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Ashlee (she/her)
Ashlee (she/her)

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How I Get Things Done When I'm Feeling Overwhelmed

Fiona Thomas, author of Depression in a Digital Age, has a free ebook called How to Get Stuff Done with Depression. In it, I found advice that helped me in my worst times. A little over a year ago, I was still on campus at Rose and was so depressed and anxious I could hardly function. It's an evil cycle: I felt bad about being unable to be a good student, employee at my part-time job, dog mom to the lovely Trooper, or partner to Zach; then I felt worse because I couldn't perform pretty simple tasks around our place such as loading the dishwasher.

At some point, I Googled for any online resource or support group I could find. I was desperate to pick myself back up again. That's where I found Fiona's free ebook. There are several good pieces of information in there, but what I've found that helps me the most is this:

All you have to do to get stuff done is be productive for ten minutes. Out of your entire day, all you need to do is make a promise to do a little work for ten minutes.

It sounds a bit silly at first, but what just 10 minutes of productivity can do is start to build momentum for the rest of your day. It's the same concept as what Naval Adm. William H. McRaven explains about why you should make your bed every day:

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.

What I've also learned is that we must be OK with just one 10-minute task. We need to be always gentle with ourselves because this tactic (probably all others, too) is not a fail-safe or it alone will not solve everything. Definitely consult a professional for help when you're so deep in anxiety and/or depression that you're unable to function. But this is one thing that continues to help me personally, even as I'm mostly doing better than I was 1 year ago.

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Top comments (6)

jasonbrown1965 profile image
Jason Brown • Edited

Great stuff.

As an old journo newb to even basic Linux stuff, the overwhelm is real :)

Putting my hand up for anxiety and depression as well, off but mostly on in a stressful job. For those just starting out, these kinds of small victories Ashlee mentions are strategic. As she says, be gentle with yourselves.

For those further along the track, take the time to follow the tip about taking stock where you've come from. Ten years ago, I was a burnt-out wreck, barely able to peep from out under the bed covers, let alone hold a conversation. Today, anxiety and depression still create daily challenges, but the daily little bits help you put them in place too, even if it's just saying short-order words like "calm", and "tranquility", and "beach", or "mountain."

10 second calmer - if you're near greenery, look at it. Trees, an indoor pot plant. We're hardwired for nature, so even just a few seconds eyeballing natural green stuff can help calm and reset the brain.

Loving this site already!

lauragift21 profile image
Gift Egwuenu

Thanks for talking about this. I usually have days like this when I don't feel like doing anything like yesterday I did a thing I'm proud of. I always have a daily todo list and I started with one of them before the end of the day I was able to complete about 5 things out of that list and I felt really good. I'll also be trying the 10-minute rule see how it works for me.

ashleemboyer profile image
Ashlee (she/her)

That’s awesome! Lists help me feel organized but also get me overwhelmed at the same time, so I try to have multiple. The minimalists wrote about it: I think their tactic helps keep me focused too.

lauragift21 profile image
Gift Egwuenu

Cool thanks I’ll take a look!

taragrg6 profile image

Great! worked for you. I get lost a lot even in work place will give it a try. :D