GTD and depression

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by opentoideas, Nov 21, 2017.

  1. opentoideas

    opentoideas Registered

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    Hi all,
    I used to be active in this community: I bought "the book" in 2005 (?), read it, thought it was the greatest thing. I remodeled my time management system around it (see p.s. if you are into software). I will admit that I threw out the hanging folders recommended in the book for an alphabetical directory on my hard drive, but that is a minor sin I think.
    I am currently dealing with a case of (professionally diagnosed) depression, which is having a rather big impact on my productivity.
    I suspect I'm not the only person on here with such an experience, and I also think that others have insight into how best to deal with it.

    Hence my question:
    How do you harness the wisdom of GTD to deal with chronic depression?


    I know this sort of question is awkward within the intended scope of the forum. But I dare to hope that there is enough fiber within this professional community to make suggestions. Of course, your opinion is your own and you should just fire away if you think I should back off.

    Thank you all for your time.

    p.s. Software: I tried a lot of options around 2002, then more after I read GTD. After a few years (2007?) i settled for Toodledo. Still use it today, without bothering to check for better alternatives. You know why? It works. It syncs with everything I own/am imposed through organization. I will go further: When I get free time that would let me evaluate other software, I will use that time to evaluate other options in my life, stick to Toodledo, invest the time elsewhere.
     
  2. rtaylor913

    rtaylor913 Registered

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    I appreciate your post since you continue to struggle with a difficult issue.

    From a GTD perspective, two things seem to be most appropriate. First, I would depend on mindsweeps. Many times things that weigh on people is the unspoken and unidentified. Just getting things out where you can objectively look at them gives some sense to life. (I had to do this the morning my father died suddenly and, in the worst situation of my life, gave me some clarity.)

    Second, continue to ask "what's the next action?' You can only act on things.

    As for software, all have good points and all have drawbacks. I would focus on process rather than tools. It is in the process where you will find traction when software is not as friendly.
     
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  3. AnneMKE

    AnneMKE Registered

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    Offering a few additional thoughts to @rtaylor913 's good suggestions above:

    1. GTD can be a support structure in tough times, and it may be helpful to think of it that way instead of as another thing you have to do. In particular, GTD separates the executive function of thinking and deciding from the worker-bee function of doing. Depression can especially attack the executive function, so having a worker-bee list you can just do can be a really helpful support.

    2. GTD lets you separate your inventory of tasks/projects into "I choose to, or must, spend time on this now" and "This can wait until I get through this tough period," essentially an "on hold" group. Depression makes it hard to get up the gumption to permanently delete something from the list, but it also makes it easier to get overwhelmed looking at a long list. The "now" vs "on hold" distinction helps narrow what's in front of you, without using resources you don't have.

    3. GTD also lets you separate the inventory into "actions that require focus" and "actions that require little energy." Depression puts you in the latter category a lot, and it's nice to have a list of things you can do when there.

    4. In the "engage" step in the GTD system, we're encouraged to choose intuitively from our lists. That's where depression can really get in the way -- a depressed brain can look at a wonderfully curated list and still get stuck. It's really helpful to use a couple of additional tools, beyond just intuition, to put engagement more on autopilot. Flexible time blocks and daily routines are two tools that might be helpful here.

    5. You already know this, but depression will tell you you're doing it wrong, and a "thank, ignore, repeat" strategy to respond to that voice may be helpful.

    Best to you.
     
  4. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    I am curious, do you have any goals/ projects/ next actions on your lists related to the subject of dealing with your depression? (I'm not asking you to tell me what they are, unless you want to.)

    By the way, I have an Area of Focus (20,000ft) specifically for "Mental Health" and it does spark projects now and again when I review it. I bet most GTD'ers have "Health" as an AOF but I wonder how many consider their psychological health as part of that.
     
  5. WebMarketer

    WebMarketer Registered

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    I find it interesting that "Mental Health" is one of your AOF. This is an important one for me too. I know it can also be a highly personal one. But can you expand a bit more on this specific AOF in terms of how you go about defining your responsibilities here? I find myself struggling to get clarity on this one, even though it's important to me... Any advice?
     
  6. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    Well, I don't define any responsibilities as such, I simply think "is there anything about my mental health that is of concern right now?" or "is there anything I could be doing to improve my mental state?" It can be difficult to tell if there's something "off" with your mind because you're using your mind to find out, but at least asking those questions helps and the AOF review is the trigger for that question asking.

    Personally I might notice an general increase in anxiety (I get physical symptoms like dizziness) which might prompt me to raise a project related to relaxation or an increase in anger/stress which might lead me to reducing my active project list/ cut some social projects (I find social activities very taxing). I think the latest thoughts on this matter led me to a project that I need to express myself more, although that project has been SDMB'd as I've just got too much on my plate right now. Don't want to ruin my mental health trying to improve my mental health....

