I get nothing done because of depression. Or, I suppose, to put it more accurately, I get almost nothing done because of the symptoms of depression. I use to-do lists. I prioritize what needs to be done. I chunk things into small pieces. I use all the techniques you can think of to try to overcome this inability to actually get things done, and yet it doesn’t seem to work. At the end of the day, there is always more to do than when I started. I don’t even know how that is possible.
Things I Don’t Get Done By Category
I think tasks can be put on four to-do lists.
- Work to-dos
- Daily to-dos that are required to keep your life moving forward, like laundry and taking out the recycling
- Long-term to-dos that are important to do but not necessarily today, like hanging a picture or putting things into storage
- Pleasure to-dos, like having coffee with a friend or going to an art gallery
- Optional to-dos that are nice to complete but not necessary
Depression and Getting Nothing Done Details
When I say that depression makes me get nothing done, I don’t mean it makes me get nothing done on all four lists. The truth is, what I can’t get done varies from day to day and list to list.
It goes something like that:
- Work to-dos get done because someone is paying me to do them, and I need that money to survive. It’s what you call high-priority stuff. Even depression can’t demotivate me to the point where this stuff doesn’t get done. (I was raised with an extreme work ethic as well, so I’m sure that helps.)
- I try to do these things; I really do. I just find the list is too long for the number of spoons I have. I can do the laundry but not take out the garbage. I can clean out the litter box but not cook dinner. Every day there are more things put on this list, and I can’t keep up.
- Because of depression, I can’t do these things, like, period. (Ask the unfinished painting in my hallway, started years ago and still unfinished.)
- To be honest, pleasure to-do list items don’t come up every day because very little falls into this category. I am, after all, anhedonic. I don’t really feel pleasure. Nonetheless, things like social engagements do come up, and I do try my damndest to get those done.
- Optional to-dos may exist in my life, but they never get done. Never.
Why Does Depression Make Me Get Nothing Done?
Depression is such a bitch. You can quote me on that. Every one of its symptoms can be hell when extreme. But the one that’s worst when talking about getting nothing done is demotivation. Demotivation itself is not a symptom of depression, but it comes about because of the symptoms of depression. Specifically, when things don’t bring you pleasure at all, you become demotivated. You literally have no reason to do anything. This is because, whether you know it or not, your brain sends out reward chemicals when you complete a task — even a task you don’t want to do. This is biological in nature. When those reward chemicals don’t show up, your impetus to do anything disappears.
There are more depression symptoms that aid in getting nothing done too. For example, if you can’t think or concentrate and find yourself indecisive (specific depression symptoms), that can absolutely cause you to get nothing done. Similarly, extreme fatigue and an inability to sleep, other depression symptoms can also make getting things done impossible.
And if you can’t sleep, have fatigue, can’t concentrate, and can’t feel pleasure in combination? Well, if that isn’t a recipe for getting nothing done then I don’t know what is.
Getting Nothing Done Because of Depression Is Demoralizing
Let’s not forget that people with depression feel like crap — about themselves and in general — and getting nothing done just makes this worse. When I actually look at my to-do lists, and they aren’t shrinking, I feel like a failure. When I can’t get daily to-dos done, I’m a daily failure. When I can’t get long-term to-dos done, I’m just a failure of a human being. I can’t do the things that everyone else does without thinking. I don’t mean optional things. I mean things that are necessary to my life. Getting nothing done because of depression is horrible and is yet another reason to beat myself up.
Dealing with Depression and Getting Nothing Done
I’ve reached a point where I realize that there is no amount of techniques that can get me to a place where I can accomplish what I need to. It’s just not possible. If you’re feeling this way, too, here are some suggestions:
- Do as much as you can in a routine. Once you have a routine set in your brain, you are more likely to accomplish those things without thinking. (A routine before sleep is critical, by the way. And with a strict, rote routine, your teeth always get brushed [hopefully].)
- Use a meal or ingredient delivery service.
- Keep frozen meals on hand for when you can’t cook.
- Hire a cleaning service if you can afford it; even once a month can help so much.
- Get your prescriptions delivered (some pharmacies do this for free).
- Ask for phone appointments when you can to avoid the effort of going to the office (since COVID, this is more and more common).
- Order as much stuff for delivery as possible.
- Order food in when you have to. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it’s better than not eating at all.
- Ask for help from your loved ones — I’ve found some of them more receptive than I might have thought.
- Try not to start projects that are very hard to put away or that you have no realistic chance of finishing without help.
None of the above will prevent depression from causing you to go get nothing done, but it will help you deal with that problem.
And finally. talk to your doctor about the problem. If you’re in a place where nothing is getting done because of depression, your medications could be doing a better job, obviously. So, make sure your doctor knows about the problem and does what he can to address it through medication changes.
Do you have any suggestions for when depression makes you get nothing done? I’d be thrilled to read about them.
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