How to Stay Organized When You’re Depressed

There are many things that are difficult about being depressed. The sadness. The fatigue. The insomnia. One of them that may not get talked about as often is the disorganization. When someone is depressed, it can be hard to stay motivated. I have personally experienced this symptom, so I wanted to share some tips for how to stay organized when you’re depressed.

It definitely isn’t easy. The last thing you want to do when you’re feeling sad and overwhelmed is get off the couch and get things done. But I promise it is possible if you stick to these tips.

How to stay organized

Choose your method

There are many different ways to get started staying organized. You can go old school and grab a pen and paper. Buy a notebook that makes you feel inspired. Maybe the cover is your favorite color, or maybe it has a motivational quote on it. I recommend printing out some motivational quotes in beautiful lettering and taping them on the inside cover of the notebook.

If you choose to forgo the pen and paper, you can choose to use your smart phone instead. Most smart phone come equipped with some sort of note taking app. iPhones have the Notes and Reminders apps built in. You can also download additional apps to guide you through this process. I like the app called TickTick. I have the upgraded version for $2.99 a month and it is so worth it. Seriously, I use it to organize everything!

Find an accountability partner

Before you get started making your to-do list, it is always helpful to find someone who can help you stay committed and motivated. When you are in a period of depression, it might seem impossible to get started on something like this. That is why I definitely recommend picking a friend or family member that you can rely on to help you.

You can use an app on your phone to set reminders to check in with them either daily, weekly, or monthly. I recommend checking in often when you are first starting out. You can always taper off your check-ins as you grow more confident.

Set realistic goals

I have written about this before, but I highly recommend setting SMART goals. What is a SMART goal? It is a goal that meets 5 criteria. It is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Here is an example of this. Let’s say your goal is to de-clutter your child’s playroom. A goal like “I want the playroom to be less cluttered,” is not as likely to be accomplished. Why? It is not specific enough. It is not measurable. While it is achievable and realistic, it is also not time-bound. Therefore it only meets 2 out of 5 necessary criteria of a SMART goal.

What can you do instead? Try saying, “I will narrow down the amount of toys in the playroom to 3 bins of toys and 2 bins of books by September 15th.” First of all, you are using positive language. Instead of saying, “I want to,” which leaves room for doubt, you are saying, “I will.”

Second of all, it meets all 5 criteria for a SMART goal. It is specific. You are saying exactly what you want to accomplish. It is measurable. It is something you can track progress on. Also, it is achievable. It is realistic. Finally, it is time-bound. You are telling yourself when you want to have it accomplished by.

Make a prioritized to-do list

Once you have your overall goal set, it is time to make a to-do list, using whatever method you selected in the first section. It is very important to find a way to prioritize this list that works for you. Rather than doing what works for others, you need to find a method that your depressed brain can handle.

There are two different methods that I recommend. One method is ordering the list from most important to least important. This could potentially mean doing harder things first, but it guarantees that the most important steps get accomplished. I tend to prefer this method for my own personal organization projects.

The other method you can try is ordering your list from easiest to hardest. The upside of this is it is kind of a slower transition for someone who is depressed. The downside is that is might take longer to get to your goal, as it might leave more important things for last.

Take it slow

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you, is to take it slow. That might be a hard pill to swallow, especially when you are desperate to get something done. But I think it will benefit you in the long run. If you progress more slowly through your reserve of energy, you are less likely to get burned out.

The important thing to remember is that just because you are depressed does not mean you cannot be organized. You are just as capable of another person. Yes, you likely need different accommodations than an emotionally normal person. It will likely take you longer than someone else to finish your project. You might feel burned out faster. But at the end of the day, you can totally do it.

Be kind to yourself. Be gentle. Your mind is a firestorm of emotion that can make it difficult to function. That is not your fault. You cannot control it. And, most importantly, it does not mean you cannot be organized.

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