Thursday, February 7, 2008

How to get shit done when you're depressed

Or overwhelmed. Or distracted. Any and all of the above.

Don't take it one day at a time. Or even one hour at a time. Take it one task at a time. Tomorrow can feel like an eternity away if you can't even get out of bed today. So laser-focus on the tasks themselves. When you brush your teeth, really clean the shit out of them! That second molar on the bottom hasn't received enough attention lately, so you should probably be liberal with the brushing and flossing back there.

Objectify it. It's hard to make decisions and get shit done when it's all so personal. If you're perceiving some crappy busywork from your boss as an insult, you're going to get angry and work slower. It's much easier to think of it as simply a task that needs to be done without getting your emotions involved. Not only will you avoid getting upset, you'll become ruthlessly efficient.

Throw out your huge to-do list. Plan instead on accomplishing 5 things each day. They don't have to be great feats either. Writing them down creates opportunities to feel successful when you cross them off. Here's my to-do list for today:

  1. Apply for 5 jobs online.
  2. Get the mail at 4:45pm.
  3. Call my cousins in Tennessee and see if their house is still standing.
  4. Drop the netflix in the mailbox around the corner.
  5. Write a blog post.
Each task has a reason. #1 is obvious because I'm not a millionaire. #2 helps me maintain a routine and gives me something to look forward to. #3 will give me a chance to talk to people I love and exercise my vocal chords. #4 is especially important, because it gets me out of the house and requires me to change out of my jim jams.

This is #5. Check! But the reason is because I like to blog. And it's important to do things you like. I've been told that depression can cause you to lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. So if you still enjoy something, do it.

Answer the phone. I have a nasty habit of letting everyone go to voicemail. It's partly because I love dancing around to my ringtone and partly because I don't want to expend the effort required to have a conversation. But lately I've been actively trying to answer more often and I haven't regretted it. I set up some interviews and found that chatting with my friends actually makes me happy. Imagine!

Remember to eat. (Disregard if you're one of those people that eats your feelings.) It doesn't really matter what it is, but healthier is better for obvious reasons. I've been subsisting almost exclusively on toast for about 3 weeks now. Good thing I take a multi-vitamin! Eating something, anything really, will help combat fatigue and lethargy. Those are the devils that tell you to just watch another Law & Order episode on TNT instead of tackling your super-easy and totally doable to-do list.

Ask for help. Most people don't even know you need it unless you ask.

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Anonymous said...

Good advice- I hope you're taking it.

Holly said...

Great list and it's up at a great time for me as well. I'm going to have to actually put some effort into making my to do list a bit simpler. :)

jen x said...

This is such a useful and helpful post, especially for the depths of winter. We've had 72 inches of snow here for the season and days on end of subzero wind chills -- everyone is struggling. Thanks for providing such concrete, do-able tips!

Michael T said...

Any luck on the job applications?

How long can you hold out without one? Need me to send you some Ramen packets?

(In case I haven't told you... I can settle the old debate right now. It's Rah-men. In fact, it's Rah-myun. So put that in your juice box and suck on it.)

Anonymous said...

To do lists have always been a lot of work, in fact everytime I try one there is a 50/50 chance that it will work either everything gets done, or what ever i put on there gets forgotten. I wish you all the luck with your to do list, damn list i'll break you yet!!!

And good luck with the job hunt, i know its tough out there, trust me I counsel people that have lost their jobs, and well right now the job market is really bad. Your in NY so hopefully its a little better than all the other places I deal with, but I know its very competitive. Just keep going to those interviews, and keep meeting people, don't stay in your home, keep going out and everyone you meet tell them you are looking for a job. Wish i had a company or something ( a profitable one at that) I would def. give you a job, you sound like a good human, lol.
Take care, and keep your head up.

stickpaste said...

no hate mail then? too bad. i like muffins as well, obviously. church? only if there's muffins. i like this post. its funny because its true. made my blogroll, damnit. thanks anyways.

Hops said...

Thank everyone! This list was helpful for me to stay positive.

Holly - I heard somewhere that saying no once in a while is not the end of the world. I wouldn't know from experience, mind you, but people tell me that it does wonders for simplifying the to do list.

Jen - Believe me. I totally know what it feels like to be trapped in the cold, gray embrace of unending winter. I'm from Western New York, after all.

Michael - I haven't reached the level of desperation required for me to actually eat Ramen again, but it's fast approaching, so I will let you know. As for the pronunciation, I'm glad that the peer pressure that got me to stop saying ray-men is based in fact. Thank you.

Rapparee - You have a great ability to say just what I need to hear. Your positivity is very much appreciated!

Stickpaste - An easy to make me hate on your site is to write that gays, women, non-christians, liberals, non-Americans, etc., are somehow not good, or right, or deserving of the same treatment and respect that you enjoy. Just saying.

stickpaste said...

i was attempting wit, poorly i might add. no way i'd want to incur your actual wrath. but i do genuinely love the site.


Anonymous said...

This helped me a lot. You are a good man for writing this. I needed to read this to get motivation.

Anonymous said...

I've been suffering with chronic depression for the last few years and I'm determined now to get over it. This post has helped me a lot with perspective and trying to get things in order and figured out. I make huge to-do lists and never get them done. I'm gonna follow your advice and cut them down. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is all simple, good advice...speaking from someone who had first suicidal ideation in elementary school. I would put "throw away 2do list" as #1 and add "call people" after "don't let calls go to voicemail"....
Great list...but, as always, easier said than done.

Anonymous said...

As a chronic, whole adult life depressive, I appreciate the logic of this post. Do something everyday; forget beating yourself up with all that has to be done eventually. Currently stuck, and this angle is very liberating!