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Usually, I get organised and plan my projects down to detail. But sometimes, urgent things happen and I get distracted from my path. Afterwards, everything falls apart like a domino effect and all tasks, projects and things to be done, are getting stuck and possibly going backwards. This seems like a failure and overwhelms me, I get depressed and nothing gets done finally..

I don't know what to do. I don't know how to re-motivate myself and gather the pieces of my work to complete the puzzle and accelerate to succeed to my goals.

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Did you have a look at Michael Linenberger's book, which I recommended you recently ( Having a "trusted system" for managing tasks and projects and their priorities can help finding back to the most important things to end such a period of "feeled" failure and frustration. – MostlyHarmless Aug 29 '13 at 8:51
Martin thanks for the suggestion but paying for the chance to find a solution does not work for me. – Radolino Aug 29 '13 at 9:34
I'm not sure if I understand your comment about "paying for the chance to find a solution": you mean, you do not want to invest the 14$ for the book? I see that reading a book about a new productivity methods is a risk of procrastination. However I know some people who started with GTD, lost track of their tasks and projects and finally found help in Linenbergers method. Believe me, I rarely buy a book, I mostly borrow them in Libraries, but this is one I bought. If still you don't want to buy it, have a look at the free ebook first: – MostlyHarmless Aug 29 '13 at 9:58
Slightly related question. – Calculus Knight May 8 '15 at 6:54
up vote 4 down vote accepted

How to motivate oneself in such a phase of frustration

For getting out of such a negative mood with lack of motivation and decreasing feeling of self-worth / self-respect, there is a helpful approach.

"Laudatory diary"

I don't know, if there is a corresponding term in english, translated it would be a "laudatory diary". That means:

Each day, you have to write at least three positive things, which you have done well, e. g.
tasks completed, moved projects forward, helped someone else, ....
And if there is nothing else to note, you can also start with "Although I was tired and wanted to stay in bed, I have got up this morning".

This may sound strange at first, but after a while you see that you are making small steps forward.

Insist on fair and respectful treatment of yourself

A second very important thing is: Many people tend to talk very negatively to themselves (loud or "internally"), like insulting themselves or putting themselves down with words or thoughts.

If you notice that you are treating yourself in such a way, say "stop it!" to yourself and insist, that you are treating yourself with respect!

Technically: Getting back focus on important things

What I do, if I am in such a situation to get back my focus
(and that happens quite often to me currently :-( ),

  • I take a sheet of paper,
  • write down the most important projects on it
    (not necessarily the most urgent ones, but those with the biggest impact like e. g. the businessplan, that the CEO wants me to develop or things that my boss needs from me)
  • define the next actions necessary for bringing those projects forward
  • start with doing such a next action

If it is difficult to concentrate on the task and if I tend to get distracted by everything, I often use the Pomodoro Technique.

  • I've described the approach and its benefits for me here:
  • It helps me, getting a good balance between work time and breaks
  • I usually set the pomodoro time to 25 minutes with 5 minutes breaks inbetween, that makes 2 pomodori per hour.

Some years ago I also tried a 17+3 minutes schedule, but it depends on the length of the tasks to accomplish. If you have tasks that will probably take less than 25 minutes, you should set a countdown timer to the estimated time. I often use for that.

Another common scheme is 48+12 minutes (see and For larger tasks were an interruption breaks the flow, that might be better suited. But if you have problems with motivating yourself, it might be better to stick with shorter intervals of work and break. An important thing is: always use the timer - for work as well as for breaks, as you easily forget starting it (especially for breaks) and then might tend to procrastinate instead of getting back to work.

