6 Ways to Stay Productive When You’re Feeling Low

It can be hard to stay focused and productive at the best of times. But when you’re feeling low – whether that’s physically or emotionally – then it can seem almost impossible to concentrate.

Maybe you have a daunting number of things to get done … but you can’t seem to summon up the energy to tackle any of them. You might end up doing something totally counter-productive: procrastinating, or tackling the easy, unimportant tasks, or even driving yourself to tears.

Here’s how to keep yourself on track:

#1: Make a List of Tasks

This is a classic time-management technique … because it really works.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sit down and write a clear list of tasks. What do you need to do today? What could you put off for a few days if necessary?

The act of writing down the list means that:

  • You’ll get clarity. Instead of thinking “I must do something about Project X” you’ll have a clear action step like “Phone John about Project X”.
  • You won’t worry about forgetting to do things.
  • You can see what really has to be done – and it’s usually not so bad as you imagined!
  • You’ll be able to check off each item as you complete it, which can be very satisfying.

#2: Take a Real Break

When you’re feeling low or struggling with your work, it’s tempting to take a break and surf the net or zone out in front of the television. You might feel bad about being “unproductive” – and end up trying to force yourself to do chores.

If you need a break, then take one – and make it something truly recharging. Grab a shower, take a long bath, or even have a nap. Give yourself a real break from what you’re working on, and you’ll find your motivation returning.

#3: Avoid Dwelling on Negative Thoughts

Have you ever started feeling a bit down … and ended up making yourself more and more unhappy? It’s all too easy to get trapped in a spiral of negative thoughts.

If you catch yourself thinking something negative, like “I’m so stupid – how could I have made such a dumb mistake?” or “I’m really bad at managing my time” then stop. Look at your task list and pick something to focus on. Start working steadily through it, and you’ll find that those upsetting thoughts fade away.

#4: Find Something to Look Forward To

When life seems like all work and no play, it’s easy to feel down. Plan a treat for yourself, maybe next weekend. You might:

  • Book tickets to see a movie
  • Arrange to meet up with a friend for coffee
  • Pick a “date night” to spend with your partner

On a day-to-day basis, you can find things to look forward to as well. This might be as simple as watching an episode of your favorite television program in the evening, or buying a novel that you’ve been meaning to read.

#5: Play Some Music

Sometimes, small tweaks can make a big difference. If you’re ploughing through a mundane task – like answering emails or doing the dishes – then put on some great music.

Fast, energetic tracks can boost your energy levels and help you work faster; slower, more contemplative tracks are great if you want to feel calm and relaxed.

#6: Take Care of Your Health

Finally, however busy you are, it’s important to find time for your health. If you’re feeling physically and/or emotionally low, you can often pick yourself up by:

  • Getting enough sleep – most people need at least seven hours.
  • Eating sensibly – don’t go for hours between means, and avoid high-sugar snacks that play havoc with your energy levels.
  • Exercising regularly – this not only helps you stay fit and manage your weight, it’s also great for your mental health.

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2 Responses to “6 Ways to Stay Productive When You’re Feeling Low”
  1. Very insightful. And simple, which makes the counsel easy to apply. I am the kind that struggles with #3 :), am not good at taking real breaks..just recently learning to nap when i need it instead of doing another “low – energy” task..which does not help me relax as i should, but sometimes drives the melancholy-mood deeper. Thanks for the insight!

  2. Carol Cumming says:

    Very sound and achievable advice for the times when you get stuck. I’ve been crazy busy and unable to decide which project to start with and have been dancing round them all and getting annoyed at myself for not achieving any results. Lists, actions and ticks. That’s my next move. Thanks.

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