Have you ever noticed that depression can distort time?
It’s really good at making a day seem like a year that will never end.
You may think, “Only five hours until I can get in bed.” On other days, the day might rush by and you realize you’ve done absolutely nothing. A lot of this has to do with the fact that depression tells you that you can’t complete projects anyway, which makes you not even try to focus on the amount of time you have to get something done.
If you’ve ever seen a chess match, you know that each player’s time is limited. When you have unlimited time to think, you often take as much time as possible to ponder all the possibilities. But with a depressed brain, unlimited times could easily stretch to forever.
It may take forever – or at least feel like it – to do something.
But the depressed brain won’t devote that much time to something and will likely quit well before the “something” ever gets done.
The solution is to set limits for specific projects. Setting limits is different than time management. It’s more small scale, like specific project micromanagement. On depressed days, micromanaging your time is good. In fact, your brain often responds to the time limits with relief. Here are some signs you need some time limits:
- You feel scattered and unfocused
- Things don’t get done or take a lot longer
- You feel overwhelmed by projects, so you don’t do any of them on time
- You’ve unable to conceptualize the time it takes to do certain projects
- You waste time instead of using time to your advantage.
Something weird happens to time when depressed. It slows down almost to a minute-to-minute feeling. You think, “Three hours until lunch.” You feel time creeping by and that your life is pointless; on the other hand, you feel rushed and overwhelmed by the short amount of time you have to do your work.
The best way to deal with this is external timers. Most jobs can be broken down into sections that can be easily timed. Write done everything to do, rank them, and then get very strict about the amount of time you would spend on each project. Even time your lunch and coffee breaks.
Don’t go onto the next project until the first one is done.
Don’t go onto the next project until the first one is done. Think about the amount of time you have to do something and then make sure you know how long each section will take. Do this constantly.
Write out what you have to do and put a time next to each step. Note the time you start the project, work on it until you finish, and then note the time you stopped.
Avoiding situations that can intensify feelings of powerlessness is an ongoing concern for people who are depressed. It’s very common for depressed folks to have unproductive days and reflect at the end of the day and conclude that they have got nothing done.
That reflecting only heightens their feelings of low self-esteem and the perception of being out of control in their lives.
Establishing personal goals and deadlines can be helpful, especially if the tasks are broken down into small, time chunks that are realistically attainable.
Accomplishing smaller tasks and then checking them off the list is good for you. The sound of an alarm can help take the pressure off and help you focus on what you have to do instead of how long it will take.
Set a time limit and do not get up until the time limit is up. Be aware of how long something should take so you can have a more realistic start and finish times.
Depression has a timeline called “forever” (also known as “Never!”). You’ll always have to impose your time schedule on your projects when you’re depressed.
By Daniel T. Lukasik, Esq.
“Get It Done When Depressed,” Julie Fast and John Preston, Psy.D.
“How to Accomplish Tasks When Depressed: Motivation’s Mystery,” Jennifer Goforth Gregory