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This should be a default procedure to follow but the problem is, how to overcome the disappointment and loss of time when everything has gone backwards ? – Radolino Aug 29 '13 at 9:35
Oh, I see. I'll edit my answer later. – MostlyHarmless Aug 29 '13 at 9:59
what timeframes do you use for pomodoro? Just the usual 25/5 ? – Radolino Sep 4 '13 at 13:09
I've edited my answer accordingly – MostlyHarmless Sep 4 '13 at 14:52

Hold off on planning too far in advance and be realistic about your ability to commit the necessary time. Things do happen. There's no point in determining you can complete a task in one interupted hour, when you know that rarely happens. Give yourself more time.

Trying to perfectly optimize the time in your planning will be frustrating when they don't workout the way you want. Leave some room. The time you save by not over planning can be used for personal time.

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What kind of productivity system are you using? GTD? Kanban? Any system must be able to handle the fact that urgent things may happen, which is normal and to be expected.

Of course, your planned path will be put on hold as you deal with critical unexpected tasks, but once you're done you can get back to your original plan, review the tasks, and move on. There is no need to get depressed for that.

As interruptions are normal, you cannot afford to become depressed when they happen; they are just a part of everyday life. If you need motivation, keep thinking about the rewards that will come down the road following discipline and persistence.

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what about the tasks that have been planned and scheduled for the following weeks/months ? If you get a distraction of one week everything goes back. I am using GTD. – Radolino Aug 29 '13 at 9:48
I believe you need a more agile approach since so many interruptions seem to be happening to you. I suggest you try out Personal Kanban for a while. Don't plan your activities ahead in the calendar; just stick to your Kanban board and do tasks simply when you find the time to do them. – Gruber Aug 29 '13 at 10:52
How do you estimate this way ? Especially when you have a deliverable ? – Radolino Aug 29 '13 at 10:58
If you have deadlines you need to put time estimates on your tasks. You can do that with Kanban; just write it on the sticky notes typically used. Then do the math and check whether your scheme is plausible. One great strength of agile methodologies is that they visualize your situation, highlighting problems, and in your case I think it may be that you take on too much work or need more resources to have a fair shot. – Gruber Aug 29 '13 at 11:04
Generally, it's a misconception that you need deadlines to be effective. Instead you have a backlog of tasks that you pull things from. And of course, that goes on forever. – Gruber Aug 29 '13 at 11:12

Kanban board.

I faced the same situations and managed it as follow

  1. Todoist : is one of the tool to keep list of tasks you have to do. I can sync it with my browser, and mobile. Now I don't waste my time to remember what I have to do
  2. Google calendar : I schedule all events, and task in google calendar. Since it is sync with my mobile, I get alerts offline too. However it sends me mail & SMS alert. I also save my time to remember what I have to do and when
  3. kanbanflow : all the tasks which require some effort (excluding small tasks like wishing someone, calling someone etc). It controls what I a dong currently, what I have to do next, and what I have done. I can provide the description of task or its current status, sub tasks, and due date, estimated effort etc. So when I need to switch to any other task, I can easily do it. Next time when I'll pick half done tasks, I can remind from completed sub tasks, comment, and description where,when, and why I left it in between.

I am very satisfied with this.

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Ho do you schedule events in your calendar? this is the most fuzzy part of my mind.. I have all my tasks organised in Asana but I am lacking in Calendar scheduling because of laziness and interruptions. – Radolino Sep 4 '13 at 13:00
online: click on date box and add aevent; mobile: click on a date box and add agenda – Amit Gupta Sep 5 '13 at 6:10
No, I mean how do you estimate? How do you choose your next task? Considering programming, I fall every time apart in scheduling how much time will it take to implement the X feature. And as I said, it works like a domino - If one thing fails, then everything that follows goes wrong. – Radolino Sep 5 '13 at 6:32
for my own tasks, I don't do any estimation. I just see what needs to be done when. And what is on priority. Kanban board helps me controlling number of parallel work and easy switching among the tasks. So I never require effort estimation. Can you give me an example where you really need it? – Amit Gupta Sep 5 '13 at 9:05

Unpredicted things will always happen and from time to time you'll need to review the plans you've made to adjust them accordingly.

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