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Mental Health

Fighting Procrastination During Depression

Micromovements towards Peace and Happiness

Photo used with permission

Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out. – Robert Collier

I remember feeling stuck last summer thinking how the bad hits kept on coming. Stuck in a deep state of depression, the future looked darker and darker (read my story here). Not one to believe in bad luck, I started to wonder if I was cursed. In this place, I realized there are small things that do make a big difference. There are teeny tiny micro-movements that help make things better when things don’t seem like they can get better.

Photo used with permission: lassedesignen

Forming habits didn’t come easy for me at first because I wanted to go all in. I wanted to feel like I arrived. These ideas I want to share with you come from a place of struggle, distraction and some victories.

Can today be better than yesterday? With the foggy confusing shades of depression glasses and most people would honestly answer “probably not.” If you are an entrepreneur or human, in general, being resilient can positively affect your income and result. So what happens when your get up and go has gone up and went? How can you find your motivation? How can you get shit done?

Let’s explore the smallest things that can make a difference.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

Win the Morning Win the Day

Habits and routines got me through pieces of my darkest times. My artist brain, as I affectional call it, actively fights habit and routine. It searches for the new and the novel. But in crisis, in depression, in darkness but I have found consistent habits have healing power. The time you wake up isn’t as important as having a plan. Do you scroll and stall or have purpose and direction? I’ve been a morning person and I’ve been a night person.

I enjoy working on my day plan in the morning. If mornings are tough, write out your plan the day before. Whether you are early bird or night owl, your first few waking hours set the tone for the day. To set the tone, I work on my daily plan and meditation. Many people hit the most difficult task of the day first. I just try to meditate and plan first.

The least useful thing was the depressed zombie social media scroll of boredom. It’s such a default mode. It didn’t do me any favors. Comparison is the thief of joy and that’s what social media seems to be great at pointing out. It’s hard to have gratitude when you look at everyone’s highlight reel on social media and compare it to what’s currently missing in your life.

What’s Actually Important Right Now?

In my brain there are exactly 72 monkeys jumping on the bed of new ideas, making lame dad jokes, dreaming of new tasks, connecting ideas, eating anxiety pie and throwing poo. It’s chaos in there. So many distractions. Squirrel! I have a hard time sitting through a movie, I get bored. Who gets bored with most movies? I digress.

This is why I meditate and this is why I walk in nature, this is why I move my body. These three things settle me. Creativity is great but there are times when I want to settle and get the work done.

My home screen phone wallpaper asks the always timely question: “Where should my attention be right now?” as a reminder.

Pick 1 to 3 important tasks for the day. Write them in your planner. Get them done and reward yourself!

Unless you already have an app that is working for you, I recommend a paper planner. My favorite is the Passion Planner (used 3 years) but any will do including a plain notebook. Physical writing has a therapeutic aspect to it. It’s real. The planner you choose doesn’t matter as much as using it daily. Everything is overwhelming until you write it out in list form. Write and release. Cross out the unimportant tasks. If you are like me you vastly overestimate how much you can get done in a day. You can’t do everything but you can do some things. So plan out your success. My coach Megan suggested I also plan in two-hour blocks of nothingness because I can’t estimate how long tasks take. Literally today I will only have finished two out of three of my main goals. Two out of three big tasks are better than zero out of three. Maybe you can relate.

Letting Go, Setting Boundaries and Saying No

To create good changes, make some space. Pick some easy people, places and things to let go of. This might be a temporary movement, just long enough to start to feel like you again. Spend less time around people who drain your will to live. Create some boundaries. Get creative with people you currently have to work or live with.

Not to Do List

More important than your to-do list is your NOT to-do list. Make a list of things that pull you away from your goals and goodness. Think of things you can avoid without much consequence. What activity can you remove that will free up the most time to work on the important task? Delete apps. Install time blockers like Waste No-Time, use time trackers like Timeular and Forest App. I use all of these tools. And for the love of all that is holy turn off your email notifications and as many social media app notifications as possible.

