Do you experience significant chunks of ‘lost’ time because of debilitating symptoms? It happens, too often, with chronic and difficult health. I recently heard it described as, “…getting lost in a rabbit hole where time is a blur”. I’ve been there. I’ve seen how easy it is to assume that while in that blur, you’re getting nothing done. But if you want to work, return to work or are looking to create work that you can do, that thinking is unproductive. In fact it gets in your way.
The reality, I suspect, is that most of us experience periods in which there is no option other than to do what you can to mitigate the symptoms. That might mean lying down for hours, weeks, maybe months on end. But if you’re reading this, then I bet that’s not true for you all the time. For many, symptoms and disease process wax and wane, even if the increments seem small.
Why does this matter? Because it’s demoralizing to think that that you’re stuck in that rabbit hole for good. You doubt that you’re capable of making a commitment to anything, especially work that pays you based on your performance. The problem is that you don’t realize what you are doing and can’t possibly get a good grasp of what is possible.
I was speaking with a client who desperately needs to find work but she’s overwhelmed. Her life seems chaotic and out of control because of unpredictable symptoms. She needed to know that there were some parts of her life where she could take charge so she could get a foothold. I suggested hat since she was most upset with herself because she ‘never gets anything done‘ and ‘how can I work if I can’t even take care of my household“, the place to start was with time.
By looking at what she actually did and didn’t get done each day over a period of one month, she recognized that:
- All days were not the same.
- There was far more variation in her energy, capacity and abilities than she had realized.
- She accomplished more than she realized.
- There were two places where she could take charge: she could set priorities and keep track of her ‘to do’ list.
Here’s what she did:
- Set a realistic (come on – – that’s important!) goal for what you want to be different in how you spend your time. By identifying this, you’re giving yourself a motivator to do this work –and a yardstick to see progress.
- List the activities you currently do on a regular (daily, weekly, monthly) basis that must be done. (if you’re not sure, write it down for a few days)
- List the activities you do on a regular basis that you want to do but are not essential to your well being.
- Identify those activities you find typically do not deplete your energy.
- Identify those activities that you find typically do deplete your energy.
- Take a calendar (online or paper) and plug in the activities over a month’s time – use different colors for #3 and #4 so you can see this easily.
- At the end of each day, review that day’s calendar.
- Ask yourself:
- What did I get done today?
- What did I not get to do today?
- What can I do differently to achieve my goal?
Play with this and make it work for you. Remember the key is not to punish yourself about what’s not getting done. The point is to take charge where you can.