Over the past few months, I haven’t published as regularly as I typically do. Which, in case you haven’t noticed, is typically twice monthly.
Honestly – I’m quite sure that not one of you has given this a thought. So why mention it?
Because it’s a point of pride for me to post regularly and to meet all my deadlines. On the other hand, another point of pride is to set limits around my work, especially when I’m in a ‘health event’ (my euphemistic term for some part of my body feeling worse than it had before!). The problem is that the two priorities can compete with each other. And the battle isn’t always pretty. And I know I’m not alone in this dilemma.
There’s a lot of value in creating a flexible work life and setting limits when you live with chronically debilitating health. While this sounds good, it’s a tricky thing to accomplish when you’re working within a fixed schedule, time-oriented demands and managing your health. Too often, people come to me when they desperately want to leave the workforce altogether because they’re seriously frustrated by their inability to do their job and take care of themselves. Or they dream of self employment as the remedy. That’s why I left being employed by others after 25 years for being my own boss. It’s been 20 years and it’s worked our for me but it came with a price. But that’s for another post.
No, self employment is not a panacea for this particular challenge. (Where you go, there you are, by Jon Kabat Zinn?) Unpredictable and difficult health forces us to prioritize on a daily and often moment to moment basis.
So regardless of whether you work for another or for yourself, here are 3 things to consider that can allow you to keep your work life as healthy as possible:
- Notice when your health gets worse. It’s rarely obvious to us when productivity starts to decline but you can be sure there’s a link. Acknowledge this change. When that loud denial voice pipes up, assuring you that you can still keep up the pace, let it know you hear it and it gently ask it to step aside. Acknowledge the disappointment and loss.
- Look at what’s on your ‘plate’ and decide what is it that only you can do, what can you give away to others, and what can wait to get done. This isn’t the time to be a martyr. Your boss is more likely to appreciate a heads-up that a deadline won’t be met than an unacknowledged no-show.
- Redo your ‘to do’ list, making sure it’s clear, time-oriented and flexible. Intense pain or fatigue can create fuzzy brains, so this is a key factor in your ability to continue to work through the bad health times.
Bottom line? It’s a lot easier to keep working when you can reduce the load when you need to.