Unfollowing

What are you doing following people on social media who you allow to make you feel inferior? Unfollow people, block companies and anything that makes you feel less than. Don’t even bother psychoanalyzing why. Just hit that unfollow button. Fall in love with and get slutty with that unfollow button. Click unfollow now, figure it out later.

How to Set New Micro Habits

Small incremental changes are what we are after. After reading too many books on building habits, I have come to believe this: People don’t stick to habits because they are too ambitious in the first 30 days. Give yourself a small task with big rewards. We think massive results require massive change. They don’t. It’s about doing small things daily or weekly until they become a part of your identity.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

— William Durant

Personally, I hate running but I feel good with movement. I started playing with the identity of a runner who hates running. Identities are like dress up for adults. Habits create identities over time. When we identify with a community, we become them. We can change and try on many identities. We can let go of past identities, no need to get stuck in past stories.

Micro Habits Are Easy When You Lower the Bar and Raise the Reward

I’ve tried so many tactics to set a new habit and this is what works. Lower the bar and use the mantra of app programmers “Minimum Viable Product.” Do something for 30 days at the bare minimum.

The way I got comfortable with video, started running (I’m at 30 days at 7 miles a week), meditating, breathing, running and every other good habit happened by striving for 30 days.

It’s much better to do something 5 minutes a day for 30 days than crash by day 3 from going too hard. Change your habit after 30 days but not before. My gratitude habit takes 1 minute a day. Presently, an app on my phone alerts me to write what I’m grateful for. I write one word or a sentence. That’s it. I’m consistent. I can always find a minute.

Treat Yourself

Rewards are important, whether you decide to plan a trip or give yourself a tiny piece of chocolate, treat yoself. Many of my photography clients tell me their photo session is their reward. Put a big reward after tasks that are a bit more difficult. I’ve heard about a salesperson who breaks apart a cookie and gives themselves a crumb after every dial. Do whatcha gotta do!

If you started a habit and after a week are having trouble with completing a task don’t be afraid to cut the length of time or effort in half. It’s better to do that than stop.

Download our free simple 30 Day Habit Tracking Form

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

After 30 days, it’s up to you. I’ve found It’s much easier keeping a habit when you’ve got those 30 days in.

Change Your Environment
Make sure your physical and mental space supports the changes you are making. Physically bring items closer to you to make your goals easier. Move away from distractions. The more you can make your environment support your goals and create systems to support them, the more successful you’ll be.

Use the Buddy System

“Surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past.

—Dan Sullivan

Digital and human accountability is great for keeping healthy habits. Check-in with someone daily, weekly or monthly to motivate you to keep going. Accountability apps, daily reports or notifications from apps that help keep goals have been great. It’s fun to watch your progress. I use the Samsung app on my phone to track my movement progress. My slow ass started running at around a 12-minute mile on the treadmill and after a month of running a mile was down to 9:19 (not impressive for runners, but I impressed myself).

Don’t have the right friend for your habit? Get a coach or trainer. I use coaching for many aspects of my life or business. Pay upfront if you can. Spent money is a great motivator. My book wouldn’t have gotten written without a coach helping me along the way.

“Human beings evolved needing two key types of environments: high stress and high recovery”

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work

Rest, Sleep, Enjoy Life & Repeat
Life is more than a to-do list. Decide on quitting time. Enjoy life. Get some sleep. People who “work” all the time aren’t very good at working. They have become really good at appearing to work or procrastination. Work less, enjoy more! The rule of 55 states on average you can only get done 55 hours of work a week. After that, you are just bullshitting yourself. At 60 hours, you might complete the same amount of work of a 50 hour a week person. For me, this meant taking Sundays off and not keeping a computer at home. I try to enjoy the outdoors every Sunday possible. I’m getting better at this but many days it’s still a struggle. Two steps forward and one step back is still progress.

My hope for you is a life of purpose and joy. Make it harder to skip your habits than to keep them. Keep your movements micro until the patterns stick. Use friends, coaches, and technology to keep you on task and enjoy the journey along the way.


photo by Bud Johnson

Mike Allebach is a photographer of couples boudoir and tattooed weddings. His best selling marketing & branding book Viral Personal Branding is available here.  Learn more about weddings and couples boudoir at allebachphotography.com.

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