Since key symptoms of depression include: loss of interest in life; difficulty in making decisions; feelings of uselessness and inadequacy; and inability to cope with things you used to, then it’s no wonder Stuff Doesn’t Get Done.  It’s hard enough for ‘normal’ people to find motivation for action, so what chance do depressives have?  No chance.

For years I believed my lack of motivation and willpower was due to laziness and indiscipline, and the constant cycle of goal setting and failure reinforced that belief – and my depression.  These days I am learning to bypass the need for willpower altogether by forming useful habits that require no mental effort.

Habits are working well for me. Two examples:

  • i hate houseworkI feel better when I start my day early (before 6.30am), but struggle to get up. Now, when Raisin (my dog) wakes me up for her breakfast at 6 (when the alarm used to go off), I get up and don’t go back to bed. It was tough for the first couple of weeks but now it’s automatic.
  • Housework is not my strong point, and the state of my house is a source of shame. I set myself housework tasks but don’t do them. Now every time I use the bathroom, I do a tiny amount of cleaning there. Fold a towel perhaps, empty the bin, dust a shelf. After a few days of this I had a clean bathroom, and was ready to expand my operation to other rooms.


So here are some strategies to consider when you want to do something :

  • start small – tackle stuff one baby step at a time, but do it every day/regularly
  • form useful habits –  Zen Habits and Superhuman by Habit by Tynan really helped me
  • be kind to yourself – getting stuff done is hard when you have depression, so don’t feel bad about it. Research says being kind to yourself is a good idea anyway 🙂
  • get support – ask a friend to help you make a start and take an interest in your progress
  • rewards – treat yourself to a nice hot bath/a sticky bun/whatever when you have accomplished something
  • structure some argue that a clear plan for the day is a good idea; a set routine. But if you crash the plan and feel bad as a result, it will be counter-productive. A framework of things to do that involve others and/or immutable commitments, like work perhaps, or walking the dog, might be more useful

It takes trial and error to find what works best when you are depressed. Just get started. Small steps.

how to get stuff done when depression steals your motivation

5 thoughts on “how to get stuff done when depression steals your motivation

  • Yes!
    Great post.
    I have a wake-up light coming.
    I love in a very cold, dark region and I’ve been sleeping until 10.
    Not so good.
    Today it is bright sun! But -38 degree windchill!
    Little bitty baby steps helps me, too.
    Thank you!

  • I love these suggestions, especially about the housework 😉 if I start to tidy up a bit, and see something else needing attention (always!), I take advantage of the little burst of energy I have and go where it takes me! xx

  • Some really useful tips here! When you talked about cleaning the bathroom a bit at a time it reminded me of a small thing I used to do called the 20 second rule. If you see something that can be cleaned, thrown away or tidied in less than 20 seconds, then do it. 🙂

    Growing Positive

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