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Article. Published on Jan 25, 2017.

How to be productive when you’re depressed

Depression is a mood disorder which is characterised by a persistently low mood and a feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Having depression interferes with daily life and normal functioning. According to the World Health Organization, 36.9% of Indian adults have suffered from a mild to moderately-severe depression in their lifetime and another 1.8% have experienced a severe manifestation of the illness. Working adults, in particular, are seen to have high rates of depression and there are many studies that show a relationship between high levels of stress and presence of depression.

Having depression can compromise the quality of your work. When you’re depressed, being assigned even the smallest task may make you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. There are, however, some small things you could incorporate into your daily life that might make things a bit better and help you be more productive at work even while managing your depression.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Having a Routine

Creating a daily routine helps to take the thought out of what you have to do. It gives you a structured day, and helps you to avoid being forced to make choices, something that’s difficult to do when you’re depressed.
Panic Disorder


Schedule out your tasks and set yourself achievable deadlines. Working within a flexible schedule helps to keep oneself on track. Then, on the days when your mood is elevated, you may be able to complete additional work to compensate for the days you don’t feel as good.
Social Phobia

Breaking up Assignments

Break up your assignments/work responsibilities into smaller tasks which require lesser effort. These smaller duties will be easier to complete. Additionally, the sense of accomplishment as you finish each task helps to keep you motivated when you move on to the next one.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Adjust Your Expectations for Your Performance

It is important to set out goals for yourself that you believe you can accomplish. Try to do this on a mood by mood basis, if you are feeling particularly unmotivated, remember that completing even the smallest task counts as being productive.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


On the days when your depression is acting up, provide yourself with a treat for completing each task. These treats can be small things like chocolates or watching a YouTube video, and should be things that make you feel better. These treats will help provide you the motivation to complete the next task.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Taking Breaks

It often helps to take breaks in between tasks. Taking periodic time-outs help to decrease the level of the stress hormone, cortisol and increases the amount of other chemicals such as dopamine that help us to feel good. Breaks help us become more productive. Allowing yourself to mentally disengage from your work related thoughts for a brief period may help bring in a fresher perspective once you return to the task at hand. Additionally, it may be a good idea to use the break to stretch and walk around. Changes in surrounding also provide a distraction from ruminating on your lack of productivity, and in fact, may provide you the inspiration you were lacking earlier on.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Rearrange Your Surroundings

Moving furniture and stationery around will make your workspace look new and interesting and this may further rejuvenate your mood. If nothing else, the rearranging itself will give you something to do, the results of which may inspire and motivate you to be more productive.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


First, make a list of the things that make you feel better or things that you usually enjoy. Then, try to find ways to bring a few of these things into your daily routine. When you’re feeling especially down, treat yourself: indulge in eating your favourite food, or watching your favourite movie. It’ll help you feel better.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Support systems

Inform your family and friends know about your mental health issues and let them support you through some of your more difficult days. Opening up to one or two more people who you trust may help make you feel less isolated. Try creating a support group at work with whom you can share your frustrations since they will already know all the people involved and be able to give you informed advice, should you ask for it.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


Incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily schedule. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, chemicals which interact with your brain to create a feeling of euphoria or happiness. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress and ward off feelings of anxiety and depression
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Breathing/Relaxation techniques

When you feel especially depressed or stressed out, it can help to practise some breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques, such as Jacobsen’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation. These have both shown to help relieve depression and are most effective when they’re integrated into your daily routine.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Take Things One Step At a Time

Finally, the most important tip is to take things one at a time. Focus on the present and immediate tasks first, and once you complete them, then move on to tasks that have later deadlines. Focussing on the present will give you a sense of urgency which acts as an external motivator and hence, will help you be more productive.
Disclaimer: Please do remember that these are only suggestions and may not work for everybody. Some of the tips are especially geared towards people with depression who are highly functioning and thrive on organization and structure. If none of these suggestions work for you, you can always approach the subject with your therapist, and they will recommend tips that are more likely to suit you.