Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Which strategies can help you get your intellectual work done, under these conditions:

  • Work of an intellectual nature (e.g. PhD thesis, scientific paper, etc)
  • Strict deadline because of life conditions (e.g. running out of money)
  • The worst emotional conditions (e.g. family life just ruined, or any other recent disgrace you simply have not yet had any time to process or accept)
share|improve this question
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I am so sorry for the emotional pain you are going through. It is difficult to get up and face the world after it has come crashing down on you. From what you said in a comment you are going through a period of grief which is hard to handle. Believe me I know, as I lost my beloved 5 years ago and of course I had to continue to work since it was now my only income. Now your comment about losing your family may not mean they died, but losing them because they have turned you out for some reason (which often happens to gay people) is still a loss and you are still suffering from grief. I don't know which is true in your case, but the priciples of dealing with it are the same whether they are lost through death or other means.

First, I know you have a deadline, but you will get the work done faster if you give yourself permission to grieve and take a few days off and do just that. Even one day of just truly grieving will help you get control of your emotions enough to work.

Once you get back to work (or study which is essentially work), then sort out the tasks you have to do to meet the deadline and start with the ones that require the least thought. That will ease you back into working.

Accept that you will still need time to process and take breaks (breaks are better for productivity anyway). If you feel you need to cry, then take a break and cry. I cried multiple times a day every day for a year when Karl died. But cry for a few minutes, then get up and get some coffee or water or just walk around a minute and then back to work.

You will find that as you get back to doing the harder tasks that you'll be able to concentrate for longer and longer periods before it all comes crashing down but only if you let yourself have a little time to grieve before you get back to work. Otherwise the unexpressed emotions will keep you from concentrating. Since you are talking about work like writing a scientific paper, be aware that your first draft will probably be rougher than is your usual standard and that is OK. You would need to revise it anyway and by then, you will be in a better emotional state.

Meditation every morning will help as well. It helps clear the mind of all the stuff that is running around like a freight train in there. Another thing I found helpful ws to write down my feelings (grief, fear, lonliless, whatever) every night before bed. That helped me express them and it helped me sleep better because I didn't have those thoughts racing. Once the intial grief starts to ease, I also found that a daily practice of written gratitudes helped me greatly to focus on the good still in my life.

Sleep is important too. If you are having trouble sleeping, get some medical help. You don't need exhaustion on top of grief when trying to work.

If you can't refocus after a few days, then talk to a grief counselor or join a grief group. It helps to be with people who are going through the same thing or who understand it.

I've done a lot of blogging on grief and that, too, helped me process it. One of the things I've learned by interacting with alot of other people going through grief is that your own attitude can prolong your grief. That's why it is important to fully feel the feelings at first and then start to focus on other things. You have to get to the point where the grief is not the only thing in your life. Having something with a strict deadline is a good thing for this becasue it will force you to get back to living your life.

After all this, well you just keep on going. That's the real secret. You'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish if you just keep working at it every day.

Take care.

share|improve this answer
Thank you very for this answer. It has been extremely helpful. I cannot take a few days of inactivity, but stopping and crying as many times as neccesary and then going back to work some minutes thereafter is useful in practical terms. But the main point is somehow the humanity of your answer. I cannot explain it very well, but I have felt much better, as if someone were with me all the time. Thanks. And I am really sorry about your loss, I hope you have recovered and live happy, you really deserve it. – Mephisto Apr 18 '13 at 4:09
Glad it helped. I do live happy most of the time. My two rescued doggies see to that! These things are hard (losing Karl was by far the hardest thing I ever had to deal with), but they do get better over time. It taught me compassion as well. I reach out more to people (and doggies!) when they need it and that is a blessing. – HLGEM Apr 18 '13 at 14:38

Well, since you run out of time you should focus on getting the most oout of your working time. Schedule clear, simple, achievable and short deadline (1 day for example). For this you have to work in a quiet place to avoid being disturbed. As you start getting something done, you will fill more confident and motivate.

Hope it helps!

share|improve this answer
The work place is quite quiet, in fact I am in complete isolation. But I have recently lost my family and barely can do anything more than sitting in front of the damn computer and trying to see the screen through tears. The emotional issues are the most complicated part to deal with. – Mephisto Apr 17 '13 at 9:45
@Mephisto: Under extreme circumstances, you should always try to get a break and postpone the deadline in order to get time to get back on your feet. Most deadlines can be pushed. – Gruber Apr 17 '13 at 12:06
Thanks, +1. Breaking taks in pieces is useful, too. – Mephisto Apr 18 '13 at 19:18

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.