The Power of Productivity

I realize that setting goals is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t proposition. When you set a goal and achieve it, you fly! Things are great! Then you fail to reach one and crash back to earth, and the sun is dark in the sky, etc.

One of the battles I fight during depressive episodes is lethargy. This is not the same kind of daily lethargy we all fight, like we get home from work and don’t feel like cooking so we order a pizza. This is lethargy such as, taking a shower is too much energy, even though I know I haven’t taken one in a day or two. Ordering that pizza is too much energy, or too much interaction, but that’s another topic for another day.

One of the things I’ve found that helps me is to set a small goal and achieve it. It could be as simple as running an errand, doing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom, putting away laundry, anything. Small, and simple. I’m not asking myself to chop wood, but these are all things that need to be done.

When I have crossed something off the list, I feel a small sense of happiness, believe it or not. It’s a combination of relief at having the thing done and the simple pleasure of being productive. There might still be 999 swords hanging over my head, but even an act as seemingly insignificant as washing dishes takes one sword away.

The swords aren’t equal, and the effort required to remove them is proportional to their size — but damn does it feel good to look up and see one less sword hanging there!

The flipside to this is having a to-do list that is never-ending and omnipresent in your life. I contend that such a beast would tend to create more problems than it would solve, and many things that end up on to-do lists require at least a modicum of cooperation from others, like a work project or keeping a shared living space clean. Such a list would not only deter me from getting started, it would likely deepen my depression.

The small list, however, has been a strategy that has worked for me in the past. Keeping yourself to a few tasks — maybe even just a single task — at first, is ideal. It’s simple. It’s achievable. Even better, much like anything else, it adheres to Newton’s First Law: An object at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. The thing is, human beings have the remarkable ability to apply our own outside force and make ourselves move.

This is a lesson I forget, when I go dark.

Maybe by sharing it, as a small step for me, it will help others. Maybe in sharing it, I will remember it more quickly the next time I slide.

I’d write more about this, but I have to take the garbage out and run an errand.

Love and light