It would be quite a relief if we could put life on pause while we’re down. Staying on track can be a real challenge when your heart’s not in it!
Unfortunately, responsibilities do go on, whether it’s school, work, or family duties. When life throws curveballs, and you find yourself in a slump, it can seem almost impossible to stay on top of them all.
So, how do you get to the other side without a to-do that’s as long as your arm?
1) Don’t ignore the slump
The first step to regaining focus when you’re down is acknowledging and accepting your current state. Shut down the little voice in your head telling you you’re being lazy! Don’t ignore or dismiss your emotional state as an indulgence or a sign of weakness. Guilt and negative self-talk will only keep you from feeling better.
Everyone faces moments of low energy and motivation – even people who always seem at 100%. Be kind to yourself and recognize that it's okay to feel this way. You’re not alone!
2) Start small
Break down your tasks into smaller, manageable goals. Set clear objectives for the day, and celebrate your achievements, no matter how minor. Sometimes, getting out of bed is already a victory! Small wins can build momentum and encourage you to keep going.
Take it from this user: “I break tasks into chunks and I get the easiest done first, and so on. It gives me the confidence to do the next task which is a bit more difficult, and also helps me gain momentum. I also take lots of breaks and try not to beat myself up mentally for taking them.”
Why not try the Pomodoro technique? This method involves working in focused, short bursts with regular breaks. Set a timer for 25 minutes of focused work, followed by a 5-minute break. After completing four cycles, take a more extended break. This technique can enhance productivity and prevent burnout.
3) Embrace structure
Establishing a routine can provide a sense of stability and make it easier to maintain focus. Allocate specific time slots for work, breaks, and self-care. Having a structured schedule helps create a framework for your day, making it easier to transition between tasks.
This user likes to do mindfulness exercises as part of their routine: “I meditate and listen to music for about 30 minutes, and then go do my work. Typically, it helps center my mind and gets me back on track.”
Your schedule will look different depending on how big of a slump you’re going through – and that’s okay! Don’t try and stick to a very rigorous and demanding schedule; create one that’s adapted to your energy levels and minimum requirements.
Identify and prioritize tasks based on their importance and deadlines. Tackling high-priority tasks first can create a sense of accomplishment and alleviate the pressure associated with looming deadlines.
Prioritization will help you stay on track without wasting your energy and motivation on tasks that can wait until you’re feeling better. It also applies to self-care tasks such as showering and eating balanced meals!
For example, sorting out your folders and going to the hairdresser can probably wait, but brushing your teeth and acting on urgent deadlines should be at the top of your daily to-do.
5) Strip down easy distractions
When we’re down, we tend to go back to what comforts us and helps us disconnect from negative thoughts. For many people, that means watching TV or scrolling through social media.
This user likes to create a quiet environment to concentrate more easily: “I put myself in a room where there’s no noise. Calm helps me to concentrate and accomplish the tasks I need to do.”
Identify and minimize potential distractions in your home or workspace. Turn off non-essential notifications, close unnecessary tabs, and create a streamlined environment that doesn’t get in the way of your responsibilities.
You can keep these activities as a reward once you’ve completed a task. How about 25 minutes of work, and 5 minutes of social media?
6) Clear your mind
Low mood can make it difficult to break out of negative thoughts. Mindfulness is not a miracle cure, but it can really help ground yourself in reality – including the tasks at hand.
Deep breathing, meditation, or mindful walks can help clear your mind and improve focus. You can also try grounding techniques such as the 5-4-3-2-1 method:
5 things you can see: Look around and identify five things in your environment. They can be objects, colors, or anything else. Focus on the details of each item.
4 things you can touch: Notice the sensation of touch. Identify four things you can feel, such as the texture of your clothes, the warmth of sunlight, or the coolness of a surface.
3 things you can hear: Pay attention to the sounds around you. Identify three things you can hear, whether it's the hum of a computer, birds chirping, or distant traffic.
2 things you can smell: If there are scents in your environment, identify two of them. It could be the aroma of food, flowers, or any other smells around you.
1 thing you can taste: Focus on your sense of taste. If you have something to eat or drink, take a moment to savor the flavor. If not, you can simply notice the taste in your mouth.
7) Listen to your body
Being productive is nice. Being healthy is better! Plus, physical wellbeing is closely tied to mental performance.
Dehydration and poor nutrition are not just bad for your body – they can negatively impact cognitive function and focus. They can also keep your mood down and prolong the slump.
Try to ensure you stay hydrated and eat healthy meals to keep you going. Keep a bottle or a glass of water handy at all times, and set reminders for your meals if you tend to forget. It may look deceptively simple, but it does help!
8) Take strategic breaks
Breaks are essential for maintaining focus, but it's crucial to take them strategically.
Engage in activities that help recharge your mind, such as stretching, going for a short walk, or practicing a hobby. Avoid activities that might increase stress or make it harder to return to your tasks.
Breaks also mean knowing when to stop. It might be that what you’re going through is a bit more serious than a little slump, and requires you to take some time off – be it a holiday to wind down or a sick day to recover.
There’s no shame in needing some time off your responsibilities. The important thing is to identify and communicate your needs clearly so problems can be addressed before they get a chance to escalate. Talk to your family, partner, a trusted friend or your doctor if you’re struggling to cope.
9) Don’t do it alone
Delegate if you can! If your family responsibilities are getting overwhelming, can your partner, family member or friend help? If work is a lot, are your colleagues able to take some of the load off you? If homework and deadlines are piling up, can you get help or advice from your classmates and professors?
You don’t have to struggle alone. Delegating is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign you know yourself well enough to know what you can handle.
Another way your community can help you stay productive during a slump is accountability. Share your goals and progress with a trusted friend or colleague, using them as an accountability partner. Having someone to check in with can provide motivation and encouragement, making it easier to stay on track.
Body doubling refers to using an accountability partner who works simultaneously, either in the same room or virtually through online platforms.
One of our users recommended body doubling as a way to stay focused. “I find that body doubling works best for me. I often use a website where you can book times for body doubling, and then you have someone relying on you to show up.”
10) Reduce your expectations
During a slump, it's essential to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Adjust your expectations and focus on maintaining a consistent level of productivity rather than striving for perfection.
Don’t try to go above and beyond – your most ambitious goals can wait until you feel better. Right now, the most important thing is to keep the lights on. Comparing your performance to others, or even just to your own when you’re at your best, is not helpful.
11) Know when to ask for help
If your slump doesn’t seem to be shifting, you’re feeling down all the time and it’s impacting your ability to function, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance, coping strategies, and support tailored to your individual needs.
Navigating through slumps can be hard, but with support, self-compassion, and a touch of organization, you can get through it. You’ve got this!