Not only do you have the typical “work-at-home” distractions to combat, but tack on the unpredictable struggles of a chronic illness, and things can seem like they’ll never get done. But there is a way. Here’s how to stay productive while working at home with a chronic illness.
1 - Get a standing desk or a transformable desk - Of course this will depend on your physical needs, but I do much better standing during the day and then when work is over, sitting and resting at the end of the day. I feel better, more focused, and productive when my body isn’t scrunched up and sitting in a chair.
2 - Take breaks, lots of breaks - I don’t do anything fancy. No Pomodoro intervals for me. But just taking breaks to move around, walk away from the computer screen, grab a drink, read a chapter in my current book, stand outside, and just soak up the warmth of the sun. Even when I’m in the middle of a recipe photoshoot, if I start to lose focus and inspiration, I’ll stop, take a break, and come back in a few minutes. Breaks are essential for avoiding that dreaded burnout and frustration which can be a daily feeling or build up over time.
3 - Don’t overextend yourself - This isn’t a free pass or an excuse. This is understanding that your energy is not unlimited and every day won’t be your best. What I do and what I’ve always done is to just aim to accomplish ONE thing each day.
4 - Establish boundaries and a routine - Remember how important a routine can be? Even if you just have a structured outline of your days, it’s so much easier to stay on task when you know what’s coming next. For me when it’s not school season, work mornings are promotion, breakfast, email, and reading/research. Afternoons are recipe testing, shooting, uploading, and a walk outside. Then nighttime more email, writing, editing photos, cooking dinner, and relaxation. Some people even find “themed” days helpful. During the school year, I usually designate each day of the week to a specific class. That way nothing gets overwhelming, as I only “have to” focus on that one class and once I’m done, I’m done.
5 - Have an easy way to stay inspired all day long - Use Pinterest or a note-collection/taking app to capture ideas and inspiration that you can always turn to when you need it or have something you'd like to remember or get to later!
6 - Have a box of tricks to keep you comfortable - This could be imaginary or physical. What I mean is you should have a comfortable and inviting workspace. Make it cozy and cheerful with candles, essential oils, and diffusers, pillows, blankets, music (or podcasts!). To keep all your podcasts and streaming services in one neat place, you can create a MrOwl branch to go back and reference! I’d also suggest you work in a room with tons of windows. Nothing makes me more focused and feeling my best than the wonderful sunshine.
7 - Talk to someone - You may think that working at home, alone, would be best for productivity, but it can be isolating too. Add on chronic illness and you may find yourself stuck in your own head (and body) too much. Always make sure to connect with someone during the day to just check-in, bounce ideas off of, or share a funny story. It can be a quick text conversation or just a 15-minute phone call.
8 - Track, plan, and set mini-goals - Planning is important for everyone, but even more so when you don’t know how you’ll be feeling from day-to-day. You can plan a small to-do list each day, but I find it more effective and forgiving to make a big weekly to-do list. If I’m not feeling well one day, I know I have the entire week to get to it. Also, track your feelings throughout the day. If you notice you start to feel sick after a certain amount of time each day, note that and plan an extra break and some self-care during that stretch of time. With your planning and tracking under your belt, set mini-goals. Like I said in #3, aim to accomplish one important win each day. Don’t stress over the big picture, just work towards achieving the little things that will then add up to a big accomplishment before you know it.
9 - Learn when to say no and “walk away” - Learn when you’ve reached your limit and you shouldn’t take on any more obligations or work. Your health comes first and it may be hard to turn some things down, but you don’t want to end up sicker, with unnecessary stress, or letting someone down. Also, note when you’ve reached your limit of tolerance with your work and others. When I sense myself getting angry and frustrated at my work or others (online), I know it’s because I’m not feeling well and it’s time to step away, refresh, or wrap-up for the day.
10 - Move, eat, sleep - My exercise keeps me sane and I cherish the time I have in the mornings for movement. I know what it feels like to be too sick to move and I end up feeling even worse and have no focus. I also nourish my body (as best as it will let me!) with healthy nutritious foods. I know I can’t focus and stay productive if I’m hungry! Last, but certainly not least, sleep! After you’ve accomplished your mini-goals or ONE thing, make sure you pat yourself on the back and let your body heal itself and rest for the next day. Keep it consistent though, that’s the key!
So tell me:
+ How do you keep yourself on track with your health and work productivity?
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