.”
- Edit completed work first. (This requires the “freshest,” most-awake brain to reduce errors.)
- Write something next. (Writing is my hardest job but not my only one.)
- Take a five-minute break after two hours. Use this break to get a drink of water.
- Next, return emails.
- Preserve spoons early if a late meeting/presentation is scheduled.
All of these rules are about getting this done. They’re about removing obstacles and being productive. None of them are necessarily things I want to do. These are things I have to do to get paid and keep a roof over my head and kibble in my kittties’ bowls. And that’s the secret. The secret is in two parts:
- Make rules that make sense that you can stick to.
- Buy into this method and always obey your rules.
The secret is understanding that the rules are important; motivation is not. Sure, I would love motivation. That would be great. But I can’t wait for that to happen. My bank won’t wait for that to happen.
If you want to try a rules-based approach to your day, try it with just one rule. Try to make a rule that tackles your most difficult area. Try living with that rule for a while. Only after you can obey that rule, should you consider adding others. And remember, if the rule isn’t working for you, you can change it. Yes, you should always obey your rules, unless you’ve determined they don’t work for you. Then you should change them. We all learn along the way.
As I said, people tend to bristle against the idea of rules. I get it. But it’s how I get things done. I have fiath that my rules will carry me forward where my own brain fails. Try it for a while. You might just find the same.
Other Posts You Might Enjoy