finding motivation when depressed and getting stuff DONE

The ultimate conundrum: wanting to be productive, but having no energy or motivation to do so. Welcome to the hypocrisy of mental illness!

I completely empathize with this frustration. I know it all too well. Especially if you have both depression and anxiety, you have two opposing forces yelling in your mind. Then all you want to do is shut it all out and assume the cocoon position.


How do we find motivation when we’re depressed? What resources can we tap into to overcome our own inner voices? I don’t have all the answers, but I can share what I’ve learned and how I persevere despite my circumstances. Simply put, finding motivation when depressed isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but it’s possible for everyone.

1. single-task it.

What’s the most overwhelming, if you’re finding motivation when depressed, is all the tasks you see on your plate. You likely look at a long to-do list and automatically want to shut down.

To make it more approachable, only do one thing at a time. This is what’s appropriately called “single-tasking.” Technically nobody can effectively multitask and juggle everything all at once. Instead, we must accept what we can do, and make that one thing worth our while.

Shift your focus away from everything you have to do and only focus on doing something. Just one thing. That’s all it really takes. Even if that one thing is making your bed or taking a shower, you’ve been productive. That one prioritized task might even spur your motivation to do more and keep the ball rolling.

2. work and think ahead.

I know some people aren’t keen on working ahead and thrive on the adrenaline rush of procrastination, but if possible, this can really help you before you get depressed.

Funding motivation when depressed means it can be very difficult to see the purpose behind what you’re doing. You can’t appreciate the end goal, so you keep asking yourself, why? Can’t I put this off?

That can keep happening until you haven’t completed even basic tasks for too long, or you miss deadlines. Things just end up deteriorating. If you can be proactive and prevent this predicament in the first place, wouldn’t that be helpful?

You cannot necessarily predict when your mood nose-dives, but if you consistently think and work ahead, you won’t have to desperately make yourself do piles of work when it’s the last thing on your mind. Look at what you have on your plate right now, and consider what might come in the next days or weeks.

Take advantage of motivation when it happens naturally, and rest assured that if depression sinks in, you can treat yourself well knowing you don’t have a ton to do beyond self-care. You can actually have the opportunity to rest and take a break away from immediate work.

3. don’t compare productivity.

Comparison is undoubtedly the thief of joy. It squanders what could have been a victory into a complete failure. Some people can do the same things and not bat an eye! Why can’t I do that?

Mentally ill or not, all of us have periods of low motivation. We get stuck in ruts and hit blocks. The difference here is that it’s much easier to jump back and force yourself back into the swing of motivation if depression doesn’t weigh you down.

Rather than spending your moments of low motivation scrolling through the highlight reels of others’ lives and accomplishments, focus on your own present moment. What have you already accomplished today? It’s likely more than you give yourself credit for. The very act of waking up this day and getting out of bed is amazing.

Your normal and your motivation aren’t equatable with other people’s. You aren’t living others’ lives. Depression does that annoying thing of downplaying everything we are and have done. All the while, it brings up what we feel insecure about and yells in our face. Super fun.

Take a look away from social media and self-made expectations. It’s hard to do, but it can be easier if you actively practice gratitude and reach out to others for support. Remind yourself how accomplished you already are, even if you don’t completely buy into it right now. You can’t change how you feel, but you can choose to focus on gratitude. Otherwise, it’s a simple equation: compare and dispair.

4. give yourself grace.

I could try giving you endless advice on finding motivation when depressed, but what’s most important is patience with yourself. Often, if you feel depressed, no matter how hard you try, motivation won’t magically appear. You cannot will away depression like all the cheesy quotes and articles tell you to do.

Just exercise! Socialize! Go outside! Yeah, right. We can’t all be neurotypicals, Karen.

But if only it were that easy. If it was, we wouldn’t ask about it. We could simply bounce back and trudge forward. Heck, even robots need to charge their batteries or require some troubleshooting!

Be real with where you’re at and how you’re feeling. Do what you can, but pay attention to what your mind and body need. Push yourself in the areas you value most, and whatever you do, celebrate that. Even the smallest of tasks can be a victory when depressed. Don’t discredit your own strength.

I wish I could give you a simple answer for finding motivation when depressed. What I think is most important is accepting where you reside mood-wise. It’s okay to not always feel motivated, and it’s okay if you don’t get everything done when you want it done. It will happen, maybe just in a different way and time frame than you expect.

Be open with your current state. Let it pass. Motivation will come. It always does.

What is your advice for finding motivation when depressed? Help some peeps out by leaving a comment and sharing this post with anyone in this boat!

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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