How Slashing My To-Do List Made Me More Productive Than Ever
In stressful times, staying productive can be a complicated two-step. Setting and achieving goals can help manage stress and boost our happiness, but the pressure to keep up the same pace despite our challenges can make getting things done a slog.
I felt this pressure when I lost my full-time job last October, due to COVID-19. Despite the stress a layoff can cause, I tried to stay optimistic as I threw myself into projects. I thought, ‘This will give me more time to write and to learn new pastry techniques and to work on my Spanish.’ Even though I no longer had a 9-to-5, my days were quickly filled with the things I’ve always wanted to do, but never had time for.
In my rush to cross everything off my to-do list, I temporarily overlooked the fact that I live with depression, anxiety, and Seasonal Affective Disorder—all of which already force me to push myself harder mentally in the best of times. But as the days got shorter and the public health of our nation worsened, it became increasingly difficult to accomplish anything. I felt endlessly exhausted, and the collective trauma we've all felt living through a pandemic made me extra distracted and unfocused. Frankly, the only thing that became easier was beating myself up for not getting more done, which only made me feel worse and sapped my motivation even more. So much for making use of my extra time.