How to Remain Productive When the Shit Hits the Fan


My husband told me I should write this post, despite the fact that all I really want to do is hide under five blankets while watching a foreign film I can cry along with. Perhaps while eating Nutella with a spoon.

About a year ago, I stopped using credit cards, transferring all my debt onto two 0%-interest cards that I planned on paying off within a year. Then I lost my most major client, and this plan was seriously derailed. I’ve never fully recovered from that huge loss of regular income.

Then, this morning, I realized that my year’s worth of 0% interest was up, and the APRs had jumped up to 22% and 29%. It made me feel so helpless. I hated the fact that I had gotten my act in gear, but was still paying for my previous idiocy. It made me wonder if I had been stupid to turn down two full-time job interviews in the past month. I became sure that I would never catch up. Never be debt-free. Never be able to afford a career coaching certification. Never be able to save for a house, or a family.

Understandably, I don’t feel much like blogging (or doing any sort of writing) this morning. Unfortunately, if I don’t write, I don’t get paid. So, after the jumps, the steps I’m taking to make it through today:

  • repeatedly playing Yael Naim’s “New Soul.” It’s impossible to feel crappy while listening to this song.
  • listing all the ways in which my personal disasters can be handled, robbing them of the power they now hold over absolutely all of my attention. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems.
  • drawing up a to-do list of work-related tasks, and rewarding myself with downtime (or that banana caramel crunch ice cream in the freezer) every time I cross something off. This helps me feel productive, and in control.
  • leaving this damn condo at least once, for some fresh air. This will counteract the dark gloominess peeking in through my living room window.
  • reminding myself that succumbing to this lack of motivation will only make thing worse. How can I increase my monthly income without desperately jumping on a full-time job I’ll only hate?
  • taking a Xanax. Maybe.

How do you guys handle lack of motivation due to depression, disaster, or frustration? Please do share in the comments, and continue the conversation in our Freelancedom Forums.


  1. margiewrites says:

    Hang in there! I have school loans to pay back myself, and it is not fun! On days when I feel crappy like you describe, I indulge in a little trash TV. You know, stuff like Judge Joe Brown and Maury Povich paternity test revelations that always seem to distract me enough to think about something else for a while and even laugh a little. And then those silly commercials that play during daytime TV–those get-off-the-couch-you-lazy-bum-and-go-back-to-school-and-make-a-living-as-a-medical-assistant ones–that make me feel a little better about myself, and what I’m doing with my life.

  2. I recommend a few (hundred) rounds of Scramble on Facebook. And maybe the Xanax. 🙂

    I’m so sorry about this. I know it sucks. But please don’t lose hope. You have a lot of talent and drive, and you’re going to make it. But feel free to wallow for a little while and work it out of your system. I’m a big believer in wallowing in self-pity for awhile…because eventually I get tired of it and get back to work. I know you will, too. In the meantime, get some of that fresh air you were writing about! And maybe some of that Girl Scout cookie ice cream…

  3. Saw your post on twitip and thought I’d pop over for a visit. I know the feeling! I’ve been there a few months now. I haven’t been working for a few months because we just had our first baby, and I’m overloading myself with stress about the bills we’re behind on. Do I go back to work and hate life? Or buckle down and really try to build this business I’ve been talking about for 4 years? Or, just find a book and a chocolate bar and try to forget how unproductive I feel.

    Damn us women for overthinking everything. It’s just life, right?

  4. It’ll get better soon. Who knows, the opportunity of your dreams can be “one query letter or resume away.” I think we all have those periods when our business does extremely well, and we’re able to achieve different financial goals. And then without warning, a client pulls out and financial cushion disappears. This has happened to me on numerous occasions. But I always recover. I stay business, work on personal projects, and keep my eyes open to new opportunities.

  5. For a few days, you’re seeing things as they really are. Getting back on your feet entails telling yourself a massive lie, or at least an unsupportable conjecture: that things will come out okay.

  6. Thanks for all the support guys! I suppose the ups and downs of freelancing are especially conducive to these periods of hopelessness and frustration. Then again, when you’re doing good, it feels so great!

    @Bri: Congrats on the baby! Once I head in that direction, that’ll be a whole new set of roadblocks to overcome. But that’s part of the reason I’m doing this. I want a schedule I have complete control over, so that I can work while being a stay-at-home mom (and perhaps get an ulcer). 🙂


  1. […] back in March, I wrote about pushing through periods of low motivation when it seems as if everything’s going […]

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