How to feel productive (even if you’re unemployed)

When I quit my job in August, I had a ton of plans to do and see and achieve. I built a massive list of local museums and hikes that I’d do; trips I’d been wanting to take; books I would read. But I was also planning a wedding. For four months, I worked my way through ordering a card box and deciding on how the bouquets would be wrapped. I called venues and finalized schedules. Mere days before the ceremony, one of our honeymoon hotels canceled on us. There was simply so much to do.

I was constantly busy, but I felt like shit come the end of the day because I had no tangible results of my work. There was no manager to praise or provide feedback. I started to feel like I was unproductive and, in full transparency, pretty worthless.

So I set up a time to talk to my beloved therapist, and she asked me how I was structuring my day.  I was stunned.

At this point I should explain that — if you haven’t experienced it first-hand — I am a very organized person. Planning is probably my biggest passion, and I love the logic puzzle of putting together an amazing schedule for trips or events. I don’t go on vacation without a solid list of the best places to stop by, organized by neighborhood, and at least a couple Google Maps connecting tourist spots for a half-day of sightseeing. I make to-do lists for everything, and I keep an up-to-date spreadsheet of restaurants and museums and wineries and bars I want to try.

But, untrue to my character, I wasn’t structuring my day at all. I would sit on the couch with my laptop and look at all the tabs I’d left open from the day before. I’d throw a few things into a spreadsheet then make a call and then look at the mockup for our invitations. I couldn’t look back on my day and see one or two clear achievements I’d made.

So my savior of a therapist suggested scheduling my days: Block off time on the calendar for everything I want to accomplish. EVERYTHING. Errands, workouts, segments of planning. Here’s a look at November 9-10, 2017:

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Y’all, it’s crazy that I wasn’t doing this in the first place. I used to do this all the time when I was working, but I think the concept of ‘not working’ made me lose all my normal productivity habits. And not feeling productive was a big trigger for my anxiety, and it certainly played a role in my risk of entering depression territory. And absolutely no one wants to be struggling with that, much less before their wedding. I also sensed that I did not want to talk to anyone in my personal life about how I was feeling, because I didn’t want that to be a memory attached to that time. And in case you hadn’t already guessed, not talking about it is NOT helpful. With this one simple suggestion, I felt that it solved everything for me. I was organized and loving it.

You may not be unemployed, but these feelings and ‘slumps’ are equal opportunity predators for anyone. If this suggestion helps you, amazing! But if you’re struggling with something and either aren’t talking about it or aren’t making progress with the advice you are getting, getting a therapist that works for you solves a lot more than you may think. A lot of people think they have to be diagnosed with depression, or have regular panic attacks, or have some big messed up background to see a therapist. It’s really just having a sage advisor who gets to the root of your problem as opposed to the surface-level details. I have talked to my therapist about anxiety and panic, but I also have talked to her about things in my relationship that I didn’t know how to address, and things at work that I didn’t know how to handle. Nothing’s off-limits. And the best part: I can talk very personally to someone who will never be involved in my personal life. There’s no worry about her meeting my husband or that problematic coworker. Isn’t that the best friend of all?

PS: I recently fell in love with Bring Change to Mind, a nonprofit that wants to break the stigma of mental health. Please check it out!

6 thoughts on “How to feel productive (even if you’re unemployed)

    1. It’s so crazy, because it’s partially counter-intuitive, right? You want to destress so you schedule yourself more. 💫 the more you know

  1. I’ve been working part-time for the past few months & can relate so well to this! I’ve realized when I make my massive “Life To-Do” lists, suddenly laundry & cooking become priority #1 & things I need to actually accomplish get pushed down the list. I love the idea of assigning a concrete time to these tasks, going to give this a shot 🙂

    1. Yes! It’s so wild. I logically know I want/need to do those things but menial tasks consumed me. Report back!!!💕

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