Living with a chronic illness, whether it’s cancer, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, or others, has its share of challenges. Daily survival turns to triage and it becomes a significant struggle to get things done. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. There is a better way! Learn how to be productive both at home and at work with a chronic illness. This easy method will surprise you!
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First Things First
Back in the day, I was a Stephen Covey groupie. I was young in my career and quickly adopted his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and “first things first.” It’s how I prioritized my days for 25 years. And it worked. Until it didn’t.
See, I used to be the person who woke up at 4:30, was at the gym at 5:00, and at my desk by 7:00 for a day full of hopping and popping.
I quickly climbed the corporate ladder in both industry and government.
I multi-tasked like it was nobody’s business.
I was recruited to each position I had.
I got promotions.
I thought through my tasks like a chess player.
I was a born analytic thinker.
I remembered every minute detail.
I crossed T’s.
I dotted I’s.
I was known as the “go-to” person.
I. GOT. SH*T. DONE.
And Then I Got Sick
And then I got sick. Dealing with cancer was bad enough, but then I had the pleasure of enduring Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease. For years, my energy level and cognition got worse and worse. Healthy lifestyle changes made it better, but the aftermath still left me a completely different person.
In addition to chronic fatigue and pain, my brain was broken. It became something of a combination of swiss cheese and a black hole.
I had brain fog.
I couldn’t focus.
I couldn’t remember anything.
I couldn’t repeat anything.
I couldn’t think.
I had zero energy.
My overall health declined so much that I had to resign from a 6-figure job. Overnight, we lost half of our family’s income. The worst part though was that I stopped being me. I went from a successful overachiever to someone who could barely remember her own name. I have this beautiful family to take care of, and this amazing business to build, and every day, I felt like I was fighting against myself just to put one foot in front of the other. I felt like every day was one step forward and three steps back.
There is a Better Way
I wanted to still be productive, even in the midst of fatigue and pain and illness. I knew there had to be a better way.
I wake up every morning with a decent amount of energy, and then it rapidly declines throughout the day. Some days I would have more energy to actually get things done. Other days, I spent on the couch. I kept fighting against myself trying to be productive the old way. And then it hit me. Traditional priority planning doesn’t work with a chronic illness.
If you’re like me… suffering from cognition issues and/or chronic fatigue and/or chronic pain and/or a chronic illness…
YOU. CAN. STILL. BE. PRODUCTIVE.
Yes! You heard me. You can still be productive! Even on your worst days. All it takes is a little introspection and a little tweak in the way you plan your day.
Are you ready?
I mean… are you REALLY ready to start being productive again?
How to Be Productive with a Chronic Illness
You can be productive with a chronic illness in 3 simple steps. It’s a little introspection and a little tweak in the way you plan your day. That’s it.
This method can be used both at work and at home. It doesn’t matter. The concept is universal.
1. Get to Know Your Productivity Cycle
Traditional priority planning doesn’t work with chronic illness. The first step is to do a little introspection. I recommend keeping track in a journal for a week or two just so you can see on paper what your productivity cycle is.
Get to know yourself. What are your symptoms? What is your energy cycle like?
Make 3 columns.
The first column is going to be the time of day. You can use 1-2 hour increments for this.
The second column is what you normally do during this time.
The third column is how you feel.
After a week or two, go back through and look for trends. Do you normally have the most amount of energy first thing in the morning? Do you crash in the afternoon? Or do you wake up in pain, and finally feel better later in the day?
Make an honest assessment of how you feel each day. Granted, some days are going to be different than others, but there should be some consistent trends that emerge.
2. What are Your Top Priorities?
Next, make a list of your top priorities. These are the big picture priorities for your day. As you are writing these down, think about what absolutely has to get done? What are your nice-to-dos?
Think of your top priorities at the project level, not at the task level.
3. Merge with Your Productivity Cycle
Now, let’s merge your priorities with your productivity cycle. List out the tasks from your projects and priorities. The difference… you are going to split up your tasks between Challenging To-Do’s and Easy To-Do’s.
Your Challenging To-Do’s are going to be completed when you feel your best.
Your Easy To-Do’s will be completed when you are tired and not at your best.
Examples for Home:
Challenging To-Do’s might be to do the laundry, cook dinner, or go grocery shopping.
Easy To-Do’s might be to write a letter, send an email, or meal plan.
Here’s how it works in real life. Write down your Challenging To-Do’s on one side and your Easy on the other side. Can you wash and dry the laundry when you feel your best and fold the clothes while you are resting on the couch? If you get tired at night, can you cook dinner when you feel good and reheat it at dinner or put dinner in the Crock Pot earlier in the day? See what I mean?
Examples for Work:
I know that every work environment is different, but as much as you can, try to complete your more challenging tasks during your optimal times. You know what they are based on what you do. Plan to send out administrative emails or collaborate with teammates during your Easy time.
I know what you are thinking. How can it be this simple and actually work? Trust the process.
What is Your Plan?
What is your plan? What strategies work for you?
As with any new habit, give it time to become your new normal. “They” say that it takes 21 days to form a habit. But seriously, give it some time and let it sink in.
I can tell you from my own personal experience that this has completely changed my life. I no longer look at a list of things to do and still shake my head trying to figure out what to do. I now look at each column based on how I feel and knock out the tasks like a champ. It feels good to be productive again. And I wish you all the best, my friend. I know you can do it. #CrushIt.
Are you Inspired?
Love, hugs, and still rocking each and every day.HERE.