As I wrote about before, I was recently in a day hospital program (or partial hospitalization).  I left the day hospital on a Wednesday and I did not return to work until the following Monday.  This meant that I had two days (Thursday and Friday) that I would be home alone, minus my cats.  As most people with depression and/or anxiety know, this situation had a real potential to go south quickly.

My typical instinct would have been to sleep much of the day, which in the end would promote depression, and then promote anxiety when I thought all of the things I could have done while I was sleeping.  I’ve always been a big fan of writing to-do lists.  I’m not necessarily the best at completing these lists, but writing them is a blast.

This time around, I decided to gamify my to-do list in hopes that I would be more incentivized to complete the activities listed.  I am happy to report that it worked!

I have since shared this idea with several people, all of whom have told me that this type of thing would help them a lot, so I decided to share it here.

First, I wrote out three categories; “Must do”, “Want to do”, “Do if depressed”.  In these categories, I filled in some activities, for example:

to do list1

I then took a look at each activity and assigned it points based on its “wellness factor”, which was really just an internal opinion of how healthy the activity was to complete.  More time intensive tasks or unpleasant tasks received a few extra points.  Also, if I did any of the activities in “must do” or “want to do” while depressed, I got double points.

Example:

 to do list2

I added an activity or two that I would typically do when I’m depressed, nap, for example, and that would get 0 points, or could even have negative points.  I put criteria for limiting these activities by listing, “nap for not greater than an hour and a half).

Example:

to do list3

I then decided what a simple but rewarding prize could be for different levels of points (such as, if I reached x number of points by Friday night, I got to choose what my husband and I ate for dinner and what movie we watched).

I ended up doing a lot more on my to-do list than I typically would, and it encouraged me to engage in healthy behaviors.

What works for you when you have low motivation?  Let me know in the comments below.