How to Still be Productive with a Chronic Illness

Last updated: 06-09-2020

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How to Still be Productive with a Chronic Illness

I get it! You just woke up from sleeping an entire night and yet you feel like someone just ran you over with a Mack truck. You’ve got so much to do today. How on earth are you going to get it all done when you can barely put one foot in front of the other?

Being productive is challenging enough on a good day, let alone trying to accomplish anything when you can barely clear your mind of the fog you are living in. I’ve been there. 

I, too, live with a chronic illness. To say that it stinks is a complete understatement. To say that you feel inadequate and never measure up is another understatement. But I’m here to tell you, you can do it. You can still be productive even with a chronic illness. 

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I have fibromyalgia and chronic migraines. If you haven’t already, hop over and read What I’ve Learned from my Chronic Illness. I realize there are some chronic illnesses that are more difficult to live with than others. But let’s face it….a chronic illness is a chronic illness and learning to live with one and still be productive is a HUGE challenge.

I’ve spent the better part of the last several years learning how to do just that. I’ve struggled to put one foot in front of the other, feeling like you are trying to walk through a sand pit with a brain completely filled with cobwebs is difficult to navigate.

I know what it’s like to feel inadequate when everyone else around you is actually enjoying their lives. I know what it feels like to want to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you, but instead, you feel like a burden – like you’re weighing everyone else down.

You are not alone, my friend! There are many of us that are walking in the same shoes you are, doing everything we can just to get by. I swore when I decided to take charge and not let the difficulties and challenges of my chronic illness dictate my life, that I would help others do the same thing.

So grab your favorite beverage, a comfy chair and let’s get started!

The first and, in my opinion, the most important step in being productive is to grant yourself grace. You have a chronic illness. It is what it is. We live in a world where everyone’s accomplishments are right in our faces. But here’s the thing, what you’re seeing is the end result of that accomplishment. Not the beginning, not the middle, but the end.

You have a chronic illness. It’s going to take you longer to reach your goals than someone who doesn’t have a chronic illness.

Now I’m not reminding you of this so that you’ll wallow in self-pity and have the “poor me” attitude. The “I can’t do this because….” or the “I can’t do what they do because….” way of thinking. In fact, that’s not what I’m saying at all. You can definitely still do it, but it’ll take you a little longer to reach those goals. And that’s ok! This is a marathon, not a sprint, my friend!

The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can grant yourself some grace, move on and start being productive in YOUR LIFE – no one else’s.

For some, having multiple goals in many different areas of their life works great for them. They can focus on several different goals at a time. They have an endless amount of energy to tackle them all.

For those of us with a chronic illness, that can get entirely too overwhelming. So let’s start with just one goal. You can get help with setting a goal here.

I would start with a simple goal until you get the hang of it. Perhaps you want to finally get that desk organized. Maybe you want to start reading a daily devotional. What about the pile of laundry that never ends? Maybe your goal is to get out and walk 3 times/week. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, just make one and start moving forward.

What causes you to struggle the most? What are your greatest challenges physically? What are your greatest challenges mentally? Get a piece of paper and write them down so you have them down in front of you.

Now that you know what your triggers are, you can make a plan. Write down a list of tasks that you’ll complete on your good days and a list that you’ll complete on your not so good days.

I realize there are some days that you may not even be able to get out of bed. I say again, give yourself grace. Those days are going to happen. It’s a fact of life for someone living with a chronic illness.

But what about the days that you’re moving slow, but can still accomplish something from your bed or chair? Go to that “not so good day list” and tackle one task on it.

Perhaps that would be to lay in bed or sit in a chair while cleaning out your inbox. Or maybe you can go through all the links that you saved in Facebook.

I’ve got a list of videos and podcasts that I keep for days like this. It’s the perfect opportunity to listen to them.

Is your goal to get your desk cleaned off and that huge pile of papers scanned? (guess who has that on her to-do list!) Time block 30 minutes or an hour to sit at your desk or in your chair and get that work done. If need be, move your printer/scanner to a table beside you. Anything to make the job easier for you.

Don’t cram everything into your good days

When you’re having a good day, I know the first thing you want to do is work like a dog for 12 hours straight. Believe me, I want to, and have done, the same thing. The problem is that we wear ourselves out trying to get it all accomplished and, often times, wind up back in bed because it was too much for us. So yes, take advantage of those days, but don’t overdo it.

You want to work a normally scheduled day and time-block it so that you are 100% focused on the task at hand. (If you need help with this, check out Time Management Made Easy – Time Blocking.) Perhaps you could even schedule a small nap in your day to ensure that you aren’t wearing yourself too thin.

Are you more focused in the afternoon or evening? Use that time to accomplish the tasks that require the most brain power. No one says it has to be first thing in the morning. For us chronic illness sufferers, first thing in the morning isn’t always the best. Don’t try to fight it. Instead, work with your strengths.

Living with a chronic illness has taught me a lot, but most of all, it’s taught me that I don’t want to just lay on the couch or in a chair all day accomplishing nothing. I want to work, I want to make a difference in my life and by taking these small steps, I’ve learned how to catapult my productivity and actually do something for myself.

Take baby steps at first. See what you can handle. What tasks can you learn to do when you aren’t feeling 100%? I promise that once you start accomplishing some of those goals, it’ll completely change your outlook.

Will this cure your chronic illness? Nope, but it’ll help you feel better about yourself and when you start feeling better about yourself, you’ll begin to have better days and actually look forward to what you have on your agenda. Anything is better than laying around exhausted and in pain all day. Remember, you can still be productive while living with a chronic illness.

Do you have a daily struggle with a chronic illness? Leave a comment below and tell me how you cope. Tell me what your goals are and then take that first step to making your day a little more enjoyable!

Until next time, my friend…..

P.S. Ready to take the next step and start conquering your goals? Join my FREE e-course, Conquering Your goals – Turning your dreams into actionable steps.

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