Last month, we released a video on our YouTube channel about getting back on the horse when you’ve fallen into a productivity death spiral. 

It happens to the best of us. Including me. 

My name is Harlee, and I’ve been the behind-the-scenes gal at Lifehack Method since its inception back in 2015. 

Working for productivity coaches is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I have access to the best productivity coaches in the biz (not biased at all) and all of their advice and tips and tricks… 

… and it’s a curse for the same exact reason! 

Because I’m human… And my natural instinct when life gets messy or I feel unconfident or aimless is to protect myself from that feeling. To avoid it. Not charge head first at it and take care of it in a timely, seamless fashion! That’d be too easy! 

But this time, serendipity had another plan. I was mid-productivity-death-spiral when this video appeared in my Asana to be prepared for publication.

Go figure!

I took this as a sign. And as an invitation to practice what we here at Lifehack Method teach.

How I interpret the video for myself

I like to call myself a “recovering perfectionist.” Meaning – I am plagued by the crippling need for everything I do to be the best thing I’ve ever done… and I am self aware enough to know that’s ludicrous!

The most annoying part about perfectionism for me is the self doubt. When my mental health is in need of some major maintenance, the self doubt only gets worse. I second guess my ability to do even the simplest parts of my job… And my creativity (a key component of my livelihood) suffers immensely. 

When I start to feel overwhelmed, I shut down. My productivity tanks, my anxiety kicks into high gear, and I feel like I can’t get anything done right. 

There’s a line in the video in which Demir says “Some people face obstacles and they find them exciting and even fun to break through… Other people get frustrated and depressed.”

The first time I heard him say that, I thought: “Oh noooooo… Am I the person who gets frustrated and depressed?!” 

When anxiety hits me like a truck, it really does feel like a death spiral – not just productivity-wise, but emotionally, physically… All of it. So that part’s true for me – it is SO frustrating. 

But then eventually – maybe after an hour, maybe after a week – something in me claws its way to the surface and tells me “Hey girl, let’s get this taken care of. Don’t you want to feel good again?”

At which point I kick myself into high-gear, doing whatever I need to do to feel good again! Usually that means using the “mental health maintenance tool-kit” my therapist and I have built for me over the years. 

But this time, instead of pulling from my existing tool-kit, I am taking a page out of Demir’s book. So let’s get into it!

GETTING BACK ON THE HORSE (AND SKIPPING THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL)

Step 1: If you’re going to fall off the horse, fall more quickly.

After about a week of feeling like total crap – waking up sad, feeling like a crappy employee, lacking creativity and focus – I started to shut down. 

I knew I had been falling off the horse in slow-mo. And I knew it was time to just let it happen.

Step 2: Learn how to fall without hurting yourself 

I love this part. For me, it’s what transforms this one-off experiment into a tool I can throw into my “mental health maintenance tool-kit.” 

If I can train my brain to course correct in a moment of overwhelm, why wouldn’t I?! 

Step 3: Have a reset ritual

(Here’s the link to Lifehack Method’s Overcoming Overwhelm Cheat Sheet)

This is my favorite part. And really where it was most important for me to follow the instructions to a tee.

The basic guidelines for a reset ritual are to: 

  1. Acknowledge and accept that you’re overwhelmed
  2. Thank your overwhelm
  3. Change your state 
  4. Replace negative inner dialogue with positive inner dialogue 

This actually resembles a tool I’ve already learned in therapy and use in my daily life… just never about work. I think the basic purpose of this (at least for me) is to give my overwhelm and anxiety center stage. Just for a moment. Instead of pretending like it’s the elephant in the room and that it’ll go away when it’s ready… Just looking it in the face and saying “OKAY. I GET IT. I SEE YOU. LET’S CHAT.”

So I whipped out my journal and started writing. 

First, I acknowledged it. 

My current mental health had impeded my ability to stay focused, wrecked my daily schedule, and delivered a blow to my professional confidence. Which all, in turn, affect my ability to do a good job and feel good about the work I do. I see that, I understand that.  

Then I thanked my brain for doing that for me. 

Thank you, I know you just want me to feel better. I know you want me to rest more, and do what makes me feel good, and stay away from the stuff that makes me scared. I get it. Thank you so much. 

Then I changed my state. 

I stepped out onto my balcony and watered my plants, counting my breaths up to ten over and over until I was done. I thought of one thing I was grateful for for a full 10 breaths. I’m grateful for my friends. I’m grateful for my mom. I’m grateful for today’s weather. I’m grateful for… 

And it worked. 

And finally, I started feeding myself positive mantras. I am good at my job. My bosses appreciate the work I do. I have good ideas. I am always open to learning new things. I am confident in the work that I create. I am enough.

It felt a little funny, I’ll admit! But that worked too.

Step 4: Get back on the horse!

You know that feeling you get when you successfully jumpstart your car after its battery has died? That rush of excitement and relief? And the feeling of “I NEED to drive home while this thing is still running”?

That’s what I felt like after trying the Reset Ritual. Like I had to capitalize on the momentum that it provided for me! 

So I sat down at my desk and cranked out a bunch of creative-based tasks I’d been dragging my feet on for a few days. In the course of 2 hours, I was able to accomplish that which had felt impossible all week! 

Results

I want to make it clear here that running this process once did not cure me of all anxiety, depression, and overwhelm. Of course not! That is not Demir’s aim for this exercise, nor is it my intended outcome.

My goal with this experiment was to start retraining my brain (the self-aware princess that she is) to better recognize overwhelm and respond to it faster and more effectively than before, so that I could get my productivity back to a normal level.

So I ran the process as many times as necessary over the course of the week. No shame in my game!

Overall, I ran this process 7 times in a 5-day work week. Three times on the first day, twice on the second day, and twice on the third. (It was a rough week in my brain!) On the fourth and fifth day, I didn’t have to run the process at all. 

In the few weeks following the experiment, I distilled Demir’s process into something that felt more authentic and sustainable for me. I made my own Reset Ritual – really meditating on the mantras I knew would get through to me when I felt like a professional train wreck. 

And listen… I know that I’m biased. I know I work for these guys, and they are amazing bosses to have. 

But this WORKS! It really works. If I had just stumbled across this video on YouTube and tried this process randomly, I know it would’ve worked. 

Because more than anything else, this process is about becoming more emotionally intelligent from within. It’s all about YOU! 

Demir & Carey Bentley

Demir and Carey Bentley are the founders of Lifehack Method, WSJ & USA Today bestselling authors, and executive productivity coaches. They've helped thousands of people avoid burnout and soar to their highest level of productivity. Read more about them here.