Mental Health vs Productivity
Now, mental health is a huge topic. I will not pretend to be an expert in any way, shape, or form. However, it can be useful to share one’s experiences so others with similar problems can learn from you. I often find myself fighting to be productive, so I figured I’d share a list of things that have helped me.
Things to try
1. Work to your strengths
Do you find yourself becoming easily distracted? Unable to concentrate on what you’re working on? Even if it’s something you’re passionate about? This may be a sign that you need to change how you’re tackling the job. I know I’m more likely to get bored of what I’m working on if I sit in silence for a few hours straight. To tackle this, I listen to music while I work and take short breaks every half hour or so. Of course, different jobs require different tactics, but to get the best out of yourself you shouldn’t have to force your way through it. There is usually a way you can adjust things to make a job easier on yourself.
Tip: I found the VARK test to be a useful tool in figuring out how I work best. The test is intended for students looking for strategies to get the most out of their education. However, you can adapt the advice to your work life to aid your concentration. You can find the VARK test here.
2. Break your tasks down
I start my week off by writing myself a list of everything I need to get done that week. I’m always sure to include any social arrangements to remind myself that those are just as important as my work. To-do lists are great for staying organised, but when they’re full of big tasks, they can quickly get overwhelming. Taking those big jobs and breaking them down into smaller pieces can be a huge relief. The small pieces make the job more realistic. I actually get the job done faster than if I’d left it as one big chunk.
3. Practice good sleeping habits
Sleep is important, almost any health expert you talk to will tell you that. Many people with mental health problems have sleeping problems too. For example, I struggle with fatigue as a side effect of my depression, but also have trouble falling asleep sometimes due to my anxiety. It’s a tricky situation that often means I’m asleep during the day and awake late at night, which is unhealthy. To combat this I set an alarm for an hour before my optimal bedtime, giving myself time to finish whatever I’m doing and get ready for bed.
I try to restrict myself from using devices once I’m in bed, but this doesn’t always happen, which is okay. You shouldn’t punish yourself for messing up, it takes time to develop habits. I’ve also found that waking up at a regular time every day of the week has done wonders. Again this doesn’t always happen, because sometimes getting out of bed feels like an impossible task. The point of this is just to try your best as practice makes perfect.
4. Give yourself time
Set realistic goals for yourself. Don’t push yourself too hard. A bit of a challenge is good, but too much can lead to breakdowns and procrastination. I find that the most important thing to do is make a start on a task as soon as you get it. Even if all you do is set up a Word document or draft an email, a start is a start. Set aside a time to work on the task everyday, and just chip away at it. Forcing yourself to complete a job in one sitting sounds good in theory, but in practice you’re more likely to procrastinate. The other important thing to me is that some days you just aren’t going to be able to work as well as you’d like. On days like that, it’s often better to stop, take a breather, and try again tomorrow.
5. Seek professional help
If you are really struggling there is always someone who can help, no matter what it is you’re dealing with. I started seeing a psychologist last year, which I’ve found very helpful. It’s a relief to have someone help me develop strategies for working through things. I struggled a lot last year with staying on top of things and often felt completely overwhelmed. Taking the leap and booking an appointment with a psychologist has shown me that my problems are real, and more importantly, that they can be overcome. It is thanks to my psychologist really that I felt I could leave a job that was no longer making me happy and try being self-employed.
Take care of yourself
Remember, some days are harder than others, and sometimes you just need to rest. Pushing yourself is good, but don’t push so hard you break. Self-care takes practice.