Tips for Staying Productive, Even When Things Seem Really Hard

Ok, I'm going to be totally honest here, this past week and the election has got me reeling. I'm feeling shocked, overwhelmed, name it, I've probably felt it. And I know I'm not alone. My first instinct was to hide and avoid any work, but I knew that wasn't the answer. So, I thought about some ways that would help me, and hopefully others, stay productive even through really hard times.

Ask for help

I know this can be scary, but I promise that asking for help doesn’t make you weak and it can yield wonderful results. If you’re worried about stigma around mental illness (because I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist), you can be vague in your explanation of why you need help. “I’m going through a rough time right now,” might be sufficient. I will say though, I've opened up to a lot of friends and colleagues, and all of them were incredibly understanding and willing to help me out, even if that meant just lending an understanding ear.  Plus, if reach out you may also find working with someone else on a task can make it easier for you to keep going past the point you’d give up if you were alone.

Work in batches

The idea is to do work for twenty minutes, then take a ten minute break. Breaking up work this way can make it feel more manageable. It’s daunting to say, “I’ll work for two hours,” it’s a little easier to view it as six sets of twenty minutes, taken one at a time, with breaks in between. Setting a timer can help keep you accountable during the twenty minutes, and help you focus on the tangible endpoint when you get to rest. If you’re really having a hard time getting started, flip the equation and start with 10/20s, working for ten minutes and resting for twenty. You’ve just got to get started and chip away at your to-do list in increments.


Often when we’re feeling overwhelmed and going through a hard time, we dwell on every single thing we have to do, mentally piling minute task onto minute task until we’ve built an insurmountable mountain of a to-do list. The reality is often less daunting than we make it out to be. Before you go to bed or when you wake up, write down the three things that are most important to accomplish that day. Then focus on those three things. Obviously, you may have more than three things that have to get done some days, but even then, you can prioritize.

Get out of the house

If you can, I really recommend trying to get out of the house most days. Take with you only what you need and go somewhere where you can breathe and focus. It doesn’t have to be a library. It can be a coffee shop, a park, a friend’s home, anywhere where it’s a little easier for you to work. This can also help remind you there’s a world out there and you are capable of being a part of it. Sometimes the momentum of getting out of the house can give you the boost you need to get stuff done.

Most importantly, take care of yourself

Going to your therapy appointments, taking your medication, resting, that’s how you stay productive. By taking care of yourself. By making sure you’re getting all the help you need and using every tool available to stay afloat. Because if you’re drowning in your sadness and rejecting every life vest available, you won’t be able to get anything done. More than that, you deserve to care for yourself. Be gentle with yourself. 

Those are my reminders to staying productive during tough times, what are some of yours?


Posted on November 14, 2016 .