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7 ways to be productive when you’re feeling down

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

We all have our down days, when we just want to curl up in bed and sleep the day away, until things get better or our deadlines are over. But real life doesn’t stop for us when we have our bad days, and sometimes we just have to find ways to work through those bad moments and get as much done as possible – here are 7 ways that might help you do just that:

1. Make a to-do list of everything you have to do.

This sounds super cliché I know, but it really does help me on my bad days. Making a to-do list helps me clear my head as I know exactly what I need to do to finish all my tasks, and knowing your next steps is a key part of being productive.

2. Organize it.

Decide which tasks are the most important, and prioritize accordingly. If you know you’re having a bad day, you can spread your to-do list over several days and give yourself more time to finish the tasks that you won’t get a chance to do another day. There’s a temptation to try to finish all the things you want to do so you can get a break after, but piling on too much work can sometimes make things worse, so know your limits and take care of yourself.

3. Break larger tasks down to smaller steps.

This is a helpful tip to increase your productivity on any day, as finishing a large number of smaller tasks is a lot easier than tackling one enormous job all at once, but it’s especially important on bad days when you feel tired and sapped of energy, and everything feels ten times as hard. Working on smaller tasks ensures that you’re getting work done without overwhelming yourself.

4. Take breaks.

Of course, we all have to take breaks when working, but this is an especially important tip to remember when you’re depressed or anxious, or just having one of those days. Taking breaks will help with keeping your energy up because everyone needs to recharge their batteries. 

5. Reward yourself when you finish things on your list.

Rewarding yourself when you finish tasks is different from taking breaks – breaks are essential, but rewards aren’t always necessary. It definitely helps when you’re having a bad day because it gives you something to look forward to, something to be happy about, whether it’s finishing that episode you’ve wanted to watch or snacking on your favorite chocolate bar.

6. Delegate if you’re working with a group

Many of us hate working on group projects because it’s difficult to coordinate with others and sometimes group members will rely on you to do all the work while taking the credit, but more often than not, you’re probably working with a good group of people, so if you’re having problems with your work, don’t be afraid to talk to your group members and make necessary adjustments to your responsibilities if you’re really having a hard time.

7. Learn to be okay with not finishing everything

This is a hard lesson to learn, and to be honest I’m still learning it, but it’s okay if you don’t end up finishing everything you wanted to when you’re having a bad day – as long as you made an effort and tried your best, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach all of your goals. Cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself – we all have bad days, after all, and we all make it through them, one way or another :)

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Jenny Yau

St. Andrews

I'm Jenny Yau, 19 and from Hong Kong. Reading, writing poetry and watching tv are my main obsessions. I am sometimes mistaken for a hermit, but I'm friendly once you get to know me :p