6 Ways to Stay Productive When You’re Depressed

6 Ways to Stay Productive When You're Depressed

Speaking as someone who’s suffered from random (sometimes long) bouts of depression for the last 10-ish years, I know how tough it can be.

Depression can make the simplest of things feel harder, right? Some days even getting out of bed takes a huge amount of effort. Finding motivation to do almost anything can seem like an impossible task. Depression can literally affect everything you do.

If you have depression or you’ve ever felt depressed, you don’t need me to tell you that it can make being productive a struggle. Over the years, I’ve found ways to cope with this challenge, and I wanted to share the things that help me.

I hope they help you too!

Work in 20/10s or 45/15s

I learned about this in a book I read recently called Unf*ck Your Habitat. This book is basically a decluttering handbook for people with mental illness, physical limitations, tired people, super busy people – or just plain lazy people. It’s a pretty awesome book, too!

Working in 20/10s (or 45/15s) is when you spend 20/45 minutes working on what you need to get done, then taking a 10/15 minute break. You can do this repeatedly until your task is done. This can help make whatever you need to do seem way less challenging when you’re feeling depressed!

Offer Yourself a Reward

Who doesn’t love a reward? I’m all about self-love! I think it’s important to be kind to yourself, to take it easy on yourself sometimes, and to reward yourself for doing things that are challenging to you. Especially when dealing with depression or any mental illness. Research actually shows that people are far more motivated if they get a reward or incentive for completing a task or goal.

Spend Some Time Outside

During my lowest lows, this was probably the most challenging thing for me to do. I didn’t want to leave my house – hell, I didn’t want to leave my bed – so going outside? No thank you. But you know what? It can help more than you think! See, I’m a nature-lover. Almost nothing is as peaceful for me as nature. Even if I’m just sitting on a bench near the woods that are a block away from my apartment.

If you have nowhere to go, just take a walk up and down your driveway. Or sit in your yard. Or go for a drive. Whatever floats your boat. Being outside can lift your mood if you just stay in the present moment. Don’t think about things that upset you, don’t dwell on negative thoughts, don’t overthink about anything. Just look around and breathe the fresh air.

Set the Bar Lower

When you’re feeling depressed and you have a mile-long to-do list, you can’t expect yourself to get everything done. You’re unmotivated, un-energized, and just plain low. All you’re doing is setting yourself up to be even more upset. You’ll feel worse when you realize there are 2,389 things you didn’t get done.

So, set the bar low. Give yourself 1 thing that needs done and try to do it. Then give yourself 1 more thing and do that. This will help you live up to your expectations and get things done at the same time. Remember 1 thing crossed off your to-do list is better than none. Take care of yourself first and worry about the other things later.

Create Your Go-To Happiness Routine

Motivation is awesome, but it won’t really help unless you have other coping mechanisms for depression. Sometimes, when your depression is really bad, you won’t be able to do anything on your to-do list. So you probably need something like a happiness routine.

A happiness routine is your go-to activities that help lift your mood and help you when you’re suffering from depression. These activities are different for each of us. All you have to do is get out a pen and paper and write down everything that cheers you up when you’re feeling low. Keep this list handy for whenever you need it!

Be Kind to Yourself

When you beat yourself up while you’re feeling depressed, you’re just feeding your depression. So when you’re lacking motivation, don’t speak or think unkind words to yourself and don’t call yourself names – this will just ensure that you continue feeling lousy. Don’t be mean to yourself – you don’t deserve to be treated badly. It’s not cool at all. You’re human and you have flaws, just like everyone else!

So instead of using negative words toward yourself, use kind and encouraging words. Tell yourself how much you love yourself. Tell yourself that it’s okay to be depressed. Remember that you’re amazing and strong, and you’ll get through this like you’ve gotten through all of the other hard times. Look up uplifting, motivational, and encouraging quotes on Pinterest. Care for yourself and show yourself some compassion and love.

Above everything else on this list, show yourself compassion. You deserve it.

Last Updated on

By Tami Walker

Tami is a twenty-something wife and freelance writer who has a passion for creativity. Her blog, theinspirationlady.com, focuses on self-improvement and lifestyle topics. She's a goal-digger, an animal-lover, and a bookworm. When she's not writing, you can find her spending time in nature or making art.


  1. These are all such great tips! I’ve struggled with periods of depression as well, and all of these sound like they would be amazing. Being outside is unbelievably important when I’m feeling down. Another good one is to tell people what you are working on because it pushes you to do it!

  2. I love this post! Such great tips on keeping your head up when you’re down! My favorite is the happiness routine. I always love to color as a part of my routine!

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