Tips for Successfully Finishing Tasks with Bipolar Disorder
Last time I talked about why we find it so hard to finish tasks with bipolar but this time I want to focus how we can successfully finish tasks with bipolar disorder, even if it is difficult.
Tips for Finishing Tasks with Bipolar
Here are some tips that help with finishing tasks with bipolar:
- Honestly assess your ability to finish a task. You can’t do everything and you can’t finish everything either. Carefully and realistically assess whether you truly want to start a task if you feel you can’t reasonably finish it.
- Chunk tasks into small sub-tasks. One task I have is to finish decorating my apartment. Unfortunately for me, this involves a whole lot of steps and thus is entirely overwhelming. But if I chunk it down into tiny tasks, each one is something I can more reasonably do and then assess my ability to do the rest later. Then I get credit for finishing a task even though it’s really only part of my overall goal.
- Time-box your effort. If a task really is too big for one sitting, then agree to yourself that you will work on it for a set amount of time and consider adhering to that, task completion.
- Make a task list with absolutely everything you need to do on it daily. Include things like showering, brushing your teeth and eating breakfast (things that you’re likely to do) along with the tougher things. Cross off each task as you complete it. You will feel accomplishment and a small sense of reward just crossing things off a list (really).
- Put an item on your to-do list that says, “Make tomorrow’s to-do list.” Then you’ll be more motivated to keep your to-do list current and more useful.
- Try to use logic to defeat the inertia of bipolar depression. While it may seem like there is no intrinsic reward to finishing a task when you have bipolar depression, there always is some sort of reward when you think about it, even if the only reward is that you don’t have to do that task again (maybe for a while, anyway). So, for example, if cleaning the bathtub was a task on my list, I would use logic to say that if I do it today, I don’t have to do it for another two weeks. That is a reward to me.
- Bribe yourself. I don’t know if it’s just me but I respond fairly well to bribes when finishing tasks. For example, I say to myself, “I will let you (me) eat ice cream if you (me) finish four articles today.” This, then, puts a reward into place for finishing a task. (You could, say, allow a nap after one hour of task work, as another example.)
- Make unbreakable rules for yourself. I, for example, never stop in the middle of an article. This is a solid rule that I don’t break. Once I start an article I finish it. (Apply rules judiciously. Not everything can have rules around it or it will become overbearing.)
- Keep an ideas list. When you have bipolar mania or bipolar hypomania you feel like you have an innumerable amount of amazing ideas. That’s great! But instead of acting on all of them, try keeping an ideas list where you can jot down each idea and then evaluate it as a real task you want to do later.
- Try to work on only one task at a time. Some of us are natural multitaskers (I am) but still, you can’t do more than one thing at a time when you’re vacuuming the carpet or taking out the garbage. Try to avoid getting sidetracked by saying that you will work on a task, and only that task, for a period of time (say, one hour) and then you’ll allow yourself to check your Facebook or return text messages.
- Celebrate when you have bipolar and complete a task. Okay, not every day is a cause for cake from your favorite bakery, but you can have a mini-celebration, if only in your mind, every time you finish a task. It’s a big deal to finish a task when you’re very ill. Give yourself credit for a job well done.
- Don’t beat yourself up for not finishing a task. Beating yourself up for not finishing a task is pretty common if you’re depressed (and maybe even if you’re not) but this helps no one. If you don’t finish a task today, simply wipe the slate clean and try to finish it tomorrow. No one is perfect. No one finishes everything they start immediately. Give yourself a break. You tried and that’s what matters.
In short, you can finish tasks when you have bipolar. It is possible. However, finishing tasks with bipolar is tougher than without and we need to put more coping skills into place to get it done.