Last weekend, my life felt gross and messy.
When I wasn’t hunched over my iPhone, mindlessly thumbing my way through an insta feed that never seemed to change, I was haze eating anything (and everything) I could get my hands on – desparately trying to keep myself distracted from everything productive I had planned.
Basically, it sucked – I couldn’t stop procrastinating, I managed to wiggle my way out of everything on my to-do list and I spent the whole time feeling like I was acting against my own will.
So on Sunday night, I realised I needed to do something to snap myself out of it and put aside an hour to get myself feeling motivated and productive again. The things I did were really simple. And when I shared them on my insta story that night (my insta is @smarttwenties) I got such an overwhelming response that I thought it’d be helpful to elaborate on my process a little more here!
We all have our ups and downs and I’ve found myself in this situation more times than I can count. And while it’s great to prevent having a slump in the first place (I find a morning routine definitely helps!) it’s also good to know what to do when one happen – because they do happen. Way more than we’d like.
So in this post I’m sharing the step-by-step process I go through to get myself out of a slump. I hope you find it helpful!
STEP 1 – REFLECT
The first step is always reflection because I find it really hard to get organised if I haven’t wrapped my head around what’s been going on! For me, this had two parts.
The first part was reflecting on the week generally.
Even though my slump only lasted a couple of days (which was definitely one of my shorter ones) the week leading up to it played a big role! I find that I can wade through my thoughts the most easily if I handwrite them (rather than type them out or think about them) so I got my notebook and wrote down everything that came to mind when I thought about where my time and energy had been going and how this was making me feel. And I did these stream-of-consciousness style, without any censoring.
During this process, it’s really important not to go into victim mode and blame anyone else in your life. I like to keep my braindump focused around the actions I did and didn’t take and the feelings that drove those actions. Our feelings come from the way we think about our circumstances, so it’s really important not to convince yourself that you would have had a better week if someone in your life had done something differently – even though that might feel true. The point of the exercise is to keep it focused on the things that are in your control.
When I did this exercise, I realised that I had filled in ALL of my spare time with blogging so by the time I got to the weekend I was started to get burned out. This means I need to make sure I get some pure downtime (something I’m not great at haha) and that when I do find myself in that burned out state of mind, that I need to give myself permission to rest rather than trying to force myself to follow through with my plans. This is something my business coach Kit has been helping me with, which leads me to the second part of the reflection process.
The second part was reflecting on my coaching session.
I promise I’ll share more about my business coach, Kit, soon (like how I find him, why I hired him and how it’s helped) but after each weekly coaching session I reflect on what went down in my coaching journal, which is just a Moleskin notebook I use for everything coaching related. I do this so I can process everything again, see things I hadn’t been able to see in the moment and re-familiarise myself with everything I committed to achieving before my next session.
I don’t do a braindump of uncensored thoughts like I did when I was reflecting on my week generally. Instead, I try to recall our coaching session word-for-word as best I can. Even though this is a little tedious, I find it’s the best way to take myself back to the moment!
I know you might not have a coaching session to reflect on, but I wanted to share this as it’s part of my process!
STEP 2 – BACK TO BASICS
At this stage of the process, I’ve started to figure out how I ended up in a slump. And as I mentioned, I did this in a way that didn’t put the blame on anyone else – I only looked at my actions (and inaction) and the thoughts and feelings that drove them.
So now I like to think about what simple or little things I can do to get myself feeling organised and productive so that I make sure they’re included when I’m planning the coming week. For me there are two things that keep me grounded: waking up when my alarm goes off and working out consistently. Those two things make me feel like I’m in control of my day, which makes everything else WAY easier!
Your things might be completely different. Just have a think back to the times in your life you’ve felt the most organised and productive and look for the similarities. These are the things that I make sure I’m doing.
STEP 3 – WRITE A TO-DO LIST FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
Now that I know how I got myself into a slump and I’ve reminded myself of a couple of things that always get me feel motivated and productive, I start to plan the week ahead. And this is my favourite part because I LOVE planning!
In the next step I put everything I’m going to do into my calendar. But at this point, I just do another braindump on everything I want to achieve in the coming week.
If you’re anything like me, you can get a little ambitious when it comes to to-do lists (understatement of the year) but at this stage that’s ok. I literally just write down everything I want to do. And I do this because I find it easier to write an unfiltered to-do list first and then edit what I’ve got rather than trying to write a perfect to-do list straight out of my brain. And I’m working on getting better at this, but I also write down the ‘unproductive’ things I want to do too – like hanging out with my friends, watching Netflix with Steve (omg I’m so in love with Riverdale – we just finished season 1) and chilling by myself.
Basically, the idea is just to get everything out of my brain and onto a page. The next step is when the prioritising and editing happens.
STEP 4 – PUT IT ALL IN MY CALENDAR
This is potentially the most important step in the process and it’s one of the newest to me! After some strong encouragement from my business coach, I’ve discovered that putting my to-do list into my calendar is actually the best way to stop me getting overwhelmed (because endless to-do lists are not fun). And because I suck at estimating how long things will take, he also gave me a really great tip to help me stop falling behind – which is to leave blocks of time aside to finish incomplete or unfinished tasks. I’ll show you what this looks like in a minute!
Here’s what I do:
1. I start with a completely blank calendar (I use iCal on my Macbook Air but you could literally use any kind of calendar or diary if you want to do the same thing) and add in my commitments for the week – the hours I’ll be working at my part-time job and any appointments or fun things I have planned.
2. Once those are in, I add in some downtime and my foundations – waking up when my alarm goes off and working out consistently. The beauty of putting this in my calendar is that it forces me to decide when I’m going to wake up and when I’m going to work out, which makes it way more likely to happen (indecision is the enemy).
3. The third and final step is to add in all the other things I want to achieve throughout the week. And for me, they’re all blogging related! So I look back at the to-do list I created in step 3 and begin by estimating how long each task will take (I rarely get this right, but an estimate is still important). I then prioritise each of these tasks, numbering them 1 through X. Once I’ve got that, I start to play around with it in my calendar. I try my best to group similar tasks together and schedule creative tasks earlier in my day and mundane tasks for later (before mundane tasks are draining AF). As I mentioned earlier, I also create a little buffer for myself by allocating a period of time to complete unfinished tasks (for me this was Thursday). And for the times I want to work on my blog but don’t have a specific task yet, I just schedule it as ‘blogging’.
STEP 5 – DO IT
Once I’ve done that, the final step is to follow my plan! The plan can change if something else makes more sense (since I don’t have a crystal ball) but it’s really important to only change my plans for legitimate reasons – not excuses or laziness! I’ve found a great way to keep track is to copy and paste a tick symbol (like this – ✔) at the beginning of each calendar entry once it’s done so I can keep track of how I’m going. Plus ticking off a to-do list is the funnest part, so I don’t want to miss out on that!
So that’s it – the step-by-step process I use to get myself out of a slump. I hope you find it helpful and I’d love to hear in the comments what you do to get yourself out of a slump!