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!
Grant yourself grace
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.
Stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle!
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.
Focus on only one goal at a time
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.
Define your triggers
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.
Plan ahead and have your to-do list written out
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.
Know your most productive time and take advantage of it
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.
Sidenote: Why do we struggle more in the morning after we’ve just slept all night? You’d think first thing in the morning would be our best times. Strange, right?!
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 lying 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? Grab our FREE Goal Crushing Action Plan from the community library.
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Tyler Johnson says
That’s a good idea to try and identify what causes you to feel pain or activates your illness. I would think that being able to avoid those things would be a good way to help you be able to avoid some discomfort. I’ll have to think about seeing a doctor to see if they have any tips on avoiding and finding triggers for my condition.
Tammy Rotzoll says
Hi Tyler! I’m glad it helped and hope that you can find some relief soon. Living with a chronic illness is definitely a challenge, to say the least!
Jennifer Hovermale says
I too suffer from chronic illnesses- multiple sclerosis, migraines, anxiety, depression, seizures, fatigue & chronic pain- just to name a few. All I can say is God led me to your blog. This pin came up almost out of nowhere on Pinterest. I too love your tips about giving yourself grace but the best of all is the good day & bad day lists!! Since becoming disabled, I make handmade cards. In past years, I was able to make cards for 70-85% of the family on birthdays, Christmas, etc. But this year, even though no broken bones or major problems, I can barely get them made for immediate family on birthdays. I get so frustrated & depressed because some days I don’t get anything done. So the good day/bad day list will be first thing on agenda tomorrow. (Just cuz it’s midnight & I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. But I wanted to comment real quick, otherwise I’ll forget!) I made a BIG note so I don’t forget to do it tomorrow. 😆 (you have to laugh, otherwise you’ll cry & that really doesn’t help- other than help give you a migraine!) Thank you SO VERY MUCH for posting & sharing these tips, but also sharing your own struggles. I will add you to my prayer list! May God bless you & help you live as pain free as possible!!
Tammy Rotzoll says
Hi Jennifer. Isn’t that just like our God to lead you right where you need to be? I love when He does that! I’m so glad that this post has blessed you and I can’t wait to hear how it works for you. It makes such a big difference in the quality of our lives when we can accomplish some things despite our chronic illness.
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Let me know how it goes for you.
There are some great tips in here for anyone! As a mom of Littles some days I am more exhausted than others. I like your list of good days versus not so good days. That’s a good one to keep in mind. Thanks!
Tammy Rotzoll says
Hi, Kelly! Thank you for stopping by the blog and taking the time to reach out! I’m so glad you found this helpful. Some days, we just need to rest, but I definitely find that having the “good day” and “not so good day” list is extremely helpful. It’s especially difficult when you have littles, for sure. You might want to join us on Facebook, Fridays at 11:00 a.m. ET. I have a community of chronic illness warriors and we meet up there to encourage each other and talk about our victories, what’s working for us and what’s not. We’d love to have you join us, either live or in the replay. Thanks again for reaching out!
I have struggled with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraines, osteoporosis, arthritis, asthma, anxiety and others for 32 yrs now. It was hard at first because no doctors acknowledged my issues so I suffered until medicine caught up with me😜🤪
I was glad to read your article thank you
Tammy Rotzoll says
Hi, KeKe! Thank you for stopping by the blog and taking time to reach out. Boy, oh boy, do I understand your pain, and know what you’re talking about waiting for medicine to catch up with us! It’s a tough road, for sure! I’m glad you were able to find something good in this article! Hang in there, my fellow chronic illness warrior! We can still conquer our goals despite our illnesses!
This post was very inspiring to me. I love how you have ‘not so good’ day lists. That’s such a good idea to write things down you can still do from bed and be productive.
Tammy Rotzoll says
Hi, Kirsten! Thank you so much for stopping by the blog and taking the time to comment. I’m so glad this post has helped you. I’ve found that when I do, at least, a little something on those “not so good days” that I feel so much better mentally, not to mention being able to still get a little something done! I pray this helps you on your next rough day!
Janice Hiser says
Thank you for this great article. I too suffer from Fibromyalgia and also a disease call Retropertioneal Fibrosis. Some days it is so hard to be able to do anything and on those days I struggle. I love the idea of setting goals no matter how small and also to grant myself grace. I found your blog by accident but really I think God directed me here. Thank you again for your inspirational blog.
Tammy Rotzoll says
Hi, Janice. Thank you so much for taking the time to send me a note. I am so sorry you suffer from these and had never heard of Retroperitoneal Fibrosis, so I did some research to check it out. What a struggle I know you have every single day. I’m so grateful that God led you here and I pray (and will work hard) to continue to give you hope and inspiration to put one foot in front of the other. May He bless you with strength and comfort to help you through. Thank you, again, for your kind words and for reaching out. You, truly, made my day!
Timberley @ Living Our Priorities says
I can so relate to this. Giving ourselves grace is the game changer for me. It’s amazing what God reveals to us when we’re desperate for Him in our lives.
Tammy Rotzoll says
This is so very true! It took me awhile to be able to be able to grant myself grace, but once I finally gave it all to God I was able to see so much clearer! Keeping you in my prayers always, my friend!
Sheila Schweiger-Rhodes says
What a great article! I don’t suffer from chronic illness, but I can apply your wisdom to my life in so many ways! I have struggled with weight issues all my life. Recently, I found a Dr. who specializes in working with people with weight issues as a result of trauma. There are good and bad days just like with chronic illness, and I love what you wrote about accomplishing goals! It is important to give ourselves grace no matter how we struggle. You are inspirational!
Tammy Rotzoll says
Oh, Sheila! I am so happy this post has helped you! It really is such a struggle to deal with our challenges and I am so happy you have found someone to help you through this. I will definitely lift you up in my prayers for continued healing and I am so glad that this post has helped you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need more encouragement. Living with these struggles is so difficult, but we can all help each other through it!