How do you keep your emotions from killing your productivity? Once upon a time I kicked ass at being productive. I often joke that I built my business by having one manic episode after another. When I am manic, I can do anything. I am productive, hyper-focused, funnier, more creative, and most importantly I can get things done… However, when I am depressed or having a mixed episode I can’t accomplish anything. My emotions affect me more than other people, but everyone at some point or another will find themselves distracted by their emotions.
One of the things I have talked about in other posts is how important happiness is for my productivity. It’s a topic motivation and time management books seem to lack. Most of the books I have read focus on external distractions, like urgency addiction and interruptions. They don’t talk about how to get work done when you are depressed or emotionally distracted.
The other day I decided I wanted to set my mind to coming up with a system for dealing with my emotional distractions. My emotional triggers are endless. Some days I get absolutely nothing done because of this. Maybe you can relate. Emotional distractions are internal distractions (going on inside your head) that takes away your attention and focus from your productivity. For me they are things like people being mad at me or me being angry, PTSD triggers, or trying to make a big decision. Sometimes the littlest things can set my mind off for hours.
So, what can you do to keep yourself from getting emotionally distracted?
Write a list
When I am spinning with anxiety, I struggle with my routines. I don’t write lists. I spend my whole morning reading Facebook, or thinking about how my childhood has fucked up my whole life. I can get completely overwhelmed by triggers and sucked into a non-productive emotional tailspin. The easiest way for me to stop my morning depression is to get out of bed, make coffee, sit down, and write a list. The act of writing a list helps me sort out what to do and prioritize my tasks. Even when you are emotional you can write a list. Don’t worry about whether or not you will get any of it done, just write it.
Get rid of external distractions
Before you can attempt to be productive, eliminate the external distractions. External distractions will create emotional distractions.. For example, as I was trying to write this blog post, my kids came into the room and interrupted me. This made me angry. I was so angry I couldn’t finish writing. Feeling angry interferes with my productivity all the time. Sometimes I can get back on track, but sometimes when I get interrupted a lot I just give up. Plan your time to work around when you will be distraction-free. Don’t try to do big projects when you are going to be interrupted.
Do one simple task
I remember a viral blog post about depression discussing the impossible task. When you are depressed, the simplest task can throw you for a loop. If your list is overwhelming, pick one thing you can do that will take no more than 15 minutes and do it. For me, it could be writing one paragraph or even writing one sentence. The point is, whatever it is, make it something you can do easily and in 15 minutes. The act of checking something off your list, boosts your dopamine levels and improves your mood.
Play some music
Research shows that music has an effect on your mood, productivity, and even how hard you exercise. I have found that putting on upbeat music can help me to improve my mood so I can focus. What kind of music should you listen to? It depends on what you are trying to do. If you just want a mood-lifter anything upbeat that you like will work. But, if you are trying to do a task that requires thinking, you need music that doesn’t distract you with lyrics. My “thinking music” is loud metal music with lyrics that aren’t melodic, but orchestra music will work or music with a simple three-chord structure.
Do some exercise
Exercise is my number one mood-stabilizer and stress reliever. If I am finding myself emotional and distracted, I will stop what I am doing and go for a run or climb my stairs. Exercise helps me to release negative energy. Usually when I am done I can focus better.
I meditate regularly. While it doesn’t always work, meditation is often just what I need to get my emotions in check. Because I am an empath, I have a hard time sorting out my feelings from others. When I meditate, I use a visual exercise to help me sort out and contain my emotions. I will imagine each emotion and then try to identify what’s causing it and whose feelings they are. Then I will place the emotions in jars and seal them. Sometimes this exercise helps me to compartmentalize my feelings in a healthy way so I can focus.
Talk to yourself
Talking to yourself does not mean you are crazy. Even if you answer yourself. In fact, for people like me with ADHD, it’s a great tool for productivity. I often post pep talks to myself on Facebook all day when I am trying to get a project done or I will go for a walk and have a conversation with myself. Talking your way through a task helps you to complete it.
The completion of a task boosts your emotional energy. It’s taken me a couple days to complete the task of writing this, but the act of writing it has helped me in a couple ways. First off, I completed one of my tasks for today, but additionally thinking through this problem and writing out tips was helpful for me. I hope that it helps you as well.