Heart Breathings

How To Stay Productive When You’re Sick

May 17, 2019 by Sarra Cannon

A Writer's Life

This is such an appropriate topic for this week, because even though I had a really busy, ambitious plan set out for this week, I woke up Monday morning feeling sick. So disappointing!

In the past, I might have tried to really push myself beyond my limits, and without fail, that would always lead to me getting even further behind because I would prolong my illness and increase my stress.

This week, I was still determined to be as productive as possible, but I knew I couldn’t afford to push myself. So, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about how I stay productive even when I’m sick or low energy.

Watch Today’s Video On How To Stay Productive

My Best Tips On Staying Productive When You’re Sick

It can be hard enough to stay focused and productive when you’re feeling great, but how do you deal when you aren’t feeling well at all? Sometimes this can mean an actual illness that puts you on bedrest for a few days, but sometimes it can also just mean life.

There are lots of things that can keep us from being our most productive selves. Work stress, family stress, trauma, and just about anything else that is out of our control that comes up unexpectedly.

So, how can you stay on track when something like this happens and throws off your entire schedule?

Tip 1: Build Extra Days Into Your Schedule Ahead of Time

Okay, so this one is hard to implement retroactively, but I wanted to mention it here anyway, because it’s one of the best things I did for myself and my sanity.

As many of you know, I love to plan quarterly, meaning I plan in 90 day segments. When I’m scheduling out my tasks and projects for each quarter, I go into it knowing that I’m simply not going to work at 100% capacity for the entire 90 days.

First, I mark off any days when I know I have other commitments. This means taking things off my work schedule like family outings, vacations, conferences, or anything else that I know will reduce my work output.

Second, I give myself around 3 “sick” days per month, which adds up to 9 extra days per quarter that I don’t plan on working. Then, when I’m putting together my plan and taking a realistic look at how much work I can get done with my available working days, I already am starting with 9 days off for whatever might come up.

How does this help? Well, basically, it means that I’m super realistic about my workload, so that when something does come up unexpectedly, I’m covered. I can take those days off without worrying about it, and then jump back in when I’m feeling better.

Tips for being productive even when you're sick

Tip 2: List High-Energy and Low-Energy Activities

Another thing I started doing a few years ago that has helped me stay productive when I’m sick is that I created a list of my high-energy tasks vs. my low-energy tasks.

For example, creating videos and writing novels are both high-energy activities for me. I can really only do them when I’m feeling good and have both mental and physical energy to commit to them.

On the other hand, writing blog posts, taking pictures for social media, or creating a new printable for my Etsy shop are all low-energy tasks. They aren’t easy, necessarily, but they are things I can do while just sitting down. I don’t have to perform or talk or get too creative when I’m doing these tasks.

I also have some super low-energy tasks that are still productive, such as reading or watching videos from a course I’ve signed up for. It takes almost zero energy to sit on the couch and read a book, right? But if it’s a book you needed to read for research, it’s still a productive tasks.

I try to build a few of these low-energy activities into my 90 day plan each quarter, so that when these types of sick days come along, I still have something I can do that moves me forward.

When I’m feeling my best, I almost always focus on my high-energy tasks. I will batch record videos or focus on hitting a higher word count. And when I’m sick or emotionally drained, I turn to my list of low-energy tasks and try to at least get something done that helps me fulfill my plan without taking up too much energy or focus.

Tip 3: Focus Only On What Matters Most

My third and final tip for today is that when you do get really far behind due to illness or unforeseen circumstances, to take a step back and really think about what matters most.

It can be tempting when we fall behind to try to become superwoman and hustle harder to catch up, but in my opinion, this is the opposite of what we should be doing. Especially if we’re so far behind, there’s really no way we’re going to realistically catch up.

What happens when you try to overload yourself in order to catch up is that you end up pushing so hard you either burn out or get sick again, or you overwhelm yourself to the point that you just do nothing at all.

Instead, next time you fall behind, try doing the opposite. Instead, of placing more on your plate than you can handle in hopes of catching up, try clearing your schedule of everything but the most important tasks or projects.

Simplify down to one or two major projects. Finish the book. Get your newsletter set up. Whatever the main project is that will move your forward toward your dreams right now, focus only on that one thing and let everything else go.

What will happen most of the time is that you will begin to make significant progress very quickly, and you’ll be so laser-focused that you’ll start to build positive momentum. When you’re back on your feet and your energy is high from all that positive goodness, you’ll be able to tackle more projects.

Your productivity will become a positive cycle that leads to good feelings, less burnout, and less illness and stress. Win win.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that we all get sick. We all have things that come up from time-to-time that mess with our perfectly-laid plans. It happens.

When you need to rest, rest. Build those off days into your schedule so that you can take them guilt-free when needed. And when you do face low-energy days, come prepared with a list of low-energy activities that will still help you to be productive without adding to your stress or burnout.

And finally, if you do fall really far behind, don’t try to overload yourself and catch up. Instead, get laser-focused in on the one or two projects that need your attention most. Forget the rest.

I hope this post has helped you think of ways to continue to be productive even when you’re sick or when life gets in the way.

Comment down below and let me know if you have other tips on how you stay productive when you’re sick.

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Sarra Cannon

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Sarra Cannon

Hi, I'm Sarra!

I have been self-publishing my books since 2010, and in that time, I've sold well over half a million copies of my books. I'm not a superstar or a huge bestseller, but I have built an amazing career that brings me great joy. Here at Heart Breathings, I hope to help you find that same level of success. Let's do this.


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