    I also notice when I'm feeling a bit depressed but- you know what?- I don't always see that as a problem. Sure, the constant hopeless feelings of despair that full blown depression exhibit are no way to live, but I think periods of slight depression are of benefit- part of the yin and yang of life and providing us with feedback and information about how we're feeling about what we're doing.
     
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  7. sour_shoes_fanatic

    sour_shoes_fanatic Registered

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    I also struggle with mild to moderate depression that has increased over the years. It surfaces right around Halloween and seems to peak right around New Years. So not only do I empathize with what you are going through, I am dealing with it right now! I live in Upstate NY where the weather is pretty bleak with very little light, so my issue is definitely seasonal, but members of my family have also struggled with "the blues", so part of it is also genetic.

    I have found that the best way to deal with this VERY TOUGH ISSUE is through some sort of PHYSICAL EXERCISE. While it can be tough to get moving when one is "depressed", it is by far the best antidote that I have found. Here is an article that really helped me called: How I cured my depression: Exercise the Demons >> https://www.malandarras.com/depression-3

    The second important thing for me is MEDITATION. I learned Transcendental Meditation a few years back and it has been helpful in mitigating the problem.

    As far as GTD goes, I find that the checklist approach and "point system" works best for me. Here is a checklist that I use specifically for dealing with my mental health:

    - Meditation (2 points): Practice TM 2X each day for 20 minutes each
    - Exercise (3 Points): AT LEAST 30 minutes of intense physical activity
    - Walking (1 Point): Walk at least 10,000 steps (I have a fitbit)
    - Journaling (1 Point): Write for 15 minutes in DayOne journal
    - Nutrition: (1 Point) for each healthy nutritious meal

    My goal is to have at least 6 points for the day.

    As I am writing this, it is four days until Christmas (just about my worst time of year) and I recognize that I'm feeling pretty down. I am also realizing that I haven't been doing this regularly since I've been caught up in year-end craziness at work. So let me go through it now:

    - Meditation: 1 Point. I did TM this morning, but of late have found myself skipping the afternoon session. I will meditate as soon as I finish this post.
    - Exercise: 0 Points. Haven't worked out for 3 days. No wonder I'm feeling like garbage.
    - Walking: 0 Points. As I write this, I'm at 4,418 steps. I've averaged about 5,000 steps in the last 3 days. Although I don't much feel like it, it's time to get moving.
    - Journaling: 1 point. I didn't write in my journal this morning, but just by taking the time to write this post (and hopefully help someone), I feel like that is a win.
    - Nutrition: 1 point. I had a good, healthy breakfast, but lunch was a BLT with french fries, so no good. Haven't had dinner yet, but it is going to have to be something nourishing to get the point.

    So I have 3 points and the day is 75% done - no wonder my depression has worsened of late! Time to bite the bullet and get moving.

    I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck!
     
  8. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    Interesting that you post this on the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Have you considered light therapy? This is something you can easily experiment with yourself- just buy some bright light bulbs (with good blue spectrum) for where you are going to be around. Careful though it doesn't upset your sleep cycle. Probably not a good idea to expose yourself to bright light in the evening in the hours before going to bed. How is your sleep anyway?
     
  9. sour_shoes_fanatic

    sour_shoes_fanatic Registered

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    LOL - Yes, December 21st is my least favorite day - It's all downhill from here! Yes, I do have a bright light that I use in the early mornings and it helps. I should also add that I got tested for vitamin D levels by my primary care doc a few years back and they were below normal. So over the past couple of years I've bumped up my intake starting around October 1st. That helps too. Sleep is pretty good since I started taking Melatonin before bed. Also try to keep the electronic devices out of the bedroom and only read fiction before crashing. That all helps tremendously.
     
  10. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    It has always seemed to me that GTD has some shared ground with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a widely used system for treatment of mental health issues, including depression.
     
  11. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    Thanks for reminding me about vitamin D and depression. I seem to remember a local news item here in Scotland about them thinking about giving folks vit D supplements in winter. I find the link between sleep and mood quite fascinating and not always straightforward. After a good sleep for instance I feel good but seem to become a bit short tempered. I've thought about experimenting with melatonin but I think the tablets are too strong- I'd try taking sour cherry juice which contains melatonin if I was going to do it. I suppose by varying your light exposure you are adjusting your melatonin anyway.
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2017
  12. tdubya

    tdubya Registered

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    Just want to say thank you for this thread which is now on my watch list. I suffer from depression at times as well as being suspected ADHD. I love the executive function v worker bee analogy. I call the executive bit like being my own Chief Executive.
     

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