Keeping (some) productivity while depressed

First things first. Depression is complex, with different types, stages and strength. If you are in a state called clinical or major depression: don’t get out of bed, don’t have the will to take care of yourself, don’t eat, don’t sleep properly. If you are in this stage, well, fuck the productivity, get help. You don’t believe me now, but things will eventually get better IF you get help. Also, be very careful about other people, don’t do anything that can screw up friendships and relationships, because you are in a mind frame that other people just don’t understand. Be careful and take care.

So, just the minimum essential stuff of your life is a heavy burden, but still there are bills to be payed at the end of the month. This is my holding on playbook, and as always i have no responsibility if you apply any of these guidelines and everything goes very wrong.

1 – accept the fact that you are not 100%. This is very important, don’t deny and accept this simple fact, it gets you much more grounded and support your choices. Depression can last for months or years, so take it like any other chronic illness, adapt and learn to live with it.

2 – also accept the fact that you will work less. I worked an average of 12h a day (sometimes weekends included) and now a weekday average of 4h is average, 6h is good and 8h is excellent. Adapt your life to this reality, don’t do “wishful thinking”.

3 – try to be flexible in your work schedules. In many work situations this is not doable at all, if you work at a store or in a factory or something like that skip to the next guideline. But if you can, be flexible, i mean really flexible. I just don’t mean getting half hour late and going out also after hour later. Let’s be honest, your sleep and mental patterns are all fucked up. Do you think that you will produce any good mental work at 9am when at 5am you were staring at the ceiling? It’s much more productive to be working at 5am instead of looking at the ceiling and resting at 9am instead of being an office zombie. In the last months i have get things done probably at each and every hour of the day.

4 – this last guideline, brings up also guideline #1. Don’t be ashame and explain your situation to your boss/partner/manager/etc. It’s really important they understand that you are not lazy, or trying to fuck things over at work. Look, if you were able to do, is really awkward to them that out of the blue you aren’t able to perform the same way now. Ultimately the reaction is that you just don’t care less about working and the company/business. It’s your responsibility to make them understand what’s going on.

5 – break tasks into really tiny and achievable bits. Each work day, try to finish up some of the tasks and take a moment to contemplate. Don’t make extensive time and project planning, or if someone earns their money doing some nice Gantt charts for your time, just don’t give a shit about it. Focus on your next tiny task.

6 – tell yourself on the start of the work day several times, I AM A GREAT ________ (fill in with your work). I CAN DO THIS. In my case, i say to myself: I am a great programmer. I can do this.

7 – exercise, plenty and hard. It seems counter intuitive, with the low energy levels to punish yourself even harder. But bear with me, the low energy levels come from your brain (except if your depressed from some clinical condition) and not exercising is just letting your body decay that in turn will lead to a more weak mind, can you see the negative loop? Also it will release endorphins and dopamine that relieve your brain pain. Another benefit that i account for is that will drift your mind from your sad toughs loop, when beneath an heavy barbell you don’t feel sad, you just focus on lifting that shit away from you. Again, when running and tired and 5kms away from your car or house, you don’t feel sad at all, you just focus on getting there.

8 – keep up friendships, specially with the good vibes kind of persons that bring something positive to your life. The bad vibes, problematic kind of friends, keep them away. Remember there is a Yin there is a Yang, there is Winter there is Summer, there is sour there is sweet, night and day, there is work and there is fun.

9 – get outdoors, specially when the Sun is shining. Go for a walk, go to the beach, go and eat your favorite food, go for a drink, just go outside. Move to a walking friendly neighborhood. This is a personal rule, don’t stay indoors for more than 24h.

10 – avoid listening to sad music, watching sad movies, reading sad books, etc. Some are masterpieces in their own right, but let them be for other times. If you can, skip the evening news on TV, 90% is just garbage, completely biased to negativity not to positivity (too much stories about unemployment, crime and gore).

11 – don’t give up, when things look really dark just hold on to your core tasks, core values and keep going forward. Don’t give up on work, don’t give up on good friendships, don’t give up on love. Be optimistic. Tomorrow is another day. And after, another and so on, and someday all of your being will come together again, and by that time you will come up stronger as ever.


I just realized a very important fact. Ask yourself, what is the opposite of depression? It’s not happiness. It’s mania. And what is mania? It’s a state characterized by euphoria, great excitement, delusions and hyper activity. It’s doing stuff, lots and lots of it. It’s an over optimistic state, when you are in overdrive (as the opposite of the stuck in depression) just doing all kinds of stuff, maybe some that you will later regret…

But the point is, when depressed, probably it’s a good bet to focus less in happiness, stop asking how can i get happy again, and shift this mind set and start asking how can i get this stuff done, how to summon your drained resources and focus on the next little task ahead.

Because in a split second, it’s gone.
Ayrton